WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
50: One Garden at a Time: What We Can Learn About Ourselves from Growing What We Love with Emily Murphy
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“Grow Now really reflects what I’d like to think is this larger narrative or opportunity for reframing how we approach our landscapes, our lives and ultimately the world.”
– Emily Murphy
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
When we garden we are caring for more than a plot of land. It can also be seen as an expression of hope, curiosity, and of interconnectivity. This is the message my guest on this episode of What the Fundraising has evangelized to great success through her books, blog, and fierce commitment to greening our planet together. Emily Murphy is here to share with us the inspiration behind her latest work, behind her latest work, “Grow Now: How We Can Save Our Health, Communities, and Planet — One Garden at a Time,” a fascinating guide to regeneration.
And for all of you who feel intimidated by gardening, growing anything, or even keeping a house plant alive, you should definitely tune in. Not only is this an invitation to play, but this episode isn’t just about what and how to grow things externally, it’s also about inner nurture and how we grow ourselves. Whether we’re talking about picking up a spade or watering can, putting our hands in the soil, or learning anything new that shifts our perspective, we find that there are many overlapping lessons. For example, failure is part of the process, as inevitable as the changing of seasons themselves.
In this episode, Emily and I swap happy memories of our childhoods and muse on the power found in the simple act of growing things. It inspires children’s curiosity and resilience. It brings together communities even in the most barren of cityscapes. It also expresses a commitment to biodiversity and positive change in the face of species endangerment and climate crisis.
Closer to home, Emily spells out some of the many positive impacts that gardens have far beyond being good for the planet. They support our immune systems, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce anxiety and depression. Gardening also nourishes us, spiritually and culinarily. Why not try a simple kitchen garden? A container with a variety of basic herbs for cooking? Maybe your children would delight in pulling up fresh carrots or plucking green beans warm from the sun.
The bottom line, says Emily, is this: We have it within our power to enable nature to repair our damaged and fragmented ecosystems. So don’t delay. Find something you love to grow and just start growing it. Chances are you will inspire others to do the same. And Emily’s new book has just the plan to get you started, from A-Z.
sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable sustainable
TIPS AND TOOLS TO IMPLEMENT TODAY
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For nearly 50 years, The Xerces Society has protected endangered species and their habitats, produced ground-breaking publications, trained thousands of farmers and land managers to conserve habitat, and raised awareness about the importance and plights of invertebrates in forests, prairies, deserts, and oceans. Our key program areas are pollinator conservation, endangered species conservation, and reducing pesticide use and impacts. Click on the icons below to learn more about our work.
The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental organization, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, United States. As of 2021, it works via affiliates or branches in 79 countries and territories, as well as across every state in the US.
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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.
Mallory Erickson: Welcome Everyone. I am really excited to be here today with my friend, Emily Murphy. Emily, thank you for joining me for this conversation.
Emily Murphy: Thank you, Mallory. I’m happy to be here. Happy to join you.
Mallory Erickson: So tell everyone a little bit about you and your work and what brings you to this conversation today?
Emily Murphy: Yeah, so I am an author more recently of a book called Grow Now, How We Can Save Our Health Communities and Planet One Garden at a Time.
Previously I wrote a book, Grow What You Love. These are both books in the garden world, but I like to think that they have larger messages for lifestyle as well. In particular, Grow Now really reflects what I’d like to think of as this larger narrative or opportunity for reframing how we approach our landscapes, our lives, and ultimately the world.
And I got to this place through a number of experiences. I was lucky as a child to be raised in the summers with my grandmother in the Sonoma Foothills where Oak Woodlands and Redwoods meet not far from the ocean, and the only rules were to be home before dark and watch out for rattlesnakes. And I was at age seven and oh, I had the best summer feet and the most amazing experiences with her and artists.
And I carry that through my life when I became a garden designer, writer educator in the garden world, specifically nature-based garden education. And I got there through studying ethnobotany, ecology, environmental science, and like many people have had many iterations of who I am and how to evolve and become hopefully a better human and find ways to contribute to my community and my family. And again like my books, ultimately the world and meaningful, positive, nature, positive ways.
Mallory Erickson: And tell me a little bit about, why write a book. I feel like I knew you before the first book. And you are a really important thought leader in this space. And I’m curious for folks who are listening to this, who are maybe even considering writing a book around an issue that they’re passionate about or are doing a lot of work in, maybe before we get into sort of the nitty gritty of the book itself. I’m just curious if you would speak to that a little bit.
