While it has been a miserable growing season to date for many farmers, the over 100 million American gardeners are having a little better year – at least those in the Midwest. Flowers and vegetables love rainwater, and if you can keep your plantings drained or in raised beds, the results have been pretty good and pretty to look at. The strawberries were much better than I thought they would be given the cold temperatures, the asparagus was another prolific crop, and the flowers – both annual and perennial have been a bright spot in our lives every time the sun accidentally shows up. Gardening is one of the, if not the most popular outdoor hobby in the US. It’s also a reliable source of exercise for those of us of a certain age. But its real importance if how much pleasure and contentment it can add to lives. Farmers and gardeners share the satisfaction of growing and tending living things. This shared experience can be a way for farmers to better understand and be understood, I think. When one third of America is involved voluntarily in growing things, we should not be surprised what attitudes they share about that experience, and how they use those to form opinions about agriculture. For better or worse, gardeners often tend to think of farming as just very large gardens and form impractical ideas about how our work should be done. Why not use mulch for weed control, for example? Nor do farmers often take the time to truly understand how difficult it is to end up with the crops gardeners produce.
Our work has too many similarities not to not try to reach common ground. Both jobs change our world for the better. At the very least sharing a healthy respect for the way each vocation adds to our lives in value and beauty should help us to try to make that bond stronger and deeper. By the way, it’s not a coincidence I’m talking about this right before dicamba spraying season. Extra care and precise professionalism could do more to promote agriculture than words could ever do.