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The Earth Knows My Name: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans

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Abstract

Inspired by her own family’s immigrant history, master gardener Patricia Klindienst traveled the country, gathering stories of urban, suburban, and rural gardens created by people rarely presented in American gardening books: Native Americans, immigrants from across Asia and Europe, and ethnic peoples who were here long before our national boundaries were drawn. In The Earth Knows My Name, she writes about the beautiful yards and fields she discovered, each one an island of hope, offering us a model—on a sustainable scale—of a truly restorative ecology. “It lifts my heart to find the kind of intelligence, grace, and regard that are in this book’s pages.” —Barry Lopez, author of Artic Dreams
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... Greater gender and racial justice in farming and food production could also help to revive lost sustainable food cultures, like gundruk, among immigrants and Indigenous Americans. Those diverse food cultures are often dominated by women and approach food production with a sense of reverence for natural resources and with restraint in their use (Klindienst 2006). ...
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Multiple factors create food injustices in the United States. They occur in different societal sectors and traverse multiple scales, from the constrained choices of the industrialized food system to legal and corporate structures that replicate entrenched racial and gender inequalities, to cultural expectations around food preparation and consumption. Such injustices further harm already disadvantaged groups, especially women and racial minorities, while also exacerbating environmental deterioration. This article consists of five sections that employ complementary approaches in the humanities, design studies, and science and technology studies. The authors explore cases that represent structural injustices in the current American food system, including: the racialized and gen-dered effects of food systems and cultures on both men and women; the misguided and de-territo-rialized global branding of the Mediterranean Diet as a universal ideal; the role of food safety regulations around microbes in reinforcing racialized food injustices; and the benefits of considering the American food system and all of its parts as designed artifacts that can be redesigned. The article concludes by discussing how achieving food justice can simultaneously promote sustainable food production and consumption practices-A process that, like the article itself, invites scholars and practitioners to actively design our food system in ways that empower different stakeholders and emphasize the importance of collaboration and interconnection.
... Those immigrants in our story are known to us and have their "real" names used, some do not, and some we don't know except in passing. But, like all of us, if we become strangers we may still be able-if we can eat the food and savor the tastes from the places whence we once belonged-to sigh and utter to ourselves, "Well, at least our food knows our names" (Klindienst 2006). ...
... The formation of collective subjectivity can be seen in the NT as it is often the marginalized migrant farmers who know best how working with soil heals and empowers (Klindienst 2006). As the nonindigenous villagers and activists in Hong Kong explained, it was through farming that they articulated themselves with their neighbors and the environment that they called the New Territories-a place that had been long estranged or erased totally by most Hong Kongers (interview, December 11, 2011). ...
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This article presents an alternative approach to understanding urban farming. Through the lens of feminist theories of regenerative politics, it demonstrates that urban farming can be rearticulated as/for/from within a transformative planning practice. Drawing on planning practices in the less studied terrain of Hong Kong—the New Territories bordering mainland China—this article illustrates how urban farming can be seen as an enabling, cross-scale practice that nurtures the micro-politics of democracy in everyday life to reconnect and regenerate theories, practices, and boundaries.
... It is also the case that immigrant gardens are an important site to cultivate food sovereignty, particularly in the face of assimilatory forces and xenophobia. In her book The Earth Knows My Name, Patricia Klindienst (2006) observes that garden metaphors have long been used to describe the migration experience, particularly in metaphors of being uprooted or transplanted. She proposes to reverse the metaphor, to focus on the immigrant as a gardener rather than an uprooted plant: "a person who shapes the world rather than simply being shaped by it" (Klindienst, 2006, p. xxi). ...
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First paragraph: For Maria, the small kitchen garden that she tends behind her house brings a sense of balance to her family and a sense of agency over the food that sustains them. As she explained to me, “The garden balances us. What we harvest from the garden is healthier for me and my kids and my family because it is fresher. My kids also help in the garden with preparing the soil, learning how to plant. And maybe in the future, they will continue doing it.” A mother of five from the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, Maria has lived in the United States for the past 13 years, supporting her husband who has worked on industrial dairy farms, first in New York and now in Vermont. While she raises her children and tends to her garden and free-range chickens, she acts as the primary caretaker and cook for their household during the long hours that her husband spends in the milking barn. Maria has some serious skills in the kitchen, and she loves to share dishes that remind her of Mexico with her children, whose only memories are of rural Vermont. And yet, despite having a relatively stable household income, Maria’s family still struggles with severe food insecurity. The vegetables and eggs that Maria harvests from her garden and chicken coop, along with support in the form of WIC benefits and free school meals, have been essential in keeping her children fed.
... Nevertheless, the term garden has traditionally been more generalized to include those used to display wild animals in simulated natural habitats, called zoological gardens. (Klindienst, 2006;Turner, 2005). A household garden can be consumption-or market-oriented, but at least some of the produce will be consumed by the household. ...
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This review offers a perspective on the role landscape and gardening play in urban settings from a socio-cultural, and ecological dimension. The practice of cultivating in gardens, parks and vacant lots, creates community spaces, and are increasingly becoming important to peoples’ experience of social and cultural wellbeing. In recent times, this has become a major focus of research in ecology, agriculture, urban design, landscape architecture, human geography, and sociology. Community gardening is one of the avenues toward revitalizing urban environments, and it provides a way of addressing multi-faceted urban problems ranging from limited food access to safety and community cohesion. That being said, it is necessary to continually evaluate the roles which society, ecology, and culture play in cities and landscape planning due to the dynamic nature of culture. This article aims to bring to the fore, the various factors of landscape and gardening practices in cities and the dynamics of cultural and ecological effects they have in building communities, reclaiming communities or engendering a personal place to thrive. A narrative review of the literature on peer-reviewed articles within the scope of the study was adopted as the research method.
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As urban and peri-urban agriculture's popularity arises, one could predict a near future in which cities transform into hyper-local food production landscapes. The question of whether allotments , community gardens and urban farms can actually feed cities and significantly contribute to food sovereignty, especially in times of food insecurity, is still under debate. What has been shown in previous studies is that nutritional provisioning is only one of the multiple ecosystem services offered by urban agriculture. Vegetable patches are not all about food. In fact, the garden's greatest appeal for urban dwellers might rather lie in multidimensional benefits that are harder to quantify. These include a desire for contact with nature, for belonging and connection, for cross-generational bonding, for a sense of purpose and creative expression, for work that yields tangible results-all through growing food. Is gardening an effective way to meet human desires and necessities otherwise neglected in our hectic daily lives? The aim of this paper is to reflect on some of the socio-cultural implications of urban gardening referring to literature and selected research on different approaches towards the practice.
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Amidst the recent threat of COVID-19, home gardens have surged in popularity as seed companies and nurseries find it challenging to keep their supplies fully stocked. The victory garden movement that emerged during WWII has today re-emerged as COVID victory gardens. Yet, the global changes and cognitive shifts associated with COVID-19 have differential impacts. The narrative of COVID victory gardens depoliticizes urban agriculture. It is blind to its long history in marginalized, oppressed, and displaced communities where home gardens have always been part of a struggle for identity, autonomy, and self- and communal-determination. I argue the blindness embedded in the narrative of COVID victory gardens violates our “food-related obligations,” which are our responsibilities to ourselves, our food, and each other. Silencing how communities of color have historically grown food in pursuit of dignity disregards how home gardens in communities of color are not merely a reactionary response to crisis but part of a historical legacy whereby people of color have grown food for generations to create and recreate sustainable ways of living that validate their cultures, knowledges, and ways of being.
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