Emily Murphy: Yeah, I think that’s a really important conversation and I’m really happy you asked that question because I think probably for many of your listeners we’re all in this boat of wondering how best to share our message, how best to communicate our ideas. And the number of experiences that led to writing each of these books were in part because of my own motivation for wanting to write a book ever since I was young. I love paper. I love pages. I love books. I’ve always been a really big reader and I’ve found so much meaning in my personal life with the books that I’ve read and so much gratitude as well for the books I’ve read and how they’ve shaped my life.
And I wanted to be part of that. I wanted to be part of the publishing world. And also in some ways to prove myself too, I can do this, I’m going to do this. I’m not a writer, but I’m going to become a writer. I’m going to do this and it was very challenging because I don’t have a writing background.
Again, I studied ethnobotany, which includes taxonomy, soil ecology, ecology in general, social ecology. There’s writing of course involved in all of those subjects, but I really had to become a self-taught writer. Which was not easy. It took a lot of work. But I was determined because again, I wanted to write a book and then I got to a point in my life where I really wanted to find a way, a tool to share some of my greater learnings and synthesize them in one place.
And I think the blog that I started, Pass the Pistil, yes, P I S T I L as in part of the flower, was valuable and getting me to the point of the book, but I really felt like the book was maybe a better representation of what I could produce. And it’s not for everyone. Maybe bite sized chunks of writing a blog is more important, maybe a podcast, which I did start a podcast before the pandemic and had to put that aside because I was writing the book.
Like I guess then it becomes a really personal conversation of what’s important to you. And how do you want to spend your time?
Mallory Erickson: And I feel like it actually perhaps leads us right into the conversation around the content of the book itself. Grow Now in particular is really about, one garden at a time, how can we save our health, communities, and planet one garden at a time. And I know some of the first chapters are about, change starts at home and things like that. And so I think that really links to this conversation about how do we look at our own life and our own impact and where we plug in and fit in ways that are ultimately going to create and build the world that we want to see.
So talk to me about that. I know so much of the work that you do is in the dirt as well, building gardens, but then also really understanding the metaphor around how that work relates to a bigger global conversation around how we take care of each other and how we take care of this planet. So talk to me about that.
Emily Murphy: Yeah. These are, I think these are all ideas too, that you probably respond to having worked in the growing world for a number of years. And yeah so one garden at a time, so let me backup a little bit and think about that. So when I created this book I guess it’s important to note that I also come from an education background. I studied education. I was a classroom teacher for a number of years and through that experience I learned that or more than learning, I was reminded that we all have a gift to offer. We all have something to give and those gifts change and evolve with time, but they start somewhere. And for some people it might start with art. It might start with music. It might start with the gift of gab and being able to communicate well. But it starts somewhere. The love of animals, the love of nature. Oh, those are all gifts, even if it’s a love of, those loves of remind us of what’s important to us.
And for me, I wanted to create a book that provided multiple entry points and it’s layered. So yes, it’s a book that provides a guide for growing a garden and growing a garden in the face of the climate crisis and species extinction. Which are really big issues, but change begins at home. And with the guide provided in the book, the guide for growing, we can begin to enact that change begins at home. But there’s also something in us, something in us that has to change or we need to continually find fresh perspective, fresh eyes, and opportunity to use our gifts so that those gifts can evolve.
And that’s where those entry points come to play in the book. And those entry points look like. What is your nature? Meaning, we talk quite a bit about your IQ, right? We all understand IQ, your ability to reason. Your emotional quotient is another quotient or measure of I guess our strengths of who we are as humans. And your emotional quotient, your ability to collaborate, your ability to to work in groups, your understanding of others. Some say that your emotional quotient is a better indicator of your success in life than your IQ, which I think is fascinating.
Your nature quotient is your understanding of the natural world and what’s fabulous with your nature quotient as well as your emotional quotient, is that it can evolve and grow, it can be cultivated. And I brought this to the table, to the book in part one to give it another entry point for people on a place of curiosity, a place of inspiration, or an aha moment of, oh yeah. That makes sense. I’m that person, I might not be that person who really wants to grow a plant right now. Cause I’m afraid I might kill that plant or I’m not sure where I’m going to grow that plant, but I love nature and maybe this will help me see my landscape, my community, my cityscape. My home plot, a little bit differently.
