Gardening without getting your hands dirty

While I was reading “A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss” (NY Times) last night, something just didn’t sit right to me. Ok, so you want to be more conscious of where your food is coming from but just hiring someone to do the job for you?? If you have the financial resources and are limited on time, yes, I guess that’s ok. But it just sounds like the whole carbon offset scheme to me, which I heard aptly described as, “paying someone else to stop smoking for you.” Seems like Dot Earth’s Andy Revkin had similar thoughts.

I thought back to what we discussed at the dinner on Sunday – that is, the three “themes” of this discussion about food: Relationships, Time, and Health. Ok, you have a garden in your backyard, but if someone else takes care of it, is that really creating the relationship between you and the source of your food? Do you know each plant and how it grows? Beyond this knowledge, the time you spend growing and preparing your food can be a a source of baraka (blessings). Moreover, gardening can have numerous health benefits, both on a physical (exercise) and spiritual level (reflecting on and taking care of Allah’s creation). Is our modern-day environmentally-conscious individual one who pays someone to tend his garden but then drives down to the street to the health club to use energy consuming gym-equipment?

There are definitely positives to this trend – creating jobs, localizing food production and making it less environmentally destructive/energy intensive, eating in season, etc. Yet what’s the benefit of encouraging people to do a specific thing (ex. eating local food) without understanding the larger purpose of the action (ex. connecting to the productive agricultural community around you)? Like Revkin mentioned, what about nature deficit disorder?

What are your reactions?


  1. jasmin
    July 25, 2008 at 4:33 am

    honestly, i understand this trend (even if it is…pricey). if you can’t go the whole 9 yards, 3 is still better than nothing. what bothers me more, actually, is this:

    “This has become fashion.”

    i see a lot of things become trendy because they’re “green.” the question is- what shade of green?

  2. Sanjana
    July 25, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    jasmin, your comment on fashion reminded me of something that stood out as i was reading the omnivore’s dilemma (on locally prepared organic meals): “this kind of food is another form of conspicuous consumption…i have the resources, sophistication, and leisure time to dazzle you with this meal.”

    as our ramadan compact experience showed, when you start unconsuming in other ways, food does become the next “fashionable/luxury item” to spend (waste?) your money on and show off with.

  3. jasmin
    July 26, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    it’s a good thing, then, that we have ramadan to bring us back in line 🙂 as a “foodie” myself, it’s hard to keep in mind that yes, even food is one of those worldly things.

    (and i’m not sure why my name came up as jasmin [this is yasmin]).

  4. Sanjana
    July 27, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    yasmin! ah, i wanted to get one of your cakes but didnt have time (are you starting back up again??). we should exchange food (geek) stories sometime 😉

  5. Mohamad A. Chakaki
    July 30, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    esa shared an NPR piece with me a while back (which i can’t seem to find now) about time in the garden.

    it’s a much different, much slower notion of time. more aligned with the rhythm of ‘natural’ cycles than life in the fast and fashionable lane. and, to me, it feels more human(e).

    it’s interesting that this trend to have others tend your organic garden misses out on just that.

    salaam 🙂