The Magical World of Gardening


Do you want your kids to eat vegetables? Plant a garden with them. Do you want to heal the heart of a struggling teenager? Plant a garden with her. Do you want to bring a community together and restore their dignity and faith? Plant a garden with them.

How do I know this? Recently, I had the honor of meeting Ian Marvy, who started Added Value in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. As a place, it’s not so much the hipster Brooklyn that you read about these days; in fact, the average household income in Ian’s Red Hook is $16,000. Added Value is a nonprofit that has created an almost 3-acre urban farm with the goal of nurturing a new generation of leaders by creating opportunities for the youth of South Brooklyn. These young people grow the food, harvest it, and sell it to their own community. I met Ian on the night he received the Jane Jacobs Medal from the Rockefeller Foundation. The accompanying video presentation made it clear just how important his work has been to the lives of teenagers and the whole community. Something so simple, so organic, can have lasting consequences for health and healing.

Ironically, later that same night I bumped into Alice Waters. She was standing outside my apartment looking lost. After we hugged hello, I helped her find her way—a small favor for someone who has helped so many children find their way to a love of vegetables and cooking through her Edible Schoolyard Project. I’ve heard Alice describe how so many of the children she works with start out fearful and worried about nature, but, once exposed to the pleasures of gardening, end up walking barefoot and lying sprawled out in the grass eating vegetables straight from the earth (which, by the way, is what I do all the time…when it’s warm out).

The other Jane Jacobs Medal winner that night (and the reason I was there) was one of my nature-loving heroes, the divine Bette Midler. Did you know that with Million Trees NYC, an initiative of the New York Restoration Project and the city’s parks department, she has vowed to plant a million trees in New York City by 2017, and that 800,000 have already been planted? More importantly, her organization has helped to clean up literally thousands of tons of trash from the city’s parks and, you guessed it, plant gardens. By doing so, Bette and NYRP have helped in the revitalization of a whole city.

Thus, the chef, the superstar, and the organic farmer have together transformed the lives of many people by planting gardens. But you don’t have to be famous to get into the fun. It’s time to plant a garden. If you don’t have one already, this is your moment. If you have one, maybe you could help others plant their own. By planting a garden, you can achieve the goals I set out in my opening paragraph. And you might find that you are nourishing your own life by nourishing another’s.

That’s the magical world of gardening!

Previously published in Organic Gardening. For great gardening, cooking, and living tips, pick up the magazine today!


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3 Responses to The Magical World of Gardening

  1. Donna in Delaware June 16, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    I so agree! Planting a garden, any garden, but especially a vegetable garden, enriches one’s life, lifestyle, and promotes health and well being, whether community-wise, personally, or in your neighborhood! I am definitely going to start a community garden somewhere, someday soon. That is a goal of mine. Organically, of course! Oops, don’t forget about the fruit!

  2. Alice Green June 16, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

    Well, I live on the 4th floor of an apartment building, so I don’t have a garden, but I do have several pots of flowers. Cosmos mostly, since the butterflies love them. And I am hoping that some bees/butterfies from my balcony will fly over to some organic garden (and I know of one very nearby) and that can be my contribution to the organic community here in Colorado. Thank you to all out there in our world who love nature and put in the work to plant a garden — both in the ground and in the hearts of all who love both our earth and all the precious people who dwell here.

  3. Yen June 17, 2014 at 12:39 am #

    My little guy loves helping in the garden! He picks & eats strawberries and tomatoes straight from garden by himself, sometimes he eats the green ones too 🙂 precious to watch him wandering around talking to plants & digging treasures. Its getting cold here down under so i don’t have much growing but theres also plenty of reasons to be out in the garden!

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