But what’s really lovely about the nature of quotient is that it gives us an opportunity to rewrite or restory the narrative of again, how we see our world. Which is in reality, a one really big step in finding solutions to large issues such as the climate crisis and species extinction. What we know and what I also pull out in the book is that this is good for us too.
Spending time in nature is really important for our personal mental wellbeing. It relieves stress, decreases risk of depression. It also improves cardiovascular health, reduces risk of inflammatory illnesses, asthma allergies, you name it. And there’s biological reasons for this, which I also talk about in the book in the biodiversity hypothesis.
And then there’s just the sheer fact of spending time in nature. And our gardens are one of our most immediate touch points with nature. And so this is the, I guess there’s multiple entry points right here. You might be a parent who wants to create a better environment for your children to grow up in. Maybe you want your children to eat more fruits and vegetables. Maybe you want your children to be more resilient, physically and emotionally. And growing a garden or spending time in nature is one of those really easy places to foster and create this type of environment that you’re hoping to see, the change you’re hoping to see and the person you’re hoping to be.
So does that make sense?
Mallory Erickson: Yeah, it does. I’m curious, in your experience, it sounds like you have been somebody who always loved being out in nature and having, I love what you said, summer feet, I think. I just, I love that visual. But I’m curious about some of the transformations or stories you’ve heard from others about the way, and I have my own here certainly, but about the way gardening has shifted so much about how they interact with and perhaps even interpret the world around them.
Emily Murphy: Yeah that’s a great question. And with others, it’s typically the story I hear most begins with, Ah, I was just completely overwhelmed and I went to spend time in the garden and all was right with the world. I had a moment of pause, a moment of peace, a moment of flow, meditation. That’s usually where it begins or where the conversation evolves to. Sometimes those conversations start with, Wow. I had no idea that a carrot tastes like a carrot.
And so it could be those tangible beginnings with a garden or, just think I’m growing all these herbs and half of them you can’t find in the grocery store and how that’s changed my everyday cooking. Which might seem like a small thing, but really food is life. And when you transform everyday cooking into the simple act of growing and growing some of your own herbs, which is so simple and most herbs are pollinator havens. They’re fabulous companion plants. So you have all these good things wrapped up and a small group of plants that’s transformative.
Growing is also empowering, empowers communities, it reduces inequities. It gives food growing back to the people and in places that might otherwise be really hard to find fresh food. And also nature, when we look at the number of communities, and I’ve seen this firsthand, there’s some of the gardens that are featured in the book are in Southern California, where one of them in particular is in Watts and these are places where sadly low-income is associated with less nature. The trees are basically non-existent, there’s corner stores with junk food and 16 ounce big gulps and candy and chips, and not a lot of fruits and vegetables.
And so these gardens are these havens and opportunities to lift ourselves up. And lift ourselves up together. And those are the stories too, where I see these people, when I was visiting this one garden in Watts and seeing these people come in and being a part of a community. That’s huge, having a place to go and being able to commune and work together and also have a place to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. Or flowers for cutting, that are helping to raise funds to go back into this garden that supports their community. That’s transformative, I think.
And one of the images you’ll see in the book too, is an image of a veggie box on a city street in the space between the sidewalk and the street. And there’s a sign on it that says, please pick, please eat me. And there’s fruits and vegetables in it. And they’re grown for anyone to harvest. I think that’s important. And I think that a lot of our issues that we struggle with today are really because of inequities, and inequities in education, and inequities and opportunities for access to nature and healthy food.
Mallory Erickson: Yeah, I feel like there’s a lot we could explore there, but I’m going to take us in a different direction for a minute. Because I’m curious, and I’m thinking about my own journey with gardening, where not a lot of people, I don’t think necessarily know that I ran an environmental literacy and eco action program for many years.
But before that, when I started in that role in the organization, I had never grown anything in my life. Like I did not, my dad jokes that he has a black thumb. Actually, this is a hilarious story that might totally horrify you, but this just gives you a snapshot into my family’s experience with plants. My grandmother and grandpa in their house in LA had just these big kind of shrubs in front of their house, like many 1950’s homes in LA and one of the shrubs in the middle died and my grandfather spray painted it green.
Just to give you a tiny look into the plant background that I came from. But then I came into this role with this environmental literacy organization. And I started to work in gardens and I absolutely fell in love. And if you had told me that I would have been gardening 20 hours a week, or going on the weekends, and after work to go check on certain plants, or I would have never, I don’t think I would have ever believed it.
