Tales for All Seasons

Everyone has a food story. It just seems to take a little talking to learn it. Working with Gaining Ground volunteers over the years, I have heard many stories that I collected like slips of paper. It was just this year that I realized how these food stories come from all types of people. There was the woman who remembered the house made of pole beans her dad built her when she was small. There was mint that a third grade boy recognized because he and his dad stop to visit a patch every time they walk their dog. There are nostalgic descriptions of grandmothers’ gardens and the gardens of mothers and fathers vivid with vegetables even though some were planted fifty years ago. And, of course, there are the gardens growing at homes this season, with their woodchuck stories and their memorable one-strawberry harvests. There are always tales of the delicious meals made, too. Telling stories provides an easy way for everyone working to join in the conversation of favorite ways to use, eat, and preserve.

For some people who visit the farm, Gaining Ground may become that food story of the future. Volunteers are part of every aspect of this farm. They get to pull their first carrot or taste their first pea off the vine — and live to tell the tale. Or, more likely, it’s the story of eating the whole hot pepper or trying a bud of spilanthes (a hard name for people to remember, and an even harder eating experience to forget). Verena, our former farmer, tried to start some tall tales about Gaining Ground, about the chickens living on the roof of the pavilion (the crab apple bran­ches scratching the metal roof in the breeze) and about the spider that lived in our lunch bell. I hope those stories are out circulating in the world, too.

Food and plants and gardens and eating are a great way to start a conversation. It is these stories that we will recall in the winter in order to recapture the warmth of the season past and imagine the stories to come in the spring.

Photo by Fan Watkinson, Program Manager