Seed Fair

Despite two inches of new snow overnight the spring growing season in Madison officially began today. The annual Eagle Heights Community Garden Seed Fair opened to a capacity crowd of hobby gardeners eager to till the soil in the warmer days yet to come.

“I am SO pumped for this!” said our plot mate Jennifer Harrington. “We’re gunna have SO much yummy produce.”

My wife Shamane and I share a patch of land about two miles from our home with friends near the University of Wisconsin campus. More than 1,300 plots are available for area residents to grow a modest garden of vegetables or flowers. The cost is a mere $35 for the season. And local organizers during the fair provide an assortment of seeds free for the taking.

I showed up at the Eagle Heights Community Center about 20 minutes before the doors opened to public at 10AM. There were more than 60 people already in line and about 100 more filled in behind me. Those waiting were primarily people of Asian decent, the families of foreign students and faculty who maintain the agricultural traditions of their homeland. The rest were those liberal-minded consumers who hope to work the land, get some exercise in the sunshine and grow healthy organic produce for their families.

The spinach and tomato seeds were the first to go. Then hands snatched up the lettuce, peppers and cucumbers. Beets and radishes went next along with corn, melons, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Last to go were the squashes, with pumpkins and copious bags of zucchini still fresh in our memories of fall.

Now in its 50th season the Eagle Heights Community garden is a wonderful local tradition well suited to our modern times and an active lifestyle. Set right along the Capital City Bike Trail near picnic point it’s a short peddle from our house. Compost, mulch and water are provided. Really all we have to do is put in the physical effort. After a day of deskwork gardening is a great way to relax. And it’s even good way to either warm up or cool down from a workout of running or swimming.

For us gardening brings our lives full circle. As we let our imaginations run wild to come up with what aim to grow, we set in motion plans for months ahead. In just a few weeks after the first planting we’ll have fresh herbs and salad greens. By mid summer will be able to make pesto and then salsa. We’ll can dilled green beans and beets in the fall. And we’ll likely polish off the last jar of tomato sauce on a homemade pizza in December.

It’s that kind of long range thinking that allows us to slow down the pace of life in the present. Gardening and planning out our meals in step with the progress of the seasons and the Earth’s annual trip around the Sun brings a calming sense of balance that is so welcome in these manic hectic times. Slow down, the fall harvest begins long before with seeds we plant in spring.

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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

  • Jonathan

    I'm reading a great book on this subject called “Kitchen Literacy,” which describes how over the centuries we have shifted away from a consciousness about where food comes from and towards a deliberate ignorance of the origin of our groceries.