Homegrown Carrots

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“Why do you keep your carrots in the dirt?” 

Shoulders back, quizzical look on their faces, my little cousins demanded answers on a recent trip to my parents’ gardens down home. They were aghast at the hairy roots, and the preposterous nature of vegetable storage. Who would take carrots out of a bag and stick them in the ground? Clearly everyone must know that’s what a refrigerator is for. Their superior chuckles hinted at their dubious interior monologues.   

It took some explaining, but the concept of seeds, and sprouts, then big vegetables growing in the ground was conveyed. The words at least were understood, even if the sanity of such a process was still in question.   

I was reminded of this exchange this past week. Three of our regular visitors to D Acres Permaculture Farm & Educational Homestead, all under the height of three feet and the age of five, found me planting out nursery stock. They had the same perplexed look, the same authoritarian stance upon demanding,

“Why are your hands dirty?” 

“Well, why are your hands clean?” I responded. Yup, that stumped ’em. 

Their escort kindly explained that I was helping the plants to grow, taking grapes, groundnut, rose rogosa, lilac, and willow out of pots and planting them into the soil. I nodded in agreement. Did they want to help me finish?  It’s like making mudpies for adults, I prodded.   

Nope, no, definitely not.   

Ok, fair enough. They had a date with apple juice and coloring books; I simply had shovels and mud to offer. I certainly don’t begrudge them their fine affairs — but how will they know from whence their fruit drinks came? 

It seems that in the stereotypical struggle to make children like carrot sticks or think apples slices are fun, we’ve forgotten the rest of the story all together. Maybe we wouldn’t have to wrap fruit roll-ups with jokes, or fruit loops with comic characters if kids could share in their own story with their own food. If they could taste a carrot they planted, weeded, and pulled themselves, a carrot that was juicy in its tender freshness and sweetened with cold temperatures…a carrot that was slightly wacky in size and not quite reproducible in shape. Surely these things, too, would produce a gloating giggle. 

So I for one would rally for carrots being their own mascot, and apples their very own cheerleaders. Perhaps the query to consider is then, if I may kindly paraphrase and parody the tykes:  

Why aren’t your carrots in the dirt?

Photo by D Acres Permaculture Farm & Educational Homestead