Red States And Blueberries

This land is your land, this land is my land, and more crucially, this land is land.

As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s consider a new political party based, not on stimulants such as tea and coffee, but on flowers and vegetables. Hold your rallies in your yard. Everyone is welcome: north, south, left or right.

Welcome to the Garden Party, the new grassroots movement founded with the express purpose of inspiring Americans and their leaders to think and act like gardeners.

The Garden Party is inspired by the example of our forefathers. Thomas Jefferson considered himself first of all a man of the land; George Washington viewed his primary role as farmer. Both men were leaders and pioneers in agriculture, as well as statesmen. They both practiced crop rotation and careful stewardship of the soil.

Both men were eager innovators in introducing new crops. Jefferson wrote, “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture…One such service of this kind rendered to a nation is worth more to them than all the victories of the most splendid pages of their history, and becomes a source of exalted pleasure to those who have been instrumental in it.”

The Garden Party believes that a country, once it loses its connection to the land, loses its mind as well. Our goal is to restore both. To create and maintain a flourishing and productive garden calls for planning, vigilance, patience, imagination, love, discipline, resilience, timing, pragmatism, prudence, and durable gloves—precisely the qualities our leaders now need most.

Our party’s garden-centered stimulus plan calls for reconnecting American culture with agriculture and horticulture, and bringing the country back to the country. It’s time for Americans, adrift in the gleaming void of cyberspace and the nebulae of the service economy, to come back to earth, and harvest the wisdom that grows in the garden.

Most Americans are separated by just a few generations from life on the farm. Our lives are no longer joined to the rhythm of the rising and setting sun, the seasons, plantings and harvests that defined our ancestors’ days, months and years. We have replaced nature’s cadences with synthetic manmade ones, and warm sunlight with chilly backlit computer screens. In severing our connection to nature, we have also lost touch with our shared nature as a people.

The 10,000 years of agricultural development could be viewed as the prelude to the information age. Seeds were the microchips of their day; agricultural knowledge was the software. The earliest gardens anchored early settlements of locavores, giving rise to closer communities, tidier social arrangements and an ever-accelerating culture. Seeds, plants and gardening know-how went viral—migrating from person to person, farm to farm, continent to continent. Those who heeded the wisdom of the gardener flourished; those who did not perished.

Yet, agriculture lives on in our national imagination and memory. Through the clutter of mass media, we can still remember the seeds sown by Native Americans, the Pilgrims’ first harvest, the beauty and bounty of depression-era and World War II victory gardens, and our own family beds, borders and plots. The garden remains our terra firma: a vulgarity-free zone, a serene and verdant refuge from the mass media carnival.

You wouldn’t know it from reading the news, but the United States remains the “breadbasket of the world.” Our country is unrivalled—for both the stunning variety and abundance of the crops we grow. The early European settlers were rightly dazzled by the extraordinary richness of the American soil. The country’s range of terrain and climate makes agriculture perhaps the most exceptional aspect of American exceptionalism.

The Garden Party does not propose that Americans stop everything, start a garden or reinvent themselves as 21st century farmers. Our goal is simpler and more dramatic. We want Americans not necessarily to assume the life of gardeners (it would be nice)—but to adopt the wisdom of gardeners.

Like the American people, the garden abounds in diversity, different plants coexisting in dynamic equipoise—a good model for our increasingly unbalanced political discourse. We need to develop a politics of nurture on a scale with our immense natural and human resources. As a society we seem increasingly fractured and fractionalized and have lost our sense of the wholeness, richness and beauty of the American narrative.

The nation’s first “apolitical party”, The Garden Party can serve us as a living central metaphor, the axis where the American people and the American land come together, connecting our past, present and future. The wellspring of creativity and innovation, The Garden Party is a garden of ideas. Join us.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 24th, 2010 at 3:46 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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40 Responses to “Red States And Blueberries”

  1. Sue said:

    I want to sign up for this party!!

    • George said:

      It isn’t an actual political party, rather a virtual one. Or “imaginary”, as we used to call it. I tried in 1995-96 (anyone remember?). My platform included making tomatoes a futures commodity, using seed as a supplemented currency (“ideal money”, I called it) and guaranteed community gardens for every municipality. I got one interview on CBS. After that, people thought I was joking or being insincere. So I did not file the paperwork. However, I attended the Dem’s convention in Chicago to see if there might be like-minded souls. There weren’t. At the time, I was quite serious. Now I’m not so energetic. Better that it be a “thought experiment”. Thanks.

  2. mary said:

    All I can add is “AMEN” and sign me up! So well said.

    • George said:

      Thanks, Mary.

