Volume 2014, Issue 10

Grow more than a garden (and make more than a book)


Growing your own food has become increasingly popular. From window-boxed herbs and courtyard containers to raised beds and plots with polytunnels, the homegrown revolution is in full swing. Happily, this means more of us are enjoying the outdoors and eating local organic produce—and we’re also learning creative ways to share our knowledge and experiences.

We’re happy to say that one of those new ways is in self-published books—which brings us to book-maker Allison Goodman, author of A Girl, Two Gardens, and a Farm Or How I Lost My Mind in the Summer of 2010 Her book is fabulous—not least for its title. After a little digging, we discovered some rather amazing things about Allison and just had to share her story to help show how self-publishing is putting the word out about growing your own food.

Gather All Gardeners

“I really enjoyed using Blurb to make what has come to be a beautiful keepsake for me and my family.”

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, not the countryside, so I had no interest in farming. I didn’t even really like vegetables as a kid, and certainly not the idea of growing something and eating it! We didn’t have a garden until my junior year of college. When I was finishing my sophomore year, I decided to it would be a fun summer project to reawaken a defunct raised garden my mother used to grow vegetables in, and it started from there.

What is your inspiration for growing and gardening?

I watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth when I was in college and it really spoke to me. It made me start to consider sustainability and want to take responsibility for my footprint.

How did the idea for the church garden come about, and who had the idea it to use kids’ swimming pools as containers?

In church we’re all about giving and taking care of your fellow man—and what better way to do that than to grow some food and give it to your local food pantry and help feed people who can’t feed themselves. We didn’t have the money for a permanent space or to build raised beds—that can be expensive—but I figured we had pots and containers at the house we gardened out of, so if we used kiddy pools? We could use them to create beds, do a garden for a couple of hundred dollars in the parking lot of the church, and it would look funky and fun—the kids were so excited about it.

When and why did you decide to start your blog?

The blog began around the same time as starting the church garden. When we were starting the project, the woman who runs our Sunday school program who owns the land I now farm on said she had eight acres of land that weren’t being used and if I wanted to use that (as well) I could rework it. The blog was a way for me to record the progress we were making in all the gardens.

Gather All Gardeners - Garden books

“I sometimes have to look at the book to even remember where I started and it’s so incredible where we’ve come to now.”

What has the response to the blog been like and did you get many followers?

The feedback from the blog was really positive. I ended up connecting with my camp counselor when I was ten through that, and ended up following my journey with them and that was really nice. I think I was averaging probably 75–100 views a week at one stage. That’s something I would like to be better at this year.

We hear that you were also involved in a TV show about gardening—can you tell us a bit about that? How did it come about? What was it all about?

I was already a subscriber to the Beekman Boys website. I loved their TV show and thought it was really cool that they came from a city (just like me) and bought a farm on a whim and became goat farmers and vegetable farmers. Watching them be successful at that was inspiring, knowing I too could someday succeed and be successful with this.

It then came out that they were trying to do a nationwide community garden in connection with Williams-Sonoma and they were looking for people for each of the various growing zones to be their master gardeners and to be active on their online community to answer questions. We were all to grow the same ten heirloom seeds from a packet supplied us.

Of the heirloom seeds supplied, the two most interesting were the Black Cherry Tomatoes that have the most sweetest concentrated tomato flavor you can get and are a dark purple—really beautiful. And something called a Hubbard Squash, which we started growing. The plants got huge, but we could never find any fruit happening. Then one day, when I was walking by the patch, I nearly stepped on one of them and was amazed when I finally saw it. I don’t know how I missed it—they look like dead turkeys, about 40 or 50 pounds, each! So sweet, better in a pumpkin pie than a pumpkin, but you do need a chainsaw to get into them!

One of the big pushes for the project (and one of my big beliefs) is that our seeds have history and that diversity is so important. You can get all kinds of wonderful flavors that you can’t get at a grocery store when you grow it yourself.

How did you find making the book and are there more to come?

I really enjoyed using Blurb to make what has come to be a beautiful keepsake for my family and me. I actually started on a different book-making website and found their process to be so confusing. Nothing was intuitive or came together nicely, so I eventually abandoned making something on there. I went back to my search for websites that would do this and Blurb came up, so I started using it and found it to be very easy to use. My book is just gorgeous and I actually have a couple of other people who saw it and ended up buying it for themselves because they loved it so much. One of the kids from the church ended up doing their book report on me, which was lovely.

I’d like to do another book this season because of my growth and the farm’s growth and the growth of things that I do has been so drastic over the last four years. I sometimes have to look at the book to even remember where I started and it’s so incredible where we’ve come to now.


Dear Daddy, How Does Your Garden Grow?

Sarah Virgin

Allison is one of many gardeners and garden enthusiasts turning their passions into books. Here is a selection of our recent favorites from the Bookstore.

How does your garden grow - Sarah Virgin

A great book for anyone just starting a garden, this book gives a basic outline of planting and harvesting the most common fruit and vegetable types, where best to locate beds, how to make and use compost, and much more.

The Homegrown Gourmet

Brigitte Pauli-Barlos

The Homegrown Gourmet - Brigitte Pauli-Barlos

This book inspires even those with only a small space to consider what they can grow themselves and the delicious recipes are even accompanied by a list of the basic kitchen equipment needed to achieve them.

Companion Planting

Jeannine Davidoff

Companion Planting - Jeannine Davidoff

This book explores the art and science of companion planting—where vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers are planted in combinations that help to repel insects and improve fertility and production, naturally.




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