Laura Mitchell has always been a teacher – first preschool, then elementary. Now, after earning her Ph.D., she trains other Therapists. So when the chance came along to turn her seven acres into organic demonstration gardens that would help others learn how to grow fruits and vegetables sustainably, Laura was all for it.
An Idea is Born
A few years ago, Laura’s eldest son Alden returned to San Diego, Calif., after years living abroad and studying organic gardening and permaculture principles. Permaculture techniques are based on working in harmony with nature and creating sustainable systems. These principles include surrounding the garden with native plants to attract beneficial birds and insects, rainwater harvesting, soil maintenance through composting and more.
“He came up with an idea of creating an entire garden system,” Laura says. “I think what really struck a bell for me was being a grandmother and thinking about the future of my grandchildren. It’s getting harder and harder to get quality food, and the environment is under more and more pressure. Having a family farm is a beautiful way for them to learn more about sustainability – how to live with nature and how to eat healthily in a way that benefits the planet.”
Welcome One and All
However, the gardens weren’t just for the family. The public was invited for free monthly workshops on topics ranging from organic gardening to composting and greywater systems (where water from showers and sinks is used for irrigation).
Laura enjoys seeing her land used in this way. “I think the major thing is to have an educational demonstration place where people can come and learn,” she says. “People are given an hour teaching session, and then they go out and actually learn hands-on how to make more healthy soil and make a compost pile or to trim a fruit tree. …That aspect appealed to me a lot because then people can go and take that to their own houses and living spaces. I’ve always had my land be a teaching place, so that gives me a lot of satisfaction.”
In the future, she believes the programs will continue to grow. “It’s attracted more and more people,” Laura comments.
And the participants aren’t just taking in information, they’re also teaching one another. “There’s a great sharing of ideas,” she says. “People who come also have knowledge that they share, and so people benefit a lot from learning from each other and the workshop program.”
Growing Your Own
Whether you have several acres or just a patio, the interest in fruit and vegetable gardening is growing nationwide. So called “victory gardens” have been on the rise, and container gardening is also gaining popularity. In addition, many towns have community gardens, where locals can tend a plot of land.
Growing some of your own fruits or vegetables makes for affordable organic produce and can be an enjoyable hobby. For people like Laura and her son Alden, it’s also a way to give back to the community and share the joys of gardening.
Volunteer Gardeners Donate Produce to Community Food Pantry – AARP.org
Victory Gardens Growing Anew – AARP.org
Indoor Gardens – in 8 Easy Steps – AARP.org