Last Saturday on my weekly radio show the announcer said, “I see President Obama has stolen your idea, Mel.”  I was not aware of that, so I asked him ( the announcer of course) for details. The announcer then said at the recent G8 European conference,  and then on a  trip to Africa, the President repeatedly stated,” We’ve got to stop sending food to 3rd world countries, instead,  teach them how to grow their own.”  or something like that.

Of course, this is a radical idea in the humanitarian circles, but the announcer was right, this has been my soapbox subject for 10 years now.  My feelings are this, everyone on this earth should be able to become independent and self-sufficient if they want to.  In the past, with single row gardening, and large commercial farming, it was difficult if not impossible for poor people to have enough to eat and they could not have a plot of land to grow on. They could not afford big heavy tools, nor fertilizer needed, nor the difficult and detailed knowledge and training to do traditional farming and row gardening.  Food supplies were just out of reach on their earnings and situation. It even seems that everyone in control might just like to keep it that way and even took steps to maintain the status quo.  

In most places, the poor don’t own any land, can’t get permission to use someone else’s land without becoming subservient to them, and then don’t have the equipment or facilities for plowing it up and planting row crops.  Besides that, quite often poor people are in a transient situation and constantly moving.

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But alas, Square Foot Gardening to the Rescue. Because you can grow 100% of the harvest in only 20 % of the space, and by making compost from  free materials  for an  above ground garden, anyone anywhere in the world can start a small garden right next to their house, easier to protect it, and be able to grow and harvest nutritious crops, not beans, or rice, or corn, but smaller, easier to take care of, and more nutritious plants.  This will enable them to have better health, and we all know what that means to a child, better attention at school, less trouble at home, and all the other good things that go with good nutrition.

Another interesting facet of SFG is that it can become very easily a home business. Starting with a home composting operation, using all free materials, there will always be a market for the finished product: a rich, black, loamy soil for gardening.  They can sell that, there’s always a gardening buyer in every country, or they can grow their own Square Metre Garden in it. With my seventh book coming out soon, Square Metre Gardening, they can learn this simple easy inexpensive method just by looking at the pictures although it will be published in 8 languages.   The nice thing about SFG is that it is so easy to learn if the person has no experience, and, it is a non work method.  The best part of Square Foot Gardening is that it will grow so much in such a little area.  And, it’s even portable in some situations.  We had a SFG teacher recently who toured parts of Africa, and said that, because of theft and vandalism, people couldn’t have a garden.  So, he started building 2’x 2’ boxes out of scrap lumber, with plywood bottoms, filled them with home made compost, and the people actually picked up and carried their gardens inside at night, just like you would bring the children in.

In the past, most affluent countries were  very willing to grow extra or use surplus food , and ship it to the people in hungry nations. They are very generous. Unfortunately, not all of that food gets to its final destination where it’s really needed.  It becomes confiscated and reduced along the route, by everyone it has to go through or gets their hands on it.  The Donners are trying to do a good thing but we need to heed that familiar quote about teaching and fishing.  You know the one I’m thinking of?  Well, why don’t we use it?  

That will all be different if we used SFG.  Each individual garden would be planted and maintained and protected by its owner who lives just 5 feet away.  And they would become more independent by having this added healthy food source.  For this to happen, the solution will require all religious and humanitarian organizations, nations, and contributing wealthy donors to come together and say, we have tried to solve World Hunger by sending poor people our excess food  for zillions of years and we have never solved the problem   Maybe there is a better way.

Here is how I have changed that biblical saying.  “Give a man a fish, and you will ruin his life forever.  Teach a woman to Square Foot Garden, and her entire family will become more independent and self-sufficient forever.”

Do you agree?  And, if not, what is your solution?  We have had hunger forever, and have never found a way to solve it until now. 

Mel Bartholomew
Originator and Founder of
The Square Foot Gardening Foundation
A non-profit 501(c)3 organization