This is a talk I gave to the faculty and students of the Brigham Young University in Hawaii who wanted to learn how SFG can solve World Hunger.

Here a message every Square Foot Garden teacher should know and preach.  When we go into a 3rd world country, we don’t approach the government, the humanitarian organizations, the mayor and town leaders, or even the men and fathers in the village.  We have given up on all of them. We go directly to the women of the village and ask them, “As a mother, would you like to improve the nutrition of your children, so they become healthier, happier, grow up stronger, and be disease resistant?”  The obvious answer, of course, is, “Yes, yes, yes, I will do anything for my children.” 

That is very different than the answer from all the other people previously mentioned: the fathers, government, corporations and humanitarian  organizations. The first thing they will ask is, “What’s in it for me?”  and, “What do I get, if I do whatever you want me to?”

To reach the woman, we may have to go through a humanitarian organization, but we definitely want to stay away from any government, many foreign aid organizations and just about all men. Hey, I’m not against men, I’m one myself, but men have a different role in life.  They are the protector, the warrior, the provider.  Woman are the nurturer, I think that’s why they are the child barriers.  It’s a grand scheme and arrangement. 

Back to the woman of the family: “We’re going to teach you how to make a Square Meter Garden, give you some seeds and show you how to grow 9 different nutritious crops.  It won’t cost anything, it will all be made from scrap, free material.  We will show you how to collect free ingredients that people have thrown away, and how to make home-made compost.  You will be able to get the children involved because it will be like a treasure hunt for them, searching for and bringing home all the ingredients, which will include any plant material once growing, like leaves, grass clippings, any waste material from farming, like corn stalks, dead plants, as well as any type of barnyard manure.  Since many of the domestic animals are not penned and run loose in most communities, the manure dropping from horses, cattle, sheep, and goats, are located wherever the animal left them.  They’re easy to find and identify, as well as bring home in a plastic bag.

The side effect of this scavenger hunt is it cleans up the neighborhood and the next time it rains, that manure would have been washed downhill into the nearest local stream to become your neighbor’s drinking water.  So, if you can help us start a program in the next village upstream from you, you will be doing yourself a big favor, and there will be less waterborne diseases spreading through every village.

Speed Up the Composting Process

Composting is simple, easy, it’s what Mother Nature does all the time.  You’re just going to speed it up.  The more different ingredients, including your kitchen scraps, banana peels, apple cores, eggshells, would be added to your pile, and the better it will grow plants.  The end result will be a beautiful, dark-colored soil-like material that will be the best thing you can grow plants in.  With Square Meter Gardening, you do not use your existing soil.  We make a shallow box out of scrap FREE material, 1 meter x 1 meter square, held together with nails, screws or stakes, lay it on the ground in a sunny protected spot, lay down a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard, or plastic with holes punched for drainage, inside the box.  Fill it with your compost, make a grid with 4 lengths of sticks or bamboo, and you’re ready to plant.  We are going to give you free seeds of 9 different plants to grow with instructions.  Your garden must be protected from any animals or extreme weather conditions, like sun’s too hot, rains are too heavy, winds are excessive.

Harvest Crops Daily From Your Garden

You will grow mostly salad type crops that can be harvested a little bit from each plant every single day.  This Square Meter Garden is not to fill your belly, but to make you healthier from nutritious food you probably do not even eat now.  For example, one square will have 4 parsley plants, and you will be able to snip off a few leaves and sprigs with a pair of scissors every day to add to your soups, stews, or salad.  The next square will hold 16 carrots, and you can pull one or two every day, put the tops in the compost pile, wash the bottoms, and add to the same dishes.  Next square will be 25 chives, (we are ready to announce the first major advance in plant spacing for Square Meter Gardening, for example with chives, we can fit 25 into a square) which you can snip the tops off every day.  Picture now adding 9 different types of plants every single day to whatever your diet is now, and you will see a tremendous increase in your health, making your children’s healthier.” 

The Path to Self-Sufficiency

Basically, what we’re trying to do is run a program all around the old story of don’t give a man a fish, teach him to fish.  I’ve changed that slightly when I quote that today, “Give a man a fish, and you will ruin his life forever.  He obviously will be very thankful, but tomorrow he will come back and say, “Do you have any more fish?”  And if you give him one, the next day and  the third day he will say, “My neighbor’s hungry too” and can I  take an extra one for him.  And within an extremely short period of time, he will not only become dependent on you to give him food, he will expect it, and will actually feel entitled to it. 

Think of that word and our own government and various entitlement programs.  They do absolutely nothing to allow or encourage someone to become self-sufficient and independent, as well as a productive member of society.  So let’s forget about all the men, concentrate on the mother; show her how she can be an even better mother to raise her children even healthier and happier.  Since children love to garden, and will be helping the mother with the Square Meter Gardening, they will grow up and follow this program the rest of their lives.  That in itself could change the world.

Most, if not all, of the humanitarian efforts of both governments and private organizations, will quote the teach a man to fish story, but their entire organization programs and methods are, after a zillion years, still based on give a man a fish.  And, we continue to hear, particularly in governments, “you’ve got plenty, so it’s only right that you should give up part of it, and  give it to others who don’t have (not on a temporary basis, but on a permanent basis).”  

It’s time to get off my soap box.  Thank you for the opportunity.  Be thinking of all the different programs and events that we can do here in Hawaii as well as all future locations and groups.

Best wishes and success to you all,
Mel Bartholomew