by Christina Waters on Oct 16, 2012
Orin Martin (Photo by Chip Scheuer)
What keeps you getting up and going out into the garden every day? What gets me up and into the garden daily is I am a creature of habit, creature of doses—doing the same thing in the same way day after day after day. I’m afraid I’m locked in to being a servant of the seasons and the morning’s early light. Actually it’s a privilege. So, it’s probably the confluence of crops and people. I/we teach people to grow plants organically, the applications are many and varied. It’s powerful.
Why is your work—organic growing—important? Over 35 years, I have seen a cadre of super-intelligent, intrinsically motivated, young and not so young people come to the farm and garden. Their jeans are torn, no money in their pockets, but their hearts are huge, and they learn the rudiments of organic farming and gardening, subsequently go out and change the world (for the better I might add). They work in food systems—postage-stamp size to mid-size, and even the occasional large farm, acres of rice, to feed the world.
What gives you special pleasure about your work? Why? Basically, connecting the people who grow food with the people who consume food. These “kids” dare and usually succeed at endeavors I wouldn’t and couldn’t even dream of undertaking. I am privileged to play a role daily in assisting them in their endeavors.
What are the exciting crops this time of year? These days and time of season it’s about coming in to admire and harvest all manner of peppers—some insane number of varieties numbering greater than 80, perhaps even sneaking up on the century mark. The best of the old heirlooms, best of the modern production varieties. The large, blocky, thick-walled quadrato d’asti giallo heirloom bell. The Cuban varieties. That’s an instance of why heirlooms are great¬—beyond their gustatory attributes. They connect us with other cultures and cuisines, as do dried heirloom bean, like Cherokee Trail of Tears. Or the Jimmy Nardello, a Sicilian heirloom pepper, long and sinuous, looking like a chile but it’s sweet with undertones of smokiness. It was brought to America by Giuseppe Nardello and passed on to the next generation, grown in a backyard in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
Do you think the organic message has finally been heard? Yes, I think America, from sea to shining sea, gets it about organic food. However, the next “crusade” is to alert people to the oppressive working conditions and the environmental degradation that goes along with your offshore-produced flower bouquet. That pretty bouquet you get at Safeway or Trader Joe’s is indeed pretty—pretty in and of itself, and pretty cheap, sure. But in reality it comes at a huge cost in terms of the environment and social justice. So, just as people have gotten to know their food growers, they need to get to know their flower growers. Just as there are food locovores and the concept of the 50-100 mile diet, well, we need the same with flowers. Better yet, maybe a springtime “how to grow your own” presentation at the Saturday farmers market.