Rose Hayden-Smith • thevictorygrower.com

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AP History: A poem about immigration. And #victorygardens.

AP History: A poem about immigration. And #victorygardens.

Usually I write about gardens, food systems, and the like. If you read my work, or follow me on social media, you also know that I think gardens and food are patriotic. And political: our forks express our political beliefs. I nearly always write about history, because that is the primary discipline (and passion) that serves as the foundation for the rest of my work. You may have read my book, my blog and various things I post on Twitter. Or on Facebook. I also write poetry. Not well, but with great feeling, ever since I was a little child. Notebooks full. A heartfelt “thank you” to great teachers like Leticia Kelly, Judy Ryder Leer Paleologos and Sue Marshall for encouraging this.

Given the furor about the President’s Executive Order this week, I thought I’d share this with you. It’s a poem I wrote a couple of years ago for a dear colleague who became an American citizen. And the immigration and garden history thing: there’s a link. Because the Liberty/Victory Garden programs of World War I were also about creating common purpose among a highly diverse American population…close to one in five being immigrants at the time.

We can learn from that, can’t we?

 

AP History

a really long poem by Rose Hayden-Smith aka @victorygrower

Each July 4th we celebrate our Declaration of Independence
With fireworks and BBQ and parades.
(We seldom note that the Declaration was read in both English and German).

We forget that grand gesture was only the beginning of a process:
A long and bruising war with an imperial force,
Years of negotiation to create a constitution
That was simultaneously a new and holy thing and also a sinfully flawed thing.

My […]

Family + Food: Parents Visit College

Family + food: parents visit college. Like many families, ours has a particular food culture that defines it. Food anchors us, and connects us to one another. We use mealtimes as times to have important conversations (about what we’re eating and about life), to laugh, and to simply enjoy one another.

It is Parents Weekend at our daughter’s college, Willamette University. (Shout out to a superb college: another blog posting). It’s been a wonderful, joyous, interesting – and at times, puzzling – three days. We’ve (re)connected with her on a new footing. She has changed a great deal in eight weeks, and we are meeting her as an equal who has been living rather independently from us.

She is showing us her new community this weekend, we are meeting her friends, and getting a glimpse of the experiences and life she is creating for herself. It is a bit like standing on the deck of a rolling ship – in the best possible of ways – when the safe harbor and shore are behind you, and the horizon ahead is infinite and limitless. You are no longer the captain: that role has now been given over to your young adult, to the next generation, and you can only try to keep your footing and remain relevant in some way. (In our case, working the galley: food provisioning).

The first afternoon, we celebrated our reunion and tested new waters. We became reacquainted. Our daughter drove us through the gorgeous Willamette Valley to enjoy an afternoon snack at the Willamette Pie Company. We saved room for a patio dinner with our daughter and her roommate at Adam’s Rib in Salem. Another dinner was reserved for a new favorite, La […]

Victory Garden Talk: UCSB Area

A Victory Garden Talk. Interested in WWI? How the wartime garden movement of yesterday has helped shape and impact today’s food systems movement? Please plan on attending a free lecture sponsored by the Goleta Valley Historical Society at the amazing and historic Stow House in Goleta, near UCSB. Wednesday, October 15th, 5 p.m. Free, but reservations suggested. I’ll be discussing my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I.”

Signed books available for sale.

One of the things you’ll probably like the most about this talk is that I share oodles of images: mostly World War I posters. You can learn more about poster art and the use of propaganda in Chapter Four of my book.

Or just come to my talk.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

Hymns for Rogation Days

One of the things I like most about being an Episcopalian is that we have hymns for “Rogation Days”. Rogation Days are days when we ask  – at least through singing a simple hymn – God’s blessing on our work as stewards of the land (and more broadly, the environment). Most in the congregation are probably not aware of Rogation Days, in general, unless they check out the church calendar or the fine print in the hymnal. (A special shout-out to our Rector, the Reverend Susan Bek, for encouraging the development of a congregational garden and intentionally keeping our garden – our small agricultural enterprise – in the thoughts and prayers of our parish’s members. We even have a gardening committee that offers a report at Vestry meetings).

On Rogation Days, we pray for good weather…and for good yields. That prayer might be offered in sung or uttered form. Today in our Prayers of the People, we asked our Creator to “Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others.” We sang a hymn, a portion of which I’ve included below, because it’s just so lovely.

