Get Your Hands Dirty Growing Enlightened Society

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Submitted by Shaun Bartone

This year of the wood horse, the Sakyong asked us to “pull up our chupa” and get to work creating enlightened society. You can also roll up your sleeves, put on your work boots, grab a spade and a package of seeds, and come down to the community garden on Wellington St. and grow enlightened society with us. The Navdanya Gardeners, a garden group started by Shaun Bartone at the Halifax Shambhala Centre, have acquired two plots in local community gardens, one in the PUGS* garden off Wellington St., where we are now growing salad greens, cabbage, spinach, peas, and herbs; and one in the Common Roots urban garden on Robie St., where we will grow tomatoes, red beans, butternut and acorn squash and pumpkin.

Shaun decided to start the garden group, on a practical level, to raise food for the Wednesday evening Taste of Shamhbala, which serves a vegetarian gourmet meal for dozens of people each week, cooked by our master chef, Norris. The aim was first to save some money on the cost of food by growing as much food as we could ourselves. But more than that, Shaun saw the community gardens as a way to grow enlightened society.

He struck a garden committee in January 2014 to begin planning the garden, and the early group included Petra Mudie, Elizabeth Berlasso, and Cliffe Laufer. Shaun decided to call it the “Navdanya Gardeners” after Dr. Vandana Shiva’s organization, Navdanya International. Dr. Shiva is a scientist and expert on global agriculture and food systems, especially as they impact the poor in developing nations, climate change and environment. She is a powerful advocate for seed-saving, protecting water and the agricultural commons, and local organic farming for sustainable living. “Navdanya” means “nine seeds.”

Dr. Shiva advocates for people in western developed nations to grow most of their vegetables and fruits locally, in local gardens and farms , rather than buying them in supermarkets from the international food companies. Dr. Shiva said these global food corporations use up farmland in developing nations, in India, southern Africa, southeast Asia and Latin America, to grow vegetables and fruits for wealthy people in Europe and North America, and in oil-rich desert nations like Saudi Arabia. The more we buy food from these international companies, the more land and water is taken away from poor people in developing nations who then cannot grow their own food for their own local subsistence. This leads to starvation among the poor in developing nations, while also using too much fossil fuel to grow and transport food around the globe.

Shaun felt that, more than just talking about enlightened society, he wanted to start a project where people in Shambhala could DO enlightened society, get their hands dirty with it. His experience with community gardens all over the Northeast showed him that growing food together brings people together in friendship and service; it grows relationships as we share the hard work and celebrate the harvest. He found that community gardens teach people to be mindful about where their food comes from. Community gardens grow mindfulness about the environment through direct experience with soil, plants, compost, seasons, sun and rain. Community gardens grow mindfulness about how we use land, water and other resources, about our impact on the environment. And it grows mindfulness about the lives of people who live quite distant from us, yet are deeply connected to us through our shared use of this planet. This is the heart of compassionate wisdom, understanding that we are deeply connected to all people and all living things on this earth; it is the heart of enlightened society.

Since the first group met in January, the Navdanya Gardeners were able to acquire plots in the two local community gardens and new gardeners have joined. Elizabeth Berlasso obtained space in the St. Margaret’s Bay community greenhouse, where she started the vegetables that we have transplanted into the local plots. Curtis, a landscape architect and permaculture expert, recently joined the group and has developed plans for converting more of the grounds around the Centre into food production, including kitchen herbs, berries and fruit trees.

Shaun and the Navdanya Gardeners hope that more members of the Halifax Shambhala Centre will join the group, work with us in the garden plots over the summer, and share the joy of harvest in the fall. We especially invite families with school-age children to participate; children love to garden. We need people to help plant, weed, and water the plots, and do required plot maintenance and meetings. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty growing enlightened society with us. To get more information about the garden committee and attend our next meeting, contact Shaun at [email protected], or call Shaun at 902-210-6047.

*Peninsula Urban Garden Society

One thought on “Get Your Hands Dirty Growing Enlightened Society

  1. Dear Shaun,

    Thank you for this inspiring article and work! I very much appreciate Dr Vandana Shiva’s work–not only her work, but her being. You’ve chosen a meaningful name and role model for this initiative. “May the lotus garden of the Rigden’s wisdom bloom! ” Thank you!

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