But I really did. I fell in love with the process, I fell in love with the fact that I felt like gardening allowed me so many different expressions of self in one process like that there are moments when you’re building the garden that are really physical and you are digging deep, or really using a lot of grit to get in there and prepare beds, especially, a lot of the work we do turning plots of land, which I know you do too into gardens for the first time.
And then there were moments that were really about patients and about this really quiet nurture phase and watching things and to the plants around me and questioning. I feel like I couldn’t just hustle my way through everything whereas like in my work and other areas of my life, it’s just work harder at that. But working hard in a garden looks so many different ways depending on the phase of the garden and what the plants look like. And so I’m just curious, like it taught me so many life lessons. And I’m curious what you, like some of the lessons that you really take into the other areas of your life that you have learned or continue to nurture in the garden.
Emily Murphy: Yeah, I do have some. Mallory, you always made it look so easy when you were working with that organization and you were not just gardening yourself, you were teaching other people to garden and grow and inspiring them to grow. So you really made that arc look easy. You did such a great job. I was so inspired by your work at that point in your life. And I’m sure that those experiences you had growing, it sounds like you were able then to take to and apply to all these other areas that you’ve now launched to, which makes perfect sense.
So on that path of looking at growing and gardening, there’s two things that stand out to me right now that are, three, that I think are really important. And this evolves too, like last year, one of my mantras was finding beauty and remembering how important beauty is inherently. And that sometimes the value of something is simply because it’s beautiful not because it has monetary value, but it’s inherently value. Beauty, it has inherent value because simply it’s beautiful. We need to recognize it, somethings that’s just how it is. But this year, some of my learnings that I’ve been using, on a little more things like generosity, curiosity, connectivity, and I think that generosity touches on your idea of patients and giving a little bit, letting imperfections be okay.
Being generous, not just with our time or our thoughts or but being generous with nature, being generous with ourselves and giving ourselves a little bit of room to breathe. And that goes back to letting go of perfection and being okay with imperfection. And in our gardens, that looks a little bit like, oh, messy is okay. We don’t need to clean up right away because there are a lot of insects that require the pithy stems of the pithy dead stems of plants to reproduce or to hibernate.
And when we clean them up right away we’re taking those homes away. And then when we’re generous with nature, maybe that means a little bit of a messy yard is actually beneficial. And we learned from that, gives us an opportunity to learn. And then curiosity goes back to your nature quotient, just being a lifelong learner. And that’s where gardening, I think, inherently provides an opportunity because we’re required as gardeners, growers, cultivators of plants and soil, to be curious, what’s happening here. Oh, who’s visiting my plants? Oh, this is interesting. The birds are migrating through, or the angle of the sun has changed and it’s no longer reaching my prize tomatoes. Maybe I should put them, grow them in a different spot next year, whatever it might be.
But to be curious, I think is something that keeps us alive and questioning and approaching life with all of our senses, including our hearts. And I think that’s important. And then connectivity reminds us that we’re not separate from nature. We’re part of it. And when we spend time in our gardens with plants like beauty, we remember that we’re inherently part of nature. We’re not separate from it. And when we put ourselves two feet into the mix of growing some of our own food or providing landscapes or even a set of containers for pollinator insects. Then we put ourselves right into that ecological mix, which is a wonderful place to be.
Mallory Erickson: There are so many things about what you just said that I want to double click on. And I’m curious, that curiosity piece in that release of perfectionism. It’s interesting because before you start to talk about that, I think I was also thinking that something that’s been so valuable to me about gardening is how it sometimes shifts my understanding of failure and maybe failure is even the wrong word to use altogether. But there have been times where. Especially in the bay area, we’ve all these microclimates, things are shifting quickly. Sometimes I planted the wrong thing in the wrong place and it died.
And that felt really hard on a number of different levels. But also, I had to get over it quickly, or move on or just say, okay, like what did I learn from that? What was that, like you said, use curiosity really quickly to say, okay, that didn’t work. How come? What was really happening there? At one of our school gardens, we had an insane gopher problem and it was at the peak harvest. And all of a sudden, all of our plants just start falling over and I’m like, what’s going on? Every day we’d go into, more plants were tipped over. And, we got to this moment, I just feel like it challenged us to look deep at the purpose of different things and the outcomes, like shift how we thought about certain outcomes and then problem solve, but in ways that were really intentional, even with the gopher thing, like that really pushed us to think about, okay how do we want to show up to this place? And how is that going to play out in terms of how we want to handle this issue. Which is that we are hoping to donate all of this food. And right now it’s being eaten by all these gophers.
