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Gardening versus farming

It is my experience that farming and gardening don’t mix. For the farmers I know, gardening is a pastime, a small-scale hobby, not a proper job like theirs. Although I grew up on a farm, I view myself as a gardener these days. The arable land around our village is a barren wasteland for a large part of the year after the crops have been harvested, and I often wonder whether our relationship with planet Earth has to be so brutal.

Our aim with our garden is that it should provide some interest all year round. The winter flowering jasmine are now in bloom, and some marigolds are bravely holding out after the frost. The kale will provide leaves through the winter, and the shoots of autumn-sown onions are peeping through the soil.

A successful garden provides nourishment for all the senses. It looks beautiful to the eyes, both overall and with particular plants and flowers at different times of the year. Through the year there are different perfumes, from lily-of-the-valley in the spring, to honeysuckle to jasmine later on. There is the buzz of insects and the sound of birdsong. The feel of the grass, and of course the taste of home-grown vegetables and fruit.

The success of a farm is determined by the surplus it produces. Historically the development of farming is linked with that of trade, the growth of cities, and ultimately of what we term modern civilisation. Cities have always needed farms for their existence, so that the city-dwellers could give their attention to other matters than finding food. The other matters ranged from making war to making beautiful objects, to exploring what it means to be human, to developing the technology that enables the internet.

Is there a middle way? Can we keep the benefits of civilisation and also keep the holistic perspective that gardening offers? Permaculture and biodynamics both explore this intermediate territory. As do many others, I am sure.

3 thoughts on “Gardening versus farming

  1. Dearest Sister
    May I respond to your blog?
    The so called “barren wasteland” is not at all “brutal”. The RSPB, Natural England and numerous other societies will gladly explain and encourage the fallow land as it benefits wildlife and nature greatly.
    I have always found that my farm provides “some interest all year round”.
    There is nothing to stop a farmer sowing the relevant plants to provide the same nourishment for all the senses. However a farm is a business and cannot be measured in terms of success in this way.
    The success of a farm is absolutely not measured by producing surplus. Back in the bizarre days of the eighties and early nineties, the European idiots used market manipulation to try and help keep food prices down for the masses. Good intentions with unintended consequences. Today there is little intervention in Europe by governments and lower subsidies but giant corporations do still manipulate. However my point is that surplus production is contrary to the laws of supply and demand, to which, global farmers are slaves.
    Yorkshire Farmer

    1. Dearest brother

      I am very glad you did respond to my blog! Thank you for your reply.

      I have a further question for you: if not by its surplus, how would you measure the success of a farm?

      Midlands gardener

      1. Hi “Midlands Gardener”
        The measure of success for all is subjective from their own perspective as well as that of others’.
        In my case it could be simply referred to as personal fulfilment. That could be qualified in many ways however my opinion, and I know this is the same for the lions share of ‘real’ farmers, is that I am privileged to live in the countryside and I measure my success in terms of achievement and financial reward. This mainly revolves around providing for my family.
        Corporate farms may be measured purely by financial profit but the global marketplace is very cruel to those who supply surplus.
        As an ex pig farmer I am bitterly aware of the downside of the global oversupply of pork from 1998 until 2012. Fourteen years I have to put down to experience. The main ‘criminals’ in the global food and commodity market are, as I am sure you know, the governments of China and USA. No realistic farmer can compete, just try to work within their agenda and in my case try to supply the local market with food.

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