a curling tendril with a caterpillar on it, gripping a stem

Connections in a RealFood Garden

About a 3 minute read
6th December, 2021

My definition of a “RealFood garden” is a garden that’s easy to maintain and meets real, basic, every-day needs for food and medicine. Plants that thrive in such a garden do so because they connect to other plants and to the gardener's kitchen and healthcare needs in mutually beneficial ways.



As I said recently in a post about ginger, when I'm thinking about where to put a plant in the garden to maximize its useful connections, I like to think about:

  • what other plants have similar needs ("like-minded" plants), or 
  • what other plants might be able to help meet this plant's needs ("complimentary" plants), and 
  • what I need from this plant and what it needs from me. I like to look at this with my regular habits in mind, because when a plant is in the right place to catch my attention as I go by, I won’t have to form new habits in order to maintain and use it.
    Pairings or groupings of readily accessible “like-minded” or “complimentary” plants inviting me to stop by in their area of the garden and rewarding me for doing so = much more chance of success than when things are unconnected and don’t catch my attention. 


Mutually beneficial relationships

It could be said that on some level humans have "relationships" or "sacred contracts" with other life-forms on earth. This idea is related the idea that each life-form, humans included, has an essential role to play in caring for the whole that is Gaia. 

Our relationships with domesticated animals and with the domestic plants we rely on for food, and also some wild "weeds" such as dandelion, range from old to mind-bendingly ancient, and are expressions of deep inter-dependence.

The more we use and rely on the plants in our gardens, the better we'll care for them. In doing so, we can build increasing interdependence with a web of life that we weave together right here in our backyards. 

Bit by bit, this food web woven by local hands with the unique colors and textures of this place, helps us reduce our dependence on the global food system of massive monoculture farms and homogenized supermarkets, the same across the globe.

RealFood gardens for food sovereignty

To borrow words from the US Food Sovereignty Alliance

Food sovereignty goes well beyond ensuring that people have enough food ...

[It's also about rebuilding our power ] ...  by rebuilding the relationships between people and the land, and between food providers and those

Food sovereignty is not just being able to go to the supermarket whenever we want.

What I think of as true food sovereignty requires real food. What I like to call RealFood. That's not the stuff in packets that erodes our health and disconnects us from the communities and ecosystems that feed us, on supermarket shelves that are suddenly empty when the global supply-chain hiccups. 

RealFood gardens are gardens we rely on in a relationship of mutual dependence with the plants we grow, the land we grow them on, and the people we grow them with. The reliance part is important, because that's what keeps the connections strong. 

A “RealFood garden”—filled with well-placed, well-connected plants that we rely on for food and medicine—is a piece in the puzzle of how to re-build food and health-care sovereignty for our families and communities.

And in a world where all forms of sovereignty are under increasing threat, I think that’s important. 

Please leave a comment...

Do you rely on your garden a little bit? A lot? What might change about your gardening approach if you wanted to be 5% less reliant on the supermarket and pharmacy a year from now?


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