I started gardening for the first time in a shared space last year. My only personal association with a garden before then was through my grandmother, who used to grow some of her own vegetables. The backyard produce did not impress me as a youth (I remember my nana removing husks - and worms - from ears of corn and thinking eewwww). I considered pulling weeds and other yard work akin to slavery.
Now that I'm older, I realize you can't beat local, fresh fruit and vegetables and the work can be rewarding both spiritually and physically. So I decided to experiment with growing my own food. I tried to keep it simple: green beans, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs. I scoured seed catalogues for quality and variety, but ended up getting most of them at Lowe's. The wonderful thing about gardening is that nature is patient with one's ignorance and blunders and the return on investment (a few dollars) is enormous compared to when you shop in a supermarket. I have a newfound appreciation for the bounty of the earth and farmers' work. (In the end, my husband and I collected about 20 tomatoes, a couple cucumbers and some peppers. The green beans shriveled in the sweltering heat and the herbs didn't even come up). I hope to do it again this year.
You might consider that harvest paltry for the hours of work involved. I wondered myself, what am I doing trying to advocate for local eating among family and friends when half of my seeds bore no fruit? It's just simpler to leave this to the "experts."
But empowering us amateurs to experiment with a new way of eating and living is vital to transforming this community into one that is more resilient to global commodity price fluctuations (read: higher food costs), not even delving into the questionable wisdom of genetically modified/clone-derived and over-processed foods. What's important at this point is not so much the amount of practical experience we have, but the mindset change that precedes it. From there, we need education and tools to try it.
I would love to see Greensboro get more community gardens, such as the one in the Glenwood neighborhood. Apartment/condo dwellers need their spaces too. Perhaps several years from now I will join other residents, previously divorced from their source of nourishment, in shedding that "amateur" label.