Yesterday, after church, I indulged myself in a trip to the regional organic farm store. Its time to start the seeds like tomatoes, basil, and peppers that in a few months I’ll be setting out in my small garden.
While I was squatted down near the floor, reading the organic (but of course) seed packets at the bottom of the rack (mmm, Black Plum Past Tomato – Russian variety that produces elongated, deep-mahogany to bronze fruit with a rich complex flavor that is concentrated when cooked down and also delicious for fresh eating, pretty much everything I want in a tomato…) when a woman suddenly walked up to me and asked with excitement in her voice, “You’re a gardener, right?” as if I were a rock star or an author or something cool like that.
This is one of those questions that requires a certain amount of thought before answering. Especially when it arrives with little advanced warning.
What is a gardener? If all you do is poke some seeds in the ground, is that being a gardener? Or is there a certain number of years of experience or some target number of bushels grown before one becomes a gardener? Is there a certification organization with required continuing education hours? A special capping ceremony but with a ceremonial set of mud boots and hand gloves instead of the nurses cap and pin? Or is it enough to start dreaming of sun warm August tomatoes in the middle of January like the woman standing before me and asking this question?