Here’s a thought–get your hands dirty…

Lately on Facebook, status updates from friends who are playing FarmVille have become as ubiquitous as Mafia Wars updates were back in the summer. I’ve been mildly curious–not enough so to check the game out. Mostly I just click past and keep on rolling.

Not so much lately though. I mean I click past, but I can’t stop chewing on the idea that we need many fewer people playing FarmVille and many more people willing to get their hands dirty … willing to grow something … willing to farm …

See, that’s where I am. I don’t want to play FarmVille. I want to farm.

I know this desire has to do with my family’s land in South Carolina–land they purchased right after Emancipation, land that was farmed through the 1960s, land that’s been handed down generation by generation, without the loss of a single acre, to me and my cousins … none of whom have the first idea of what to do with it because our parents steered us so firmly toward education, good jobs, professions and professional achievement.

See, it’s OK with my folks if I have a nice little garden, grow some nice little roses. A nice even emerald-green lawn–achieved with pesticides and monthly applications of fertilizers? That would be the pinnacle of outdoor achievement to them. The thought that I want to farm… That horrifies them. Red clay stains, chickens pumping out fresh eggs in the back yard–those are emblems not of food security and self sufficiency but just of poverty and dirt. My father loves a home-grown tomato as much as anyone–but sees no rational reason why anyone should spend hours picking bugs off the lettuce when you can get it bagged and prewashed from the grocery store.

I’ve stopped trying to explain and just try to keep my mom from selling off her share of the land to her siblings … so it’ll be there waiting for me when I’m ready to go back home.

But I do not plan to go home without skills. That’s why I’m farming right here this summer–in the city limits of my little town in central Virginia. With my partner in plants.

This is our land.

The garden--still wild

Looks wild doesn’t it? It’s not. We’re less than half a mile from downtown, one block off the main north-south route through town and bracketed between two major east-west arteries. It’s just the proximity to the cemetery that makes the spot seem so secluded and far away from everything.

Of course, it’s not all ours–not all by ourselves. We’re sharing with a nonprofit and a little community of enthusiastic volunteers. More on all that later. Here’s what counts.

Tomorrow, the property owner comes with a bulldozer and knocks down all the trees. (Our ancestors would not have had it so easy!) We’ll keep you posted on what unfolds over the course of the spring and summer. But remember, you don’t have to have 12,000 square feet on a south-facing slope to make FarmVille blossom under your feet.

All you need is a plastic to-go container from that lunch at Applebee’s you weren’t able to finish plus some nice soil, seeds, water and a sunny window–a heating pad to get things jump-started and an old towel to go on top of it are optional.

It’s two months precisely before the last frost date in our zone. The perfect time to start… getting your hands dirty!