The word “rogation” derives from a Latin word meaning “to ask”, but it can also be defined as meaning something akin to “litany” or “supplication”.  Rogation hymns often have the rhythm of call and response: praise and request. These days have been observed in Christianity for centuries, often with fasting and feasting.  But Rogation Days fall out of a variety of earlier (pre-Christian) customs and practices.

One ancient custom was “beating the bounds”.  In that case, a procession from the community would walk out and mark […]

Red, White and Grew: Guest Blog

I’m delighted to be included as a guest blogger on the Red, White & Grew site, which is hosted by the amazing Pamela Price.

Pam is a journalist, author, and homeschool mom (and oh, so much more!). She is a self-termed “Victory Garden fangirl, vintage junkie, homeschooler, educator, caregiver, cook, Native Texan and current San Antonio resident, micro-memoirist, history geek, parent to a peanut-allergic child, gifted program reject, PBS supporter, Sherlock fan and Graves’ disease patient.” You’ll want to head over to her site right now and sign up to receive regular notifications.

Pam and I happened upon one another in 2008. Both of us were focused on gardening as a means to increase food security, and we used emerging social technologies to join the online movement advocating for a White House Garden. Meeting Pam has been one of the most professionally fortuitous and personally satisfying events in my adult life. We keep reconnecting in new and exciting ways, and she engages a large and deep network of amazing individuals. Pam’s work keeps evolving and unfolding into new areas of inquiry and expertise.  She is, quite simply, a polymath.

Thank you, Pam, for including my work on your site.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

 

PopUpMag: Starline Event

@victorygrower: Past/present/local/global, all connected through a narrative of food and gifted artists/ans. A menu for the body, mind, soul. Thx @PopUpMag

(Longer than most of my blogs. It was a significant experience. Clear your plate and read the entire thing).

Recently, I walked up a flight of old, uneven wooden stairs to the Starline Social Club in Oakland. Built in 1893, the Starline has served as an Oddfellows Hall, a gathering place for the Deaf community, and a janitorial supply business. This gem of a building is finding new life for what some term “the creative economy” in Oakland, and the Pop-Up Magazine event I participated in there was indeed creative, generative, and an exercise in experiencing community around a particular topic.

I have never attended a Pop-Up Magazine event before. The concept is – well – brilliant. It is a live magazine. Contributors are varied, and include artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians and other kinds of creative folks. The “issue” of the “magazine” never appears in print, nor is it recorded. The model is resonating with audiences; the events are selling out in sometimes as few as five minutes. I get it: I could engage with those who created the “content”. It is storytelling at its best: as a way to spark conversation. It was dynamic, it was creative, it generated authentic discussion and I was hooked from the start.

The Starline event was Pop-Up Magazine’s first foray into a dinner setting – the focus of this “issue” of the “magazine” was food. My first thought was “salon” (in the French sense). Being both an historian and a food advocate, I could smell wisps of memories in the historic venue…as well as an incredibly creative, mouth-watering and perfectly […]

Testimonial: the value of a school garden

This is a real testimonial about the value of a school garden. You can’t make this stuff up. Here’s an email I received today from a teacher at a school where our University of California Cooperative Extension team installed garden beds this last school year. I have made minimal edits to the email to protect the privacy of the students, but the location of the program is the Middle School Opportunity Program at Foothill Technology High School in Ventura Unified School District. (This is an innovative and targeted program at one of the nation’s highest achieving public high schools. Foothill was just ranked by Newsweek magazine in its top 100 public high schools, as #77 among all high schools, and #54 nationwide at effectiveness in serving low-income students).

At the end of a challenging day, I found this in my inbox:

“Our garden continues to thrive!  My students love it.  They run over to it first thing each morning to check the progress of their plants.  Right now we have the last of our tomatoes, the last of the strawberries, bell peppers, snacking peppers, cucumber vines that are flowering,  pumpkin vines (we planted those late), radishes, cilantro, chives, corn, and broccoli (something is eating the leaves.  Ideas?).  I am teaching plant science and it has been so wonderful to use our garden plants for examples.  It makes the lessons so much richer.

The kids have asked me if we can install two more planter boxes.  I told them I would check with you to see if you have more.  If not, we will make them ourselves.