And so I’m just curious, what do you think about the failure piece or how you handle that? Because I’m also imagining that there are folks, like me prior to that role, who have a lot of limiting beliefs around their ability to start a garden or start a garden bed because they are sure they’re going to fail or they’ve never done it before. And so can you just talk to me a little bit about that?
Emily Murphy: Absolutely. I love those stories too. It’s a shifting baseline, isn’t it? When we consider failure and growing and gardening and how I like to address the questions I get from people who are asking, okay, I’d like to start a garden. I don’t know where to begin. And honestly, I don’t know if I really want to start a garden because I think I’m going to kill everything I grow.
And my typical response is start small, keep it simple, grow what you love, focus on the things you love to grow and grow those things. And by starting small, you can learn from the plants as you grow them, and you can apply those learnings to anything else you choose to grow, which is like anything else in life. But I also think it’s important to, I think, giving ourselves a little bit of room.
And what I mean by that is doctors, for instance, physicians, another way to describe a doctor, a person who practices medicine. Yet we still go to that person to fix our broken leg or perform surgery on our bodies, prescribe us medications and all sorts of things. And we trust them to do that. But in reality, they’re a person who practices medicine. They’re just really good at it. They’ve been practicing for a long time, and I think we need to give ourselves room to practice life and to practice growing.
And growing is really a metaphor for life. And gardening as you were just describing is a way, is a tool for learning something about ourselves and the world around us and our part in it. Whether that’s managing failures, discovering our curiosity, finding beauty, learning new things about ourselves. Oh, I didn’t realize I could grow a tomato plant, but I just did. But really I was learning how to pay attention and how to watch something grow.
And based on that piece of giving ourselves room to practice growing, you might have failures in the beginning, they’re really learning opportunities. And just think how good you’ll be at it when you grow for a year, give yourself a benchmark of a year. Or if you live in a really cold climate, maybe it’s two years, maybe it’s two full growing seasons. Just think how good you’ll be at it.
A friend of mine said that to me actually when he was really frustrated with composting. Which is something else I talk about in Grow Now, I go pretty deep into composting because Grow Now begins with soil and the plants we grow, yes, but soil care and composting is a big part of that. And he had some really big failures if you, on this failure scheme of things, but were they failures? Maybe not when they were failures and that he didn’t get a perfect batch of compost, but it wasn’t that it couldn’t be fixed.
But a friend actually said to him, Robert, just think how good you’ll be at composting when you compost for a year. And I’ve taken that to heart. I think it’s such a great message. 12 months, give yourself 12 months and learn from those failures. Or maybe they weren’t failures. Yeah, some plants might’ve died, but maybe some of them get painted green.
Mallory Erickson: Oh my gosh, my family’s gonna be mortified that I shared that story. But yeah, I love that. I think just the shift around that perspective and that learning and there’s this other thing I’m hearing you talk about? Which are creating the conditions for success. And that so often, even when you said that piece around, like I grew this tomato or rather I was patient and watching this tomato grow.
And I think about how much gardening taught me about creating conditions of success. And I know that’s really at the root of this book too, was starting with the soil. And I feel like so much in our, like today, culture is about what we see above the ground even with social media, like what is the face we’re putting on things? What does our garden look like? What is this Instagram posts show us.
And I think what you really demonstrate and teach is that though, first of all, what’s going to ultimately impact those things are a lot of invisible things that you can’t see and just really getting to the root and the core of what matters to create conditions of success or prosperity or abundance, whatever sort of, I don’t even mean success and perhaps the typical ways we think about that.
But I’m thinking about leaders, executive directors who are listening to this right now, other organizational leaders. And I think there is a really important metaphor there around your teams. And a lot of times I see leaders doing the loud things or the more showy things in an effort to create culture with their teams. And I really think it’s the conditions of success, the quiet moments, the ways in which they’ve paid attention, nurtured, been patient with, given the nutrients that the team member needed at the right time. All the things we learn watching a garden and supporting a garden’s growth. Those are the things that ultimately create the conditions of success for a team too.
So you just illuminated for me, maybe another way in which the garden sort of metaphor has really impacted the way I think about work.
