Computer gardening?

When I was growing up, my mother had an enormous garden in the back yard – I remember tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers pouring out of it, and I only vaguely remember the work that went into it. Moving to Michigan and having space for a garden motivated me to give it a shot last year, and overall, it was pretty successful although I really did it blindly.

Over the winter I had time to read some gardening books and magazines (love Organic Gardening) and do some internet research. There are all sorts of fantastic resources out there for beginning gardeners, of which I list just a few:

Want to know whether something will grow in your zone? Check out, an online vegetable garden planner which utilizes weather data specific to your zip code in order to determine if a variety is suitable to your garden plan.

Know what you can and want to grow in your area, but wondering when to start your seeds? Visit Organic Gardening online and check out their seed starting chart.

Getting ready to move your plants and/or start your seeds outside? Visit the Gardener’s Supply Company Kitchen Garden Planner.

The resources on the internet are endless, and I’m sure that as usual, some are better than others, but we all have to start somewhere….

This year, I’m planning on doubling my raised bed square footage (to 36 sq. ft.) and adding a bunch of new vegetables, both Asian and more traditional: cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, okra, broccoli (Chinese and western), eggplants, beets, delicata squash, green beans and zucchini (both bush varieties, with which I am not familiar?), spinach, okame, komatsuna, mesclun, arugula, carrots, and bok choy. Look for updates as things develop (or don’t)!

What’s your image of a farmer?

I have spent a lot of my life living in major urban areas (Chicago, Los Angeles). One of my saddest moments while living in the cities was when I realized that my children had to go to the zoo to see farm animals and that they had no idea what a vegetable garden looked like. (Full disclosure: I have a brown thumb – if you want any houseplants killed, ask me to house-sit!)

Now we live in Michigan, the state with the second highest crop diversity in the nation (after California). We buy our produce, meat, poultry, and eggs from local farmers. My kids have seen where their food comes from and have held a chick (that may have fed them at a later date!) I’m learning to garden – hoping last year’s minor success was not a total fluke/beginner’s luck! And I work for a very successful nonprofit, Fair Food Network, the President/CEO of which started out as an organic farmer in California a few decades ago. (From the department of shameless self-promotion, check out our main website at, our signature project site at, and the site for Oran’s new book at

In the past 18 months I’ve probably come into contact with more farmers than I have since I was growing up in Vermont, so I was intrigued to see this post on “When are we going to stop seeing farmers as rubes and hayseeds?”

Is it coincidence that Wendell Berry received a National Humanities medal from President Obama’s hands this week? If you want to be amazed, amused, and moved, pick up some of Berry’s writing (at your local public library or indie bookseller, of course!)

And just as I was pondering this happy coincidence, I got the Winter 2011 newsletter from one of “my” farmers – the Dolls of Back Forty Acres. Want to know more about what a farmer does in a day’s work? Check out the editorial on pp. 7-8. I’d like to think that Wendell Berry accepted the medal on behalf of all of our farmers/friends!