Why start Cogno’s Garden?

Although I didn’t catch it when it was first published in 2005, I’ve been familiar with the concept of the “100 Mile Diet” for a number of years now; I even had a chance to participate in a 100 Mile Dinner while visiting my parents on Mayne Island a couple years ago. What is the 100 Mile Diet? It’s an attempt to only eat foods with ingredients that come from less than 100 miles away. (Check out this list of reasons why it’s worth trying to “eat local”)

I might never want to give up my bananas and other high food-mile foods, but I do have a particular admiration of those who enthusiastically support local producers and understand, on some level anyway, why it’s so important for people to be physically and emotionally close to their food sources.

It’s not as though I’m a fervent environmentalist, although I recycle most of the things that I’m supposed to. I’m also not a vegetarian, but I understand why eating lower down the food chain is a smart thing to do… it’s just too bad that the top of the food chain is just so damned tasty! Don’t get the mistaken impression that I’m somehow environmentally virtuous, though; I have been known to take showers that get complaint letters from the fish in the local reservoirs.

So if my reasons don’t involve saving the planet, why do this? The real reasons for deciding to grow a large vegetable garden this summer are several:

1) I love trying new things, but that enthusiasm is generally short-lived; I’m in dire need of a hobby that I can’t/won’t flake out on shortly after I start it. There’s something about the idea of putting together and maintaining a vegetable garden that makes me think I can stick with it; possibly because you see the effects of your hard work. Effort is connected directly with reward.

2) I had some success at gardening (on a smaller scale) last year. I put together a small container garden on my apartment patio and it was an unexpected success. (See photos of that garden and it’s bounty here.)

3) I love fresh food and appreciate feeling connected to its source. I didn’t realize how important that was until my friends, Sonia and Shaun Strobel, recently launched a Community Supported Fishery, a novel business model that lets community members pay up-front for a share in the boat’s catch each year.You can’t get much fresher than that unless you catch it yourself;  it tasted infinitely better than store-bought fish, and I was proud to know exactly where it had come from.

4) I’ve seen the power that a well-prepared meal has to bring friends and families closer together. I find it pretty exciting to know that I’ll be contributing many of my own ingredients this summer; I won’t be the only one to benefit from this project… so will my friends and family.

5) Dumb luck has provided me with a real back yard. When we moved in together in October, my partner and I lucked into the most incredible place with a yard just begging for a large garden plot. It’s a rental property, so we don’t want to put a ton of effort in so we figured we’d get more (in a practical sense) out of a veggie garden than maintaining the semi-wild flower beds.

This is an exciting project to undertake, but if you’re reading these posts, I’m going to need your help. As my partner and I go through the process of designing a layout, picking supplies and seeds, tending and harvesting the garden, fighting off pests, diseases and nutrient imbalances, I hope you’ll weigh in with your opinions, suggestions and encouragement. If you do, and you live locally, I promise that you’ll get to enjoy some of the bounty Cogno’s Garden will provide.