Sustaining the Homestead

“Mom, I want to live in The Homestead next year” announced the excited voice at the other end of the phone. It was my daughter, who weeks earlier had begun her freshman year at college.  “I was there all day on Saturday helping them clean out the basement” she said,  “and I really want to live there next year.”

Okay, I think, but what’s The Homestead?  Thankfully she reads my mind before I have time to verbalize the question.  “Mom, The Homestead is where a group of 12 students lives each year.  It’s on campus but instead of eating cafeteria food, we grow our own food and it’s organic. Plus we get to cook our own meals!”

She loves to cook, I remind myself, and organic is so important to her, rightfully so.  I’m glad that she wants to continue to pursue her passion — environmentally focused on sustainable practices.  Good for her, learning and living in the service of her passion.

Thinking Back 

As I thought about the conversation with my daughter and wondered how she got to be so passionate about the environment, I recalled her interest even as a toddler to lend a hand in our garden.  She’d plant the vegetable seeds, pull weeds and help harvest the veggies.  I remember her smile beaming with satisfaction when we picked the first round of peas each spring and ate them at dinner.

My trip down memory lane prompted images of similar gardening experiences with my Dad.  By day he worked for a jet engine manufacturing company. By night, from April until November, Dad took care of the garden:  rototilling, planting, weeding and harvesting.  I’d help him in the garden quite often.  When I was seven I finally convinced him to give me a space for a garden of my own. I remember feeling so proud when I harvested veggies from ‘my’ garden.

I’ll admit when the teenage years hit, my sister and I weren’t real happy about weeding row after row of beans, only to have to pick and clean them so they were ready for my Mom to freeze, but we did it because the pay off was high.  Depending on the time of year, a walk out the back door could easily yield tender, sweet Silver Queen corn, delightful tomato-cucumbers for salads or juicy plums fresh from the tree.

These experiences with my Dad are so vivid, yet their origins rest still in previous generations.  My grandfather, Popu, was a silversmith by day and a farmer by night.  His garden was twice as large as the garden we had and it was referred to as The Farm.

Popu carrying a basket of veggies on the farm

Popu’s farm kept his family, much of the extended family and some neighbors in veggies year round. I consider Popu one of the early pioneers of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, but with no exchange of money.  Instead, oil for the furnace or feed for the chickens were likely gestures of appreciation.

So why is this family history of gardening important to sustainability?

My grandfather’s role modeling planted the seed for a lifestyle impacting numerous generations here on American soil.  Literally. Today with so much focus on sustainability, I wonder if we were to look back on our parents and grandparents’ lifestyles, we’d discover they had it right all along.

Evidence indicates we’re in the midst of a shift in values. Rather than wanting to have more and the best, today there’s greater focus on doing your best for the greater good of things.  And social responsibility, once only apparent in pockets of society, is going mainstream.

What factors have had the greatest impact on your practices of sustainability? Have past generations played a role in them?  I look forward to reading your stories and sharing thoughts and comments.

(Republished from Collaboration Innovation Community.)

2 Responses to Innovation

  1. J. Hills says:

    I don’t think that our grandparents and the generations before them really knew about carbon footprints or whether or not something was “organic.” These are the new buzz words for what was common sense and a form of survival for centuries. My grandmother, for instance, was the queen of composting and recycling. She rarely wasted any food, or anything for that matter. Heavens, that woman was creative with leftovers.

    Nonetheless, I am proud of my nieces and others of her generation striving to right some of the environmental mistakes of the past decades. Perhaps it is this generation who will save us from ourselves, namely our greedy, wasteful life style.

    • Thanks for your comment. I have similar memories. It seems that during the past few decades the pace of life has accelerated exponentially. And many have compromised what once we everyday environmental practices in order to try to keep up with the pace of life.

      It is encouraging to see the emerging generation paying attention to those who have remained true to sustainable environmental practices and even raising the bar. It feels like we’re moving in the right direction, gradually.

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