Get growing

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Editorial: June 21, 2012

It’s time to garden.

We say that not because it’s the first full day of summer, but because it’s a habit we need.

If you ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hardin County is considered “rural.” The label conjures up images of miles and miles of fertile fields, grain silos, livestock and farmhouses with nice vegetable gardens. But for many of our neighbors, the label doesn’t fit.

In reality, a large portion of the county’s population lives shoulder-to-shoulder in multi-family units or suburban tract homes on small lots. Many are several generations removed from the concept of a family farm.

As the nation battles obesity, heart disease and diabetes, all kinds of plans are being promoted as possible fixes. The most outrageous is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to limit consumption of sugary drinks.

New guidelines are changing school lunch offerings and vending machines are being unplugged. The Food Pyramid has been retired and replaced with a plate that better reflects today’s sensibilities. These are immediate and visible changes, but without other changes at home, are largely cosmetic.

Some small ideas have more potential than others. Consider “Growing Families … Growing Food,” a program through which elementary school family resource centers help families grow vegetables during summer months. It’s a great program that helps kids learn how to garden and hopefully fosters an appreciation for vegetables and better food choices.

It’s such a good idea that local entities, including city and county governments and industrial foundations, should consider establishing community gardens. It’s a concept that should not be limited to families with school-age children.

Cities own vacant lots where houses once stood. There are expanses of rights of way and more otherwise unused places that are easily accessible and could be converted to garden space at minimal expense.

All that would be required would be tilling in the spring and a source for water. Lots where houses once stood already would have water lines that could be tapped for a single shared spigot. Charge a nominal fee of $10 to $20 per plot for a season and let it bloom.

Across the community, gardens are a “growing” trend, one that can lead to real change at the family dinner table.

We shouldn’t expect or rely on government to fix every problem that comes up. Although obesity, heart disease and diabetes are individual problems, they do require a great deal of capital from public entities do deal with problems they cause. If “government” (such as Mayor Bloomberg) really wants to induce change, wouldn’t a community garden program be a more appropriate way of doing it?

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.