[Market-farming] Book Review: Gardening for the Earth and Soul: A Practical Guide for Family and Community Gardening

Alliums garlicgrower at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 16 09:12:16 EDT 2004

Hi, Folks!

It's been raining and the garlic harvest is finished, so I had some time to 
read!  Let me know if you are interested in using it -- I retain copyright.


Gardening for the Earth and Soul:  A Practical Guide for Family and 
Community Gardening by Heather Dean and Tom Benevento, Brethren Press, 
2004.  ISBN:  0-87178-053-4, 180 pages, $18.99.

Useful and beautiful, inspiring and down-to-earth, The Church of the 
Brethren has published one of the best gardening books of 2004. If you’d 
like to pursue organic gardening as a family activity or dream of starting 
a community garden in your community, this book will gently and lovingly 
guide you on your way.

In the most “religious” section of the book, Julie Garber, editor at The 
Brethren Press, explains:

“Why is a religious press publishing a book on gardening?  Because 
gardening, both metaphorically and practically, figures centrally in our 
faith.  The biblical account, after all, begins and ends in a garden, and 
contained in the primordial garden of beginnings and the eschatological 
paradise of the end is the essential story of faith and how to live it in 
the present . . .Since gardening is a metaphor for life, this book on 
gardening is really a book about a way of living.”

(The Church of the Brethren, the Amish and the Mennonites are the three 
Anabaptist Protestant immigrant traditions from 18th century Germany who 
are often referred to as the “Pennsylvania Dutch.”  For more about “Another 
Way of Living,” go to 
<http://www.brethren.org/>http://www.brethren.org  Full Disclosure: My 
maternal grandfather belonged to the Brethren and my mother and I have 
found that almost all of our thoughts about gardening, caring for the earth 
and making up our own minds go right back to him – and the Brethren.)

Garber then hands the book off to Heather Dean, a community gardener in 
Washington, DC, who, like my grandfather, narrates the “how-to” gardening 
sections of this book with practicality and affection and Tom Benevento, 
the General Board’s Latin America specialist, who penned both the sidebars 
on spirituality and the lovely line drawings that brighten the cover and 
every other page of the book.

Dean and Benevento want the book to be useful: each chapter contains a 
“Just for Kids” activity, a profile of a non-profit organization whose goal 
mirrors the chapter’s, and a resource section of books and websites for 
further reading.  The chapters themselves cover site design/planning, soil 
care, seed starting and saving, plant care, food storage (with recipes), 
flower/herbs, overviews of the major vegetable families and creating and 
maintaining a community garden. Through Benevento’s drawings and Dean’s 
text, the authors squeeze in extra charts and tables packed with 
information, yet the pages never look or feel crowded.

Dean and Benevento want the book to be inspiring: Both authors draw from 
personal experience and conversations with other gardeners to simply, yet 
poetically, explain what working with the earth means to them.  Following 
300+ years of Anabaptist tradition, sidebars include relevant passages from 
the Bible as well as thoughts about peace from relevant thinkers. 
Throughout the pages, Benevento’s drawings illustrate, illuminate and uplift.

Don’t overlook this book because it comes from a small press that is not 
listed on Amazon. It is remarkably complete on its subject for only 180 
pages and while inspired by its authors’ Christian faith, Dean and 
Benevento simply share their thoughts and experiences to inspire others to 
share (or dream) their own. Order the book directly from the Brethren Press 
at <http://www.brethrenpress.com/>http://www.brethrenpress.com/ or call 
them at 1-800-441-3712. Those who are looking to bring their families 
and/or their communities closer to the earth through gardening will find 
both a kindred spirit and a practical guide.

Reviewed by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John’s United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
Phoenixville, PA
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