Emily Murphy: Yeah. And I love the idea of bringing teams into it. And I know teams are a part of organizations, but I think that’s an important word in general these days, teams. But not teams in the sense of, and someone pointed this out to me that the idea of half earth, EO Wilson going this idea of half earth and giving half earth back to nature in order to solve a number of our global concerns, such as the climate crisis and species extinction, and someone else pointed out that, oh half earth implies that I have my half, an earth gets there half and there’s a line drawn down the middle.
So I think that’s not where I’m going. That’s not what I was envisioning when you were talking about teams, I was envisioning collaboration and finding common ground. And even if you don’t see eye to eye on everything, but you find common ground and you work together. And I think that’s so important right now.
But yes, in a garden and growing, the idea is that we are students of the garden and we’re students of nature, and we’re really just doing our best to mimic nature and how nature grows itself. Leaves fall from trees and plants, plant debris, organic matter, and leaves, twigs and stems. Bits of flowers fall to the ground, animals come in and they do their work squirrels, berry seeds, moles and voles borough, microbes, fungi, and bacteria are play this integral role in the soil ecosystem, decomposing and they have an interchange with plants and this is all going on around us all the time.
And when we take a minute to observe nature and do our best to mimic nature we understand, I think then how nature grows itself, but also how we can better than our gardens grow, but also I think take a minute to consider how we grow best. And that goes back to some of our earlier conversations at the beginning of our talk around creating resilient communities and resilient humans. And that comes from remembering that we are integrally part of nature.
I know that doesn’t exactly answer your question, but I do think that when we approach any organization with a life affirming nature, positive purpose, even if that organization is to maybe take unused food from the grocery store and move it to a place where it can be used or creating compost. I’m very much in that world. I know there’s other, oh, there’s so many great organizations. That’s a whole other conversation. That I really admire their work, but I think that when we approach our work from this life affirming place and life affirming meaning that we all have value, even if we don’t see eye to eye and we can find common ground that we really think can learn from each other because like our plants, sometimes we seem so different from the plants that we grow and when we spend time growing them, we get to know them as friends and I think that there’s something to be said for that maybe even looking at how we can begin to approach people in our community that might have different political viewpoints or maybe they have, they come from different cultural backgrounds, different religious backgrounds and how we can work together. Because we all have this commonality as humans.
So I don’t know if I answered your question exactly, but plants, when we go back to looking at plants as, oh, these scary being that we don’t want to kill for when we’re growing a garden, but when you take time to get to know them and watch how nature grows itself, then yeah we learn a lot and then we can learn a lot from each other through that same process.
Mallory Erickson: No I love that. And I want to go, I want to just explore with you one of the other words that I know is a theme in your book, which is this idea of regeneration. And I think there’s a chapter that’s revive, restore, regenerate. So can you talk to me about what regeneration is all about and how that sort of fits into this conversation?
Emily Murphy: Absolutely. Yes. So the book Grow Now is very much a guidebook for growing a regenerative garden and looking at regenerating our landscapes, our homescapes, the plots closest to home. And regeneration really asks us to restore and regrow. And the idea is that it’s no longer enough to be sustainable. At the root of sustainability is the word sustain, which means in its most basic sense, maintain the status quo. It’s no longer enough to maintain the status quo. We really need to look at regenerating, regrowing, restoring, and that is how we’re going to be able to move forward and grow healthy, resilient communities, families.
And so in the nuts and bolts of regeneration in a landscape, a garden in nature is really based in the carbon cycle. And again, how nature grows itself. In its basic sense, it’s caring for soil with no techniques. Disturbing the soil as little as possible to maintain the soil ecosystem and foster the soil ecosystem, growing perennials, planting natives, and keeping living roots in the ground.
Applying compost to soil, doing no harm and planting biodiversity to support biodiversity and all of these component parts work together to foster nature. And when I’m practicing these really basic tenants, my yard and my neighbors practicing it in their yard or we’re transforming a community park from a lawn and to a pollinator hub we’re then creating wildlife corridors, places for wildlife to move around nectar paths, living greenways. And we’re inherently then reassembling nature.We’re regenerating nature and giving nature room to grow within our communities.
Which is really pretty amazing when you consider that about 139 million acres and counting, growing in the United States alone is dedicated to urban and suburban living. Wow. That’s pretty, that’s a lot of acres. That’s pretty huge. And it’s more than nearly double of the amount of acreage that we have dedicated in all of our state parks across the country and all our national parks. So it’s pretty impressive what we can actually do in our communities. And again, it’s not just about reassembling nature. It’s for nature’s sake, it’s reassembling nature for our sakes too, and for our personal wellbeing.
