Growing Food is Our Greatest Protest

Learn to garden and separate yourself from capitalism’s control of food.

Violet Bee
Feb 5 · 5 min read
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Our entire civilization is built on the absurd notion that a person should only be able to eat if they can afford to buy food. In a couple hundred-thousand years all we’ve managed to do is regress. We’ve allowed capitalism to deprive us of the most basic human right. Of course capitalism is also killing us in a thousand other ways, but for now, we’ll focus on just one.

In the hierarchy, air and water do come before food, so yes, it’s not the most basic need, but despite the pollution, air is still free and water scarcity is its own topic as well. Water may have been commodified too, but still comes at a relatively low cost in the industrialized world. Your water bill is unlikely anything near your food budget.

Food is an entirely different story. It took years of work, but the puppeteers have succeeded in convincing most of us that our food should be cheap, plentiful to the point of making us wasteful, and most importantly, available with no direct input. Earning a wage and purchasing our food, that’s the good life. It’s so easy. No back-breaking labor, no dirt, bugs or weeds. Just clean, beautiful produce on the shelves, perfectly aligned boxes and cans.

“Putting food under lock and key was one of the great innovations of your culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key — and putting it there is the cornerstone of your economy. Because if the food wasn’t under lock and key, who would work?” — Daniel Quinn

You may not consider yourself a wage slave, but that makes it no less true. What is a wage slave? A person whose livelihood depends entirely on a wage or salary. Yeah, that’s you, and me, unless one of us is an heiress. It’s no less true for those of us who earn a living wage. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re “better off”. Of course, we all have our own types of privilege and we range in our poverty level, among many other things. But at the heart of the matter, if you are not independently wealthy, then you are in the boat with the rest of us. That’s important. Those who keep us in our place rely on dividing and conquering. There is power in the great majority of the world declaring ourselves one people, regardless of any other divisions.

You might have seen this image before as it’s been shared a lot since 2013. Most of the organic and vegan food companies I’ve supported for many years have also fallen under the control of our industrial food overlords. That wage slave business might sound a bit extreme, but let’s remember we live in a world where 10 companies control most of the food we have available. They decide who grows the ingredients, whether they’re provided with a proper wage (they’re not), whether they work in safe conditions (no again) and most of the resulting products are left with questionable nutritional value, and that’s only the products that are intended to have some nutrition. Most of this is just garbage.

At the risk of being a super nerd, resistance is not futile. While there are many subtle ways to try to resist corporate rule, none is so easy to begin or accessible as gardening. We don’t all have the same abilities or opportunities, but even for those without a garden, the possibilities are endless. Any small movement we can each make towards distancing ourselves from these companies that control our food supply is a win.

If you are brand new to gardening, there are plenty of books and online resources available to learn everything you could want, but there’s no substitute for local, first-hand knowledge. You might be surprised at how much support you can find in your community, though it’s not universally true.

  • In the spring, your local farmer’s market can be a good source for seedlings. Many small farmers are able to sell nursery stock from their surplus of spring plantings, without having to register as a nursery grower. If you can find them, this is a great option because they will be able to give you excellent advice on how to care for the plants you choose.
  • Check with your local library system to see if they have a seed library. They may have small events as well, which can again provide you an opportunity to get advice locally while you’re picking out your free seeds.
  • Look into the offerings through your local extension office. They generally offer classes and master gardener programs, which can be a nice way to learn. It’s also a way to find a master gardener in your area that can help with questions.
  • Find a community garden, where you can access a small plot and helpful neighbors.

The best advice I can give is just start, and start small. Smaller than you think. There’s nothing more discouraging that a garden bed left untended, as they’re a pain to recover. If you’ve never grown anything, get a nice large pot and potting soil and head to your farmer’s market for a tomato plant. That’s it. Eat fresh tomatoes all summer and you’ll be hooked.

“In our society growing food ourselves has become the most radical of acts. It is truly the only effective protest, one that can — and will- overturn the corporate powers that be. By the process of directly working in harmony with nature, we do the one thing most essential to change the world — we change ourselves.” — Jules Dervaes

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Violet Bee is a mother, writer, farmer and activist. She and her partner practice permaculture and foster cats in all of their free time. Follow her publication Radical Hope for more on living and parenting in a changing climate.

Radical Hope

Facing climate collapse in the Anthropocene.

Violet Bee

Written by

Working on Permaculture approaches to the compounding problems of climate change, ecological and civilizational collapse. Parenting with Radical Hope.

Radical Hope

Facing climate collapse in the Anthropocene. Working with Radical Hope towards Deep Adaptation.

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