Again, thanks so much for getting us started last year.  The addition of our garden has made our program more enjoyable for […]

Heirlooms and Civic Agriculture

Heirlooms and civic agriculture.

What does this even mean?

“Heirloom” is an interesting term, and like the word “sustainability”, it means different things to different people.  A couple of years ago, I read The Heirloom Life Gardener, a book written by Jere and Emilee Gettle.  The Gettles are the co-founders of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, which publishes a lush and incredibly informative seed catalog and has spun off a variety of gardening-related enterprises across the nation.  The Gettles’ define heirloom seeds as being “non-hybrid and open-pollinated” and as usually having been in circulation for more than fifty years.  Some heirloom seed types currently in use could have been found in Thomas Jefferson garden at Monticello.  Some appear more recently, during the Great Depression, including the Mortgage Lifter tomato (who couldn’t use one of these in today’s economy?).

While reading the Gettles’ book, I began thinking once again about the relationship between land and the American character.  I was inspired to pull some of my favorite books off the shelf and revisit them, to consider the notion of “civic agriculture.”

The term “civic agriculture” – coined by the former Thomas Lyson of Cornell – is used by some to refer to the movement towards locally based agricultural models that tightly link community, social and economic development.  Models of civic agriculture include CSAs, farmer’s markets, roadside stands, urban agriculture, community gardens, and farm-to-school/farm-to-institution programs.  I also argue that civic agriculture includes school and home gardens…any place where people seek to connect land to the development of community or as an expression of engagement or citizenship. You can read more about all of this in my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory.”

The civic aspect of agriculture is much older than […]

Kitchen Table Memories

A few years ago, a friend asked several of us to jot down memories about the kitchen tables in our lives. The operating premise of the exercise was that food is central to our relationships, and that much of life occurs around the places where we eat, and those we choose to eat with.

My kitchen table memories are varied. My family moved quite frequently when I was young: our kitchen table was a sort of “movable feast.” In my faith tradition, this term has a very specific meaning that informs my attitudes toward food. (For the very literary minded, it is also the title of a wonderful memoir written by Ernest Hemingway late in his life).

I have wonderful memories about kitchen tables. In our home near Philadelphia, I remember my older sister sitting at the table in the spacious kitchen, trying to cajole me to eat more before we went to church. I was served the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten at that very table. It was at this table where my brother once committed the serious transgression of launching scrambled eggs at my sister, using his fork as the springboard. (This happened exactly once.) A few years later, in the San Fernando Valley, close by some citrus orchards where the California State University campus now stands, I recall eating wonderful meals at our new home, which featured a formal dining room, where my parents proudly used the plastic fruit I’d bought them as a gift as the table’s centerpiece.

I remember my Grandmother Eloise’s elegantly appointed dining room table in Clinton, Mississippi, where we always drank heavily sugared iced tea from the tallest glasses I’d ever seen, being certain to clink the ice with […]

In Memoriam: Nova Brown

“Nova died today.”

This was the text I received from my daughter yesterday afternoon, as she sat in her dorm room in Oregon, and as I was sitting down to dinner with my colleagues in Davis.

My first feelings: utter disbelief and shock. The next emotion: ineffable sadness.

I write about Victory Gardens, about World War I, about food policy. Today, I am writing about Nova Brown. I first met Nova Brown at Cabrillo Middle School, where he frequently came to watch Holly play basketball. Holly was a teammate of Natalie’s; Nova and Holly were never far apart. Nova was a fine young man. He was bright, creative, and pursued his dreams (including Formula One racing) with a passion and courage and focus and dedication not often seen. He was willing to be different, and to carve a unique path for himself. He was also a good friend. He was fun. He offered love, and was much loved in return. Nova lived for larger things. He was aspirational.

Nova died while driving his motorcycle on Foothill Road in Ventura. He was involved in an accident with a car making a left turn. All the details are not fully known to us yet. I feel acutely for the driver, an elderly woman, and have added her (along with Nova’s family and friends) to my prayers.

If you live in Ventura, you know that Foothill Road is the muse that beckons us. It traverses the rim of the city from its east end, turning into Poli Street as it drops down into the heart of the community. Foothill is a rural road in some respects: there are still some significant producing orchards and undeveloped hillsides interspersed between neighborhoods, and places where […]

By |September 4th, 2014|Categories: Other|Tags: , , |2 Comments