This article is entitled Mother’s Day, World Women’s Day, the Power of Plants as it considers the benefits of teaching women, and particularly Mothers, how to grow their own food.
Your first thought might be that it relates to women and their families in Developing Countries.
But I wanted to look at a wider picture.
It is inspired by a combination of events that are all occurring or have occurred during this week in March 2018. So those events are: –
- 7th March, 1st Power of Plants Day
- 8th March, International Women’s Day
- 11th March, Mother’s Day, Mothering Sunday
The closeness of Mothering Sunday to International Women’s Day doesn’t occur very often, so this triple combination seemed an opportune moment to base a blog on women and gardening. Especially since I am often asked about my teaching of gardening, where the person’s garden is their classroom.
By the way, this isn’t a political treatise. It is a matter close to my heart though. The exclusion of people from education, from self-reliance, on account of their gender, their skin colour, their social status feels immoral. And, an argument to hit home with the more cynical, it is a waste of resources.
A Plant-Based Diet?
Firstly, we need to look at some matters relating to growing our own fruit and vegetables.
The 1st Power of Plants Day in March refers to a promotion to encourage us to eat a more plant-based diet. This is not necessarily the same as a vegan diet, which is where only plant-based foods are eaten.
In point of fact, a plant-based diet does not prevent you from eating dairy products or meat. It is perhaps better thought of as a mind shift towards eating more fruit, vegetables, lentils and nuts. And proportionately less meat, fish and dairy foods.
In the last sixty years or so the amount of meat consumed world wide has quadrupled. One of the facts this statistic highlights is that for most of human history, the majority of people have eaten a plant-based diet. Archaeology and written history back each other up on this.
Indeed, it is reckoned that of the millions of vegetarians around twice as many are still vegetarian by necessity rather than by choice. This means that the ability to grow at least some fruit and vegetables yourself could be the difference between dinner and hunger.
One of the issues for those suffering from food poverty in the more industrialised nations is that they are likely to have less access to land in order to grow their own food. Being time poor is another issue, as people may have 2 or 3 jobs, or travel long distances to work.
If they were able to grow some of their own food, how might this help their situation?
Press for Progress
This call to action – #PressforProgress – for International Women’s Day in 2018 is about achieving gender parity. International Women’s Day, sometimes referred to as World Women’s Day, has been running for about a hundred years.
The gender parity relevant in this blog, is primarily about access to education. To be precise, access to horticultural education. Having the space to grow food, even being given the seeds and trowel is not enough on its own. The knowledge of what to do, of how to care for and harvest the crops is essential.
Now whilst much is being done to improve girls’ and women’s access to education in developing countries; including the growing of edible plants, less is done in the developed countries. By the way, I am using these terms loosely; think of industrialised, technological societies and countries as compared to those which are less so.
There are so many benefits to teaching women, and particularly Mothers, how to grow their own food. This applies not merely to the developing countries but even to the UK, Europe USA and beyond.
I am not excluding men per se, I believe that learning to grow your own food is an empowerment, whoever you are. However, consider this: –
- Women make up more than half of the world’s population.
- Approximately 50% of the world’s food is produced by female farmers.
- In Africa, this figure rises to nearly 80%.
- Less than a third of the RHS Chelsea Flower show gardens from 2000 -2015 were designed by women, yet over 60% of garden designers are female.
The Power of Plants – self-reliance, better nutrition, feeling valued
Access to education, whether that is so that you can grow food to feed your family or have a career in horticulture (or both!) could at least start to resolve some of these issues.
Whilst the ability to develop a business and generate income from spare produce may not be the outcome a woman living in flats in a British city wants; it might be.
This isn’t about self-sufficiency for all. That isn’t appropriate or possible. It is about education, opportunity, choice, self-worth. Growing strawberries on your balcony that ripen earlier and continue fruiting for a long season allows your children to eat them for breakfast every day for weeks. The fruit will be fresh, organically grown and tasty. Sweet – no sugar or cream needed! The benefits are many.
Understanding how plants grow, learning about seasonality of crops teaches patience, among other things. If you have to wait for the flowers to bloom, the fruit to ripen you can use that lesson elsewhere in life. For example, save for a treat and not whack it onto a credit card without a second thought then struggle to make the monthly repayment.
And it isn’t just ‘the poor’. Why shouldn’t you be a gardener if you’re in a wheelchair or have other health issues?
The Power of Plants – Mother’s Day, Mothering Sunday
Now I know what you’re thinking: “After all this moral discussion, she’s going to suggest that Plews gardening lessons could be an answer.”
Well, I’m not convinced about that as a solution. Whilst I have taught at adult education and on-site, returning to teaching large numbers in a classroom situation is not really what I want to do.
No, the Mother’s Day part in this brings us back round to that important fact. That by educating women who are or may become mothers, you improve not only their quality of life but that of their family too. To some degree, that needs to include those (men and women) who take the mother’s role, even if they are not the biological mother. But I was trying to keep this simple (and not too long).
The power of plants is able to bring empowerment as well as food to the table.
By incorporating gardening into the curriculum, Stephen Riz totally changed the aspirations and achievements of his South Bronx pupils and their families.
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust”
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