Dayton Daily News
Time well spent with gratitude, gardening
Gratitude – the quality of feeling or being grateful.
In the United States, we tend to focus on being grateful especially around Thanksgiving and the holidays. We are grateful for family, health, and so much more.
This past week, I have been in Ecuador for the seventh time with a group of Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteers working on gardening projects in the indigenous communities. Each year we have a variety of projects focused on tree planting, weeding, working in health care centers to plant vegetables that will provide missing nutrients for women and children and many more projects designed to improve the quality of life in communities.
Each year I have the opportunity to experience a gratitude that is deeply profound. The communities are so grateful for the many hands of work that we provide.
Ecuadorians are extremely dependent on agriculture and the land for survival. In many of the indigenous communities, if you don’t grow it, you don’t eat.
Their diet consists of a variety of beans, potatoes, corn, and squash. They consume very little meat, unless they have a job in the city and have an income. In addition, unless they can afford a cow, they don’t drink milk.
Therefore, when we are in the communities, we are many hands helping them to accomplish gardening and planting chores.
They show their gratitude with food. They provide meals for the volunteers and go over and above to host us. They send us home with any extra food. They show their gratitude through what the land has provided.
Last Sunday, we visited Mathias and our main project was to make sure the beans were vining up and around the corn. You see, they still use the three sisters method of planting — corn, bean and squash planted together.
The beans fix nitrogen (basically provide nitrogen for the plants) and they also use the corn plant for support. Squash tends to grow in and around the plants, providing a ground cover for mulch. Sometimes they will plant fava beans instead of squash, as was the case with Mathias’ plot.
The beans tend to get away from the corn so we made sure that each tendril was wrapped properly around the corn plant. After this, we weeded the worst part of another plot.
We don’t do difficult work but as I mentioned, we are many hands to help Mathias, who would otherwise do this himself. This is his job. This is how he survives and feeds his family.
We had 14 volunteers who worked for three hours. We did a week’s worth of work to help him get ahead. The depth of his gratitude was overwhelming.
Our work is part of the partnership between the Master Gardener Volunteers and the Tandana Foundation. If you would like more information regarding the upcoming gardening vacations or the medical vacations, go to tandanafoundation.org