That’s like the global view of regeneration and the micro view is how we can regenerate our beginning at home. And that’s what Grow Now really helps us understand. And the tools for that, but also the language, I think action and language together are really important, which is why the word regenerate, revive, restore, restory, rewrite.Why those words are so important because we need to update our language consider our nature cultures for instance while we’re also updating how we approach our communities and it’s a really simple place to start, but it’s very empowering.
Mallory Erickson: I really appreciate all of that. Before we wrap up, is there any gardening myths you want to bust or anything you feel like you really want people to know if they’re considering learning more about gardening or their relationship to nature, any piece of advice you really want to leave folks with?
Emily Murphy: Oh, you’ve touched on so much. And we talked early on about gifts, and I do think that for anyone who’s concerned about growing anything is to remember your gifts and to remember that is your entry point to contributing to society and to yourself and creating a more resilient you. Those are your loves. That’s how my first book, Grow What You Love got its name. When you’re growing a garden, you’re growing more than a garden you’re growing your life. I think that’s a really big part of it. I think that one of the bigger myths in gardening and growing is something that our grandparents did and not something that we do, but it’s this fuddy-duddy thing.
And how do we make it sexier? How do we find new language to relate to gardening in a way that applies to each of us and you can see yourself doing. And how that looks in real life. It might be that again, when you’re growing in a raised bed or a collection of containers, or maybe you’re volunteering with your native plant society and you’re spending one day a month or a couple hours a month working in the native meadow garden along the bay or maybe you’re just spending time at a local conservatory or a garden or a park helping others, Tilden Park and East Bay. Wow, that place is incredible. There’s so many opportunities and entry points that I think it’s important to remember first, what are your gifts and your loves and start there.
Mallory Erickson: I love that. Okay, tell everyone how they can connect with you and where they should go to buy the book, if you have a preference. And then I also invite everyone to share, I know there are so many nonprofits that you love. But I invite everyone to share one they’d like to particularly highlight on the episode.
Emily Murphy: Oh, gosh, that’s so hard.
Mallory Erickson: If you want to say two or three that’s fine.
Emily Murphy: I have some big ones and I have some small ones.
So let’s start with the nonprofits. I absolutely adore and appreciate the work that the Xerces Society is doing. Xerces Society, it focuses on insects and in particular, and other animals that aren’t insects as well. They are doing so much incredible research and supporting communities and creating pollinator friendly cities, bee friendly cities. They do a lot of work around the Western Monarchs. Which many of your listeners I’m sure are aware. Western monarchs in particular, they just saw a rebound, but they’re basically near extinction. Their populations were less than 2000 last year. Somehow, fortunately the stars aligned and they rebounded up to about 250,000 individuals, but the Xerces Society is behind supporting organisms like that, which are so valuable and providing education resources to communities.
Pesticide Action Network is another, any of the land-based press like, I’m here in West Marin, Malt, the Marin agricultural land trust is really important for preserving these open spaces and creating education places and places to learn, places for research, and places for us to get local food. And so that’s where I would start.
I’m also a longtime member of the Nature Conservancy because I believe in protecting wild places across the globe. And there are so many others. Wow. That’s a tough one. I’m sure I’m missing some of my more important ones that are smaller.
But anyway I’m Emily Murphy and I can be found online at Pass the Pistol. That was the name of my blog, which I’m not actively blogging very much anymore, but that’s my website Pass the Pistil, that’s P I S T I L as in part of a flower. I’m on Instagram and Twitter primarily, but Facebook too. And Pinterest a little, mostly for my garden design work. And then my book Grow Now is available wherever books are sold, you can find it online, you can find it at places like Barnes and Noble. And of course your independent bookstore, which I love supporting my small, independent bookstores. I have a handful of favorites and I’m sure your listeners do.
Mallory Erickson: Absolutely. Thank you so much for this incredible conversation. I’m so grateful for you in everything that you do, and for letting us be a part of this book’s journey and your journey. So thank you so much.
Emily Murphy: Thank you, Mallory. So proud of you and all that you do. I feel like we’ve grown together in our work and it’s been a real joy to watch you evolve and really make a difference in your community. So thank you for that too.
Mallory Erickson: Likewise. Thank you.