Thursday, November 13, 2014

Gardening As A Political And Revolutionary Act

An act that may also save your health from mass-produced, GMO crop poisoning and add years if not decades to your life    

By Dallas Darling

In "The Founding Gardeners," Andrea Wulf writes: "The founding fathers' passion for nature, plants, gardens and agriculture is woven deeply into the fabric ofAmerica and aligned with their political thought, both reflecting and influencing it. In fact," she continues, "...It'simpossible to understand the making of America without looking at the founding fathers as farmers and gardeners."(1)

Can the same be true today? In other words, our involvement with plants and gardening is as a kind of barometer about our political persuasions. 

It also measures our revolutionary convictions. In a lucid, fragmented, and burdensome society, interacting with vegetation can be a grounding and liberating experience, radical and self actualization acts which links the gardener with Mother Earthand their very essence of being.

Benjamin Franklin understood this when, and in response to increasing tensions between Britain and America, he turned to plants and agriculture. Among being the most "honest way," agriculture and gardening would help colonists achieve independence. Vegetable plots and small-scale farms would thwart Britain's Intolerable Acts while boycotting its goods. They would also provide a transcendent feeling of unity and nationhood.(2)

Today, many are reexamining their lifestyles in relation to politics and the Earth. The Gardening Movement continues to gain adherents as schools and millions of individuals, evenMichelle Obama, questions the amounts of chemical pesticides on commercial foods. Every $1 spent on locally grown and organic food fosters $1.86 in local economic activity.(3) While chemicals and commercial farming are shunned, a sense of independence develops.

If Franklin thought the colonists could provide all of their necessities through gardening, George Washington dreamed of an agrarian society where plough shares and pruning hooks would someday replace swords and spears.(4) Upon his return from leading the Revolutionary War, he also liberated his own garden, tearing up the transplanted British trees and vegetation and recreating a radical garden exclusively with native species.(5)

Chemical pesticides, like DDT, chlordane and lindane, are toxins. They cause cancer and birth defects while damaging wildlife and vegetation. They were also used in destroyingVietnam's rain forests, supplied to Saddam Hussein to gas and kill Iranians and Kurds, and are now part of the war inAfghanistan. Organic gardening, then, is a political act. It boycotts banking and chemical corporations growing rich from these dangerous poisons.

As for Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the University of Virginia, he believed gardening was one of the most enlightening and educational experiences. After risking imprisonment for smuggling seeds and plants during the American Revolution, he developed a view that America's future was Agriculture, the "surest road to affluence and best preservative of morals."(6)

Because of his horticultural tendencies, he spent much of his spare time tending to his own garden, retreating often to his presidential office where he tended to plants and flowers. While visitors were surprised to see him dressed as a farmer,Jefferson considered tree-felling "a crime little short of murder." He was so wounded and furious over clear-cutting he wished to be "a despot, to save the noble, the beautiful trees that are daily falling."(7)

Vegetable gardening and planting trees cultivates and nurtures both the individual and environment. This reciprocity benefits the Earth, leading to a more sustainable future. It is also anti hyper-market, in the sense that, the gardener controls the means and mode of production, a holistic liberating event. It rejects competitive and negative stressors while reconnecting individuals to a truer purpose: tending Gardens of Eden.

Therefore, gardening plants, vegetables, and trees is very therapeutic. It helps prevent neurological, psychological, and abnormal traumas in an overly chemicalized and chaotic world. Crawling on and being close to the ground reminds us of the immediacy of our own birth. Feeling fertile soils in our hands reconnects us to Mother Earth. Plants also mirror our own cycles and seasons of living, of being, and, of course, of dying and rebirth.

Private gardens are a direct threat to corporate farmers and their subsidies and have now been declared illegal in some states

Plants, especially native ones, also reminds us of a one-sided exchange which occurred five centuries ago. Since it benefited only some members of society while committing genocide against others, gardening should be a very repentant and contrite experience. Its history should never be forgotten. Its absolution should continually be sought, its roots exposed and addressed, especially towards those who are still being harmed.

"The coming ecological disaster we worry about," wroteJames Hillman in "The Soul's Code," "has already occurred, and goes on occurring. It takes place in the accounts of ourselves that separate ourselves from the world." Gardening provides an opportunity to be a part of a greater collective, to experience Earth's transcendences while challenging destructive and harmful commercial farming, fast-food, and cash crop industries.

This political and revolutionary activity helps us gain a sense of independence and freedom while providing homes and foods for thousands of animal and insect species. It enriches our souls, making us aware of the transcendence of all life-forms that surround us, and which we belong to and are a part of.

Dallas Darling (

Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Readingon Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some NationsAbove God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-DayImperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context ofJohn's Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for You can read more of Dallas' writings at and


(1) Wulf, Andera. The Founding Gardeners: How theRevolutionary Generation Created an American Eden.London, Great Britain: William Heinemann, 2011., p. 2.

(2) Ibid., p. 6,7.

(3) "15 California School Districts BeginServing Locally Grown Foods to Students." Viji Sundaram,November 4, 2014.

(4) Wulf, Andera. The Founding Gardeners: How the Revolutionary Generation Created an American Eden., p. 14.

(5) Ibid., p. 21.

(6) Ibid., p. 77.

(7) Ibid., p. 166.

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