Aren't all these gardens just beautiful? And the gardeners who keep them just so inspiring? I'm having such fun with this series. I hope you are too. Today, in Jaime's garden, we get to peek at one family's creative suburban backyard garden as well as their community school garden, which Jaime helped create. I think you'll love her heartfelt words about weeding, too - it certainly resonated with me and I can't count the number of times that my garden has been a therapeutic comfort in times of worry or stress - big or small. I think that's something so many of us share alongside our love for growing food.
Welcome to Jaime's Garden!
Gardener: Jaime Zanocco Fagan
Garden Location and Zone: Rockford, Illinois --- Zone 5
Garden Size: 92 x 220 ft garden and 4 apple trees
How long have you been gardening?
This is my eighth growing season as an at-home gardener. In addition to my personal garden, I also helped create and currently maintain a 40 x 110 foot school garden that is now entering its fourth growing season.
Why do you garden?
I love growing food. It is my passion, my lifeblood. While I enjoy surrounding myself with beautiful flowers, I think fruit and veggies are where it’s at. There is nothing that gives me more pleasure than seeing the food I have grown, grace our plates at mealtime.
But perhaps the most rewarding aspect of growing my own food, is sharing this passion with others. I have the absolute pleasure of working with the students of Cathedral of St. Peter School in their school garden. I began this gardening project four years ago because I feel many children have lost their connection to the food they eat. They view food as coming from the grocery store and have no idea how it is grown, or the work that goes in to growing it. Working with these students allows them to connect with their food, see how it is grown, and become an active participant in that growth process. Our garden project enables students to try new foods, and learn about the importance of consuming healthy foods and how that translates into fuel for our bodies and minds. Most importantly, our school garden work illustrates how to be stewards of Creation, and to value and cherish all that the Earth provides for us each and every day.
If you have children, what role do they play in your gardening?
My two daughters are the reason I started gardening. Prior to having children, my eating habits consisted of diet Coke and Poptarts. But when suddenly faced with the responsibility of caring for another human being, my thoughts on food underwent a seismic shift. I began devouring Michael Pollan’s texts, and was forever changed after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle. The tale of her family’s food journey inspired me take my own family on a real-food adventure. We work together, as a family, to grow the food we need, and supplement with food grown by those in our community. This year my girls built their own raised beds, chose what they wanted to grow in that space, and are on their way to their very own harvest this summer.
How would you describe your garden?
I would describe my garden as a place of nourishment and strength, for both the body and the soul. My garden has always brought me a sense of peace, but that took on an entirely new meaning last summer. On June 30th, I lost my mom to an extremely aggressive form of cancer, and during this most difficult time of my life I found myself in my garden. I found there is nothing more therapeutic than crouching down amongst all that green, plunging my hands deep into the soil, and pulling out weeds from the root. It almost feels as if this simple act helps me to get to the root of my problems, and as each weed falls in my bucket, a small piece of that grief and frustration falls into the bucket as well. And so, whenever I am feeling like I need a bit of a pick-me-up I set off for my garden and pull out my struggles, piece by piece. And in the end, I am left feeling a little bit lighter, and find myself surrounded by a beautiful miracle. One that will provide my family with beauty and sustenance for many months ahead. And one that I know my mom is looking down upon with a smile on her face.
What’s your biggest garden accomplishment?
I would say my greatest gardening accomplishment has been the ability to provide food for my family. My garden allows me the opportunity to place healthy food in front of my family that not only fills their stomachs, but also truly nourishes them. I believe that the work and love I pour into our garden can be tasted in the food we consume, and helps us in our quest to live healthy lives. I am proud of the fact that in the hot summer heat of late August, when I spend hours on end in the kitchen chopping, canning, blanching and freezing, I will have a freezer and larder full of our homegrown food to get us through the winter. And I absolutely love sharing my overflowing passion for food with our family and friends.
Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Jaime Zanocco Fagan and I am a wife, mother, suburban homesteader, and educator. My family and I live in the Midwest where we aim to live in harmony with Creation. My family’s adventures are chronicled at makingofahome.com.
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Thank you, Jaime, for sharing your garden!
(If you'd like to share your garden with us this season, send me an email for more details. We'd love to visit!)