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Survivor, America is a financial oriented article/video from Yahoo Finance, today. It centers around a point of view that many of us have become familiar with- but I wanted to look at it from the Gardener’s perspective.
In short, Gerald Celente, director of the Trends Research Institute, predicts that things are going to become much worse in our economy. As Aaron Task, the interviewer, drew out, that prediction is on the dire side of somewhere between the warm sweater days of the seventies and the breadlines of the thirties.
Personally, I’m not of the opinion that it looks as though it will go to that low of a level, but it could, and it certainly looks like we must make long term changes in the way we choose to live. So… how does Celente picture how that looks, and how do I believe that will look, and how does this impact gardeners?
Before you read on: I think gardeners are a step ahead of the game and can impact the situation in important ways.
- we’re going back to basics, making do with less and adopting the following mantra: “Waste not, want not. Use it up, wear it out. Make it do, or do without.”
- at the same time the demand will be for quality, low end products are not going to be where people want to put their money.
- beauty, elegance, and “good things” are going to be what matters to people.
- get rid of lawns and grow food
- D-I-Y efforts and skills
- Getting back to basics, frugality, energy consciousness.
- Politically, more activism
You don’t have to be a garden writer guru to know how many people are jumping on the bandwagon of growing your own food, organic gardening, and interest in survival (or what I used to call “homesteading”) skills. There are new internet sites and blogs every day popping up with that theme, thick as a newly sown row of radishes. Some thinning needs to be done… and that is by you, the reader.
This will impact what is left of garden magazines, what is available in garden centers, and a long tail of other parts of media and the general economy. OK, most of you know that already.
Here is what often gets overlooked:
Not all garden advice is equal.
Once burned, twice learned
That is, the trendmakers of media are going to highly promote that everyone can and should grow their own food in the garden, or in pots, or somehow or other… and that it is as easy as pie…. and that you will save money, get healthy wealthy and wise by following their 1-2-3 plan.
Because that is what garden writing has been accustomed to saying for a couple of decades now.
It is throw-away gardening, because if you get fifteen or twenty credulous newbies and they try it, finding gardening “too much work”, or have disappointing results, or just the bad luck of hitting a bad year (it happens), then of those who aren’t hooked by natures seductive charms, or thrilled by the life miracles and awakening of their senses, will just walk away and get replaced by another twenty or so soon enough. It doesn’t need to be that way, and society benefits from frugal and skillful citizens who take responsibility for themselves and their dependents. We all benefit from growing good food, from wise stewardship of the earth, and from being in touch with basic elements of life.
But those unprepared ‘walkaways’ are going to be burned and much harder to engage in something that could help them, and their society. A few things are wrong with this system in the new scenario of a longterm tougher economic environment.
It will make the garden oriented sector of the economy harder to market to a more fiscally frugal society. Junk science loses trust for all science. So this trend for quality? I think those in [garden] media should be at the forefront of giving quality information and cutting the hype from their habits. This isn’t the poetical or enthusiastic waxing of delight in growing things, but in the honesty about the fact that there is a set of skills to learn and more than a bit of sweat manufactured in the cultivating of horticulture. We could help create success from the outset, rather than guarantee disappointment or disbelief in their own abilities.
- We could clarify our information by defining vague adjectives like “easy”. Easy as in “most anyone can learn how” rather than easy implying “it won’t break a sweat” or “demands minimal time”.
- Be up-front about the need to develop skill sets and the timeframes involved in that (creating soil of good tilth and fertility doesn’t happen with a wave of a spray fertilizer).
- A great part of the appreciation of something is our exposure to its virtues. Feature genuine alternatives in attractive ways.
Garden writing and garden advice needs to get away from the glossy magazine image and into the real nitty gritty. It can have elegance and grace in doing so, but at its core it needs to be real. Real science, real experience, real expectations. I suppose I could include real color and real presentation… but that is a sidepath that comes along with a general focus on everyman’s gardening.
That Old Yankee Know-How
And what about the frugality, and the “Waste not, want not. Use it up, wear it out. Make it do, or do without”?
“For wealthy individuals, the recession has presented an ideal opportunity for a strategic analysis of their current lifestyle,” said Steve Pappaterra, senior vice president and managing director of wealth planning for PNC Wealth Management. “It is time to strip away the clutter, discern what is most important, and develop tangible action steps to ensure that key goals and dreams are accomplished and important values are passed on.” -culled from a newswire
Even the very wealthy are considering.
I come from Yankee roots, the “Yankee Doodle”, not just “North of the Mason Dixon line” type, and that means Yankee frugality was just the right way to do things on one side of my family.
To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.
Penny-pincher was a compliment, ingenious ways to make do were an intellectual exercise, and getting a bargain on an item that won the “necessary” status was an occasion for glee. It is an essentially “green” way to live. Discipline and skill helps.
In the dual trends of such frugality and desire for quality I think gardeners are ahead.
We already are convinced of the good of recycling and not wasting perfectly good things such as coffee grounds and banana skins. We already compete to produce quality and flavor in our food, we already value design and beauty, and we already have many fine value efforts at sharing and conserving. And every good gardener worth his/her salt likes to share: their expertise, their extra produce, and their enthusiasm. Sometimes even their brawn and their sweat equity.
Everyone benefits from seeing good examples, and hands-on training; everyone can use time spent learning a skill rather getting a one-time handout. Gardeners are great at giving both. Maybe people don’t know what else to do with impractical expanses of lawn, we can give alternatives. Perhaps fall leaves just seem like another landfill destined bag of trash, we can show them the joys of leaf mold. It’s more than just juicy, delicious tomatoes, as good as those are.
We can be gruff and grouchy, but one thing is sure: we are positive influences for a future which needs salt of the earth people. Let’s just not be hoodwinked into giving fluff when substance is what is needed.
Garden writing should give good value to readers. We should inspire and encourage, strengthen and educate, share skill secrets, and document what gives local success. All the things that we tend to do.
It could make a great difference in the quality of life for more than just our own backyards.