Sheila Julson

Return to Our Roots

By Sheila Julson

For three summer seasons, I had a gratifying role of interviewing farmers for a feature series I wrote for a community newspaper. I became somewhat of a “farmer stalker” as I scoped out vendors to interview at area farmers’ markets. I had to catch these men and women of all ages, backgrounds, and education levels as they quickly placed their nurtured produce, honey, syrup, eggs, and small-batch homemade treats into customer’s bags.

Meanwhile in the city, urban dwellers have returned to their roots by taking creative measures to maximize space in small city yards and utilizing abandoned lots to reduce food deserts. I find it rewarding to return to the ways of my grandmother, who was an “urban homesteader” way before the term became chic. She crammed as many vegetables and flowers into the garden on her city lot, and we kids helped her tend to the carrots and tomatoes as Fels-Naptha cleansed laundry flapped from a clothesline strung across the yard. She was the ultimate recycler, saving jars and paper grocery bags for reuse instead of buying food storage containers or disposable plastic grocery bags.

Whether one homesteads and farms on rural acreage or in a city or community garden lot, we can learn from each other. I still feel the need to share the tales and talents of these farmers and homesteaders I encounter, as well as what I’ve learned. Here are our stories.