  3. My Dear Mr. Ball,

    I have had the great good fortune to be employed for the last 15 years as the Horticulturist at a private golf club outside of Detroit, MI. We have 120 acres in a well to do suburban but very historical neighborhood. The property is unremarkable save for it’s trees (81 american elms remain) and the fact that the membership has allowed me to design and install over 50 garden beds throughout the property. If you are at all familiar with golf you may know that gardening on a golf course can be quite controversial. The challenges have been great, the results stand on their own and I believe we’ve created a very unique environment. I hear repeatedly and daily how much the gardens add to the lives of our membership.
    I loved your article on the Garden Party. Count me in. What are the rules of copyright as regards reprinting your words? We, The Lochmoor Club, publish a monthly newsletter and I was wondering if it would be possible to reprint your article.
    In my own struggle with the traditional forces of golf in America I do believe that a softening of the game to include the philosophy of land stewardship (embodied by your concept of the Garden Party) is the way forward to sanity. A game that requires so much land, money, time and resources I feel would benefit from an expanded perspective.
    Is it possible to reprint?

    Thank you for your work and your words.

    Leslie Lindbloom
    The Lochmoor Club
    1018 Sunning Dr.
    Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236
    313 881 4261

    • George said:

      Please feel free to reprint, permission granted and thank you.

  4. Jonella said:

    Wonderful piece! Loved it! Great thinking, great ideas, great quotes. Thanks! (And I’m VERY political – VERY! – But this was a delight.) Thanks.

    • George said:

      You’re welcome. Please post again.

  5. Bumper sticker, please!!! How do I register? Greatest movement of all, right here! Thank you.

    • George said:

      Thanks, Byrdfeeder.

  6. Siddhartha Banerjee said:

    Beautiful and wise. This argument ought to be made much more often. Wendell Berry, Louis Bromfield and some others have made it in their own remarkable ways. Consider me a de facto member of The Garden Party, USA.

    • George said:

      Thank you and nice to hear from you, as always.

  7. Pamela Gibson said:

    How refreshing! I could not agree more. Let’s all work together to achieve these basic simple principles laid down by our founders. And then rather than apologizing to the rest of the world for our success, let’s help other’s achieve these principles as well. I am a joyful member of the Garden Party. Thanks for making my day.
    Pamela Gibson
    Adams, TN.

    • George said:

      You might also enjoy my latest post about reconnecting with our motherland in a new way. Lift all boats, as they say.

  8. Sarah Hitchcock said:

    Wow, I have read your ideas, chuckled, and nodded. But today you brought back the family legend of the 10 acres outside Celina Ohio where my green-thumb father and siblings were raised, while Gramma eased all the dying relatives off, the girls went off to college, the boys grew to neat people. And, I HAD to leave suburban Detroit 52 years ago to escape the boredom for Alaska. My little garden is all mine, with history behind the oldest perennials, and I love your idea! Have you read Gary Holthaus? His second book began in Alaska. Take care, keep writing, Sally Greek Hitchcock

    • George said:

      Alaska is like a second home to me. Everything I love about life I found in Alaska. God bless you and thanks for the book tip.

  9. nadia said:

    What a great article. I have been garden blogging for almost a year now and I love how much I have learned about what it means to garden and be more connected with other garden news like Heronswood Voice.I guess that is wisdom. I always enjoy the intense and thought provoking articles. Thank You!

    • George said:

      Very kind to say so. Thanks in return. Please post again.

  10. Cathy said:

    You’re making logical sound sense

    • George said:

      Thanks, Cathy.

  11. Dot Lenhart said:

    Wondering if you knew that Thomas Jefferson was a great supporter of growing hemp!

    • George said:

      Was that used for jumping rope? Double dutch? Or did he “use the dutchie” indeed? Spark the owl? Thanks, Dot.

  12. Layanee said:

    Love it! Very well stated.

    • George said:

      Thanks, Layanee.

  13. Ginger Taifour said:

    Bravo! Well written!

    • George said:

      Thank you, Ginger.

  14. probably one of the best blogs you’ve done yet.

    • George said:

      Too kind, Heather. Thanks.

  15. Anyone said:

    Your diversity is leading to the fall of the USA! Observe and think about it! Sometimes diversity when it comes to changing our core beliefs and values that this Country was established on…..were not so bad compared to CHANGE!

    • George said:

      Bit incoherent, but I appreciate the effort. Thanks and please post again.

  16. deborah said:

    You have my vote! great ideals, Just a thought, it is hard to be angry at others while out working in your garden….well maybe the deer–but they serve their own purpose as well.

    • George said:

      I have never been sad or depressed in my garden, which is extraordinary to me. Even the deer cheer me up and, normally, I hate them. A bit like Bach: everything falls into place and, listening carefully, the world becomes perfect.

  17. Loris said:

    What a great Idea. Love the Garden Party. Keep us on the right path, George. I really enjoy you intelligent observations.

    • George said:

      Thanks, Loris.

  18. Basil said:

    At last! A political party I can believe in! Sign me up.

    • George said:

      Done, Basil. Anyone named Basil is already pre-signed in my book.

  19. Anne said:

    Thank you! I think I could get behind such a party.

    • George said:

      Thank you, Anne.

  20. marjean said:

    this is my idea of a great political party.
    any chance for a FB link to this one?

    • George said:

      Thanks, Marjean. I’ll look into it.

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