When I was little, probably about 8 or 9, we made the long trip from Charleston, SC to my grandparents house in Ardmore, TN. What? Never heard of it? I'm shocked.
From Wikipedia: "Ardmore is a city in Giles and Lincoln counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee. The population was 1,213 at the 2010 census." This farming community is where my grandparents retired to after having lived near Augusta, GA for most of my grandfather's career in the auto industry, and it is also where he was from originally. As an interesting aside, the state line between Tennessee and Alabama runs right through the center of town, which is why there is an Ardmore, Alabama as well.
My grandparents always had an enormous garden and that is no exaggeration. It was huge. I remember vividly how surprised I was by the difference in their soil compared to the sandy loom of where I came from on the coast of South Carolina. Black as night, rich with nutrients and gorgeous. You could look out past the garden and see crops planted as far as the eye could see. The green fields just seemed to evaporate into the blue sky somewhere near the edge of the earth. There was a dairy farm not far down the road as well.
When I think about how far removed I am from this kind of life, it really is odd in some ways. My grandfather came from a line of Tennessee farmers that goes back at least a couple of hundred years. Yet here I sit, only two generations later, living in the suburbs, driving the eight miles into downtown Charleston to wander around the farmer's market on the occasional Saturday morning. I try to buy local food and support local agriculture but I find the effort to do so frustrating.
Two summers ago, I tried to grow tomatoes and bell peppers. Total, complete failure. Everything died. And by everything, I mean all of it. We got nothing. Last summer I didn't even bother. This summer I'm going to try again. Just being able to enjoy my own homegrown tomatoes would make me really happy and is something I'd like for my children to do also.
Interestingly enough, just last week I got an email asking me to participate in a panel about blogging and food. The hosts are a group of professionals who promote agriculture and farming. Honestly, I'm so excited. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to talk about food, especially from a local perspective. Where it comes from, how we get it, what makes it good, what makes it bad, how it affects us, and so on, are subjects of great interest to me. As ridiculous as it sounds, I swear my DNA is largely responsible for this obsession.
I wish I knew more. I wish I had a huge garden like my grandfather did. I wish that it was easier to buy from the local farmers around Charleston. But all I can do is try to learn, make a little extra effort regarding food purchases and try my little garden again. Wish me luck...