Vic Stoltzfus • The Good of Goshen

Vic Stoltzfus

Goshen College, Retired President, and Urban Gardner

Published July 2020

I grew up with it, but it wasn’t gardening as a hobby. We were farmers with only 16 acres going to farmers markets, so it was a way we made a living. It was work. Now, it’s a pleasure and a hobby. I’ve done it for a long time.

A number of my friends have found that when they go to buy plants, they’re all sold out. A lot of people are taking it up this year. Some of them may very well want to get some groceries you don’t have to put past the cash register. But gardening isn’t just something you just jump into without some skills and knowledge. So I would guess there will be a fair number of failed gardens this year, but also some successful gardens if they ask around and learn how to do it.

One of the meanings of gardening for me at this time is that it’s an antidote for chaos. When I go to the garden, there’s a dependable regularity. I know that if I treat the soil right and if I plant at the right time and if I weed and water, the gardening results will flow in an utterly dependable way. There’s nothing chaotic about a garden.

It engages the senses. It’s tactile. You touch the soil and the seeds and you touch the ripened tomatoes, and you see all this as it develops. You don’t hear a whole lot except when you give your surplus away and you hear your neighbors say, ‘Thank you.’ There’s also some very nice things that you can smell.

You avoid a lot of mistakes by buying a good gardening book, or having a neighbor or friend that you can learn from. One of the things that comes a little more slowly is a sense of the seasons. Some people plant too early and then get it all wiped out by frost. Some people get all excited in April or May and then let it grow up in weeds in August. There’s a kind of rhythm of time that’s essential for gardening.

Goshen is a very religious town, and the Bible is one of my favorite books. The first book of the Bible tells us that God’s first act after creation was to plant a garden. The last book of that Bible talks about a tree that has leaves that heal the nations. And right now, the nations need a lot of healing. There is kind of a rich symbolism of spiritual things in gardening.

Writing, editing, and photography by Scott Weisser and Neil King

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