Celebrating the Spirit of Inclusion in the Garden
Recently I was away from our garden for almost two weeks while visiting new and “old” grandchildren on the East Coast. Of course, this is prime growing season for all gardens in the Northern Hemisphere, and Napa is no exception. It was astonishing to see the amount of growth that had occurred during these two weeks. But what really struck us was how quickly the garden would become reintegrated back into “nature” if it weren’t for the human work that goes into tending the garden. My guess is that if all the humans involved in our garden left for one year, all that would be left would be an overgrown mass of vegetation. Certainly, all the food that we harvest from the garden, which right now means tomatoes, tomatillos, greens, cucumbers, zucchini, strawberries and much more, would be gone. All that would be left would be “weeds.”
For some, this result would be evidence that humans have no business imposing their “order” on nature’s plan. For others, this situation speaks to the fundamental role that humans play in transforming patches of earth into gardens. One of my early gardening mentors, a fellow named Trauger Groh, who started the first CSA in the U.S., insisted that beauty in nature is only really found through the interaction of humans with nature. That’s not to say that truly wild places can’t be beautiful; but, for me, there is something truly moving and even inspiring about a properly kept garden.
As we go about our tasks of weeding, planting, placing plants in certain areas and not others, planting certain plants and not others, we are no doubt altering nature’s designs to fit our own needs and aesthetics. Personally, I’m guessing that the good angels and beings that live in every garden rejoice in these efforts. They welcome this spirit of inclusion that welcomes the weeds, insects and even the gophers that have decimated this year’s tomatoes and flowers. Our job, our choice, is to invite this spirit of inclusion into our garden and to welcome the owls and gopher snakes that will inevitably show up to help us with our gopher “problem.”
As the saying goes, nature always bats last. Farms and gardens, like the ones we work with at Dr. Cowan’s Garden, the ones who through the use of biodynamics use a gentle hand in working with nature, the ones who support this spirit of plant and animal diversity in their gardens, are the ones that produce the best food and the most appealing aesthetics. These gardens and farms are the future of humankind.
Tom Cowan, M.D.
For many of us, our relationship to food is a never ending journey. Sometimes to move forward one finds themselves looking back. For bread and specifically the grains used to make it I find that the best results are indeed found in reflection. It is sometimes true that modern ingenuity has value for us, but that is usually only when paired with ancient wisdom. For grains, that wisdom is in the ancient varieties that have been grown for thousands of years.
During this time of relative uncertainty, we have decided to renew our commitment to gardening. Dr. Cowan’s Garden was originally a place, located in Napa Valley on a plot of land generously donated by a friend. It embodied our ideals and was a sanctuary for growth and learning.
The garden was our muse for new product offerings and for improving existing ones. The garden kept our ambitions grounded to certain fundamentals, as the practice of gardening can be challenging.