The Gardenerd: Grow Your Own Organic
15 Aug, 2010
Imagine a world in which industrial-chemical agriculture dominates the entire food system, from megafarm to market. Expediency and profits are the main driving force. Toxic chemicals along with genetic modifications that haven’t been tested for their long-term effects are employed. These industrial giants supply major food channels and have cultivated government support and subsidies. Advocates of healthy, sustainable farming face a steep uphill battle.
Oh, wait . . . we already live in that world. But Christy Wilhelmi, the self-styled “Gardenerd,” has an answer that could work for just about anyone fighting the good fight: Grow your own. And she’s out to do everything she can to help you do that.
“I think we’ve gotten very detached from our food source,” Christy told Organic Connections. “The more I found out about where my food came from, the more I felt like I needed to control it. I think that, especially with the big agribusiness companies becoming more and more dominant in our food systems, we need to take some of that power back. The more we grow our own, the better it is for us.”
And control she has given us. Her Gardenerd website offers constantly updated advice, videos, recommended products, and instruction for people just getting into the home organic gardening game or for those who have been at it for years. For Los Angeles residents, she also offers classes and even consulting and garden design. The bottom line is that there’s something for everyone. “Whether you’re a novice or a gardening veteran, there is a place for you here at Gardenerd.com,” Christy said.
The term nerd in Gardenerd is obviously used in a complimentary way—and also imparts the fact that it takes a little sense of humor to succeed as a gardener. “When I was a kid, ‘nerds’ were not looked upon as a cool or fun thing,” said Christy. “Now people really identify with being nerds about gardening, and there’s a fun associated with it and a sense of humor. You have to laugh at your mistakes, because you can’t garden perfectly, you really can’t. I think you learn from your mistakes, and I tell my students that the best way to learn how to garden is to garden. You have this feeling of adventure and a willingness to laugh at yourself when you screw up. It’s a lot more fun.”
But despite everything, Christy has observed that once people start, they can’t seem to stop. “People get really addicted,” she said. “They start out a little scared, a little nervous, not knowing what to do. But as soon as they begin planting things in the ground they get so excited. It’s like somebody just kicked open a door for them to this whole new world. I love watching that happen.”
Christy had a couple of passions that led her to create this business: she always had a love of gardening, and she had a life purpose to help people. Then one day it all coalesced. “It just kind of came together. I literally woke up one morning and said, ‘Gardenerds! Oh my God, that’s what it is!’ So it seemed to combine the two things really well.”
The business began with the creation of the Gardenerd logo and a single Web page. From there, she expanded the website to include a blog so that she could interact with visitors and answer questions, as well as document her own experiences. “It kept growing, and it also became an online resource where people can find good organic seed companies, books that favor organic practices, and organizations that support that kind of lifestyle—it’s all in one place.”
In 2008, Christy added consulting and design to the offered services, quit her day job, and has never looked back.
Growing your own also addresses one of the prime complaints about organic vegetables: when you go to purchase them, they generally have a considerably higher price than those at the average grocery store. Christy advises anyone new to gardening to begin with produce that will pay for itself quickly.
“Start with lettuces. Things that grow very easily and can be planted in a really small space are your own salad greens. You can likely pay $10 a pound for little cute baby gourmet organic salad mixes—but you can grow eight heads of lettuce in two square feet. You pick the outside leaves and you can harvest that same bunch of lettuces over about three months. It’s so satisfying and extremely simple to start with, for beginning gardeners.”
Christy definitely has plans for Gardenerd.com to become an increasingly helpful resource. “Objectives for the future involve expanding Gardenerd and the community that we’ve created online to have even more resources available,” she said. “We’re also developing software that will help people plan their gardens more easily. And then we’d like to get into assisting commercial developers to create gardens in the center of their properties.”
So if you know someone who can’t figure out how to begin a garden, or perhaps just needs some help along the way, send them by www.Gardenerd.com. It’s a great resource.