My guest is Bridget Guzzi, owner of Gardens of California LLC in San Ramon, California, which offers products and services for the at-home organic edible garden movement. As a child, her community was graced with fresh home grown gardens. Some fondest memories include lunch in the pea and rhubarb gardens, washing berries for homemade jam and jelly, going to the open fields to collect hazelnuts and to the lakes for fresh fish. Bridget boasts front and backyard organic edible gardens that are visited almost daily by neighbors and friends where she continues to emphasize one at home garden at a time. Bridget also introduced a garden birthday party where children gather to plant edibles. Bridget’s garden apparel line offers elegant comfort with easy care properties. The fabrics used for her apparel include GOTS certified organic cottons from Harmony Susalla, Harmony Art Organic Design, and SPF 50+ fabric that is made rated and tested in the USA. Bridget will give us inspiration for growing our own food at home. www.gardensofcalifornia.com
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Transforming Your Yard into an Organic Edible Garden
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Bridget Guzzi
Date of Broadcast: May 28, 2013
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world instead of being sick from toxic chemical exposures.
Yes, there are toxic chemicals all around us in consumer products, in the environment, in the news. We’re always hearing about how toxic things are. But on this show, we’re going to hear about how to be safe, happy, healthy, protected and able to do anything we want to do in the world because we’re not being limited by the effects of toxic chemical exposures.
Today is Tuesday, May 28th 2013, and I’m here in Clearwater, Florida. And today we’re going to talk about gardens and gardening.
I had an experience over the weekend where a friend of mine who’s writing a book about music made a reference to a trellis. The staff of a music staff looks like a trellis that you – the music staff, you put notes on a music staff and on trellis, you put plants on the trellis.
And he had various people reading this book to make sure it was understandable and one of them said (this was a fifty-year old man), “Oh. I don’t think you should use that reference to a trellis. Most people don’t know what a trellis is. I don’t know what a trellis is. And besides, young people today don’t know anything about gardening. They have no reality on it. You just shouldn’t have a gardening reference.”
I was just shocked to hear this, but I actually think it’s true. I was shocked to hear it because I grew up around gardening. In my family, we had gardens. We grew tomatoes, we ate tomatoes off the vines. I’ve had my own garden as an adult. I love gardening, I go to garden shows, I like to go to nurseries and walk around and look at plants, I love to go to botanical gardens. And for me, the idea that there will be children and young people who don’t have the joy of gardening as part of their reference of experience was just shocking actually.
And coincidentally or serendipitously, at the same time, here I am having our guest on today who is working on introducing children to gardening. Bridget, welcome to the show!
BRIDGET GUZZI: Hi Debra, it’s nice to be here!
DEBRA: Thank you! Bridget is the owner of Gardens of California. She’s in San Ramon, California, which is right next to where I used to live in Concord, California. I spent my entire childhood in Concord, California where we had a garden in the backyard. She offers products and services for the At Home Organic Edible Gardening Movement. Bridget, would you tell us how you became interested in this?
BRIDGET GUZZI: Well, it’s been part of me like it’s been part of your life story, Debra, and I’m positively thrilled to be one of the voices in Global Grow at Home Movement. My company is structured around that movement. Its products and services are designed to draw the passion and provide the inspiration for others to grow at home as well.
So, my hope is that homeowners will restructure their property to this end and I also would like to see the day comes once again with this healthy lifestyle is never taken away or repressed from our children again by the food and diet industry that truly does not have our health and wellness in mind.
So, in essence, I’m bringing what has been good in my life. It’s a call to beauty, not to pain in making the human-plant connection for both children and adults. It’s seriously awesome. And if I may endeavor…
DEBRA: How did you – yes, you may, but my question was…
BRIDGET GUZZI: Oh, thank you.
DEBRA: How did you get interested in it?
BRIDGET GUZZI: Well, I got interested because it worked for me. I got interested because I got so tired of listening to the news stories of the disease in children, what was happening to our planet. We can see this firsthand now and I have the passion and the inspiration to bring it forward to gardens of California.
DEBRA: Tell us about some of your fondest memories from your childhood about gardens.
BRIDGET GUZZI: I correlate it to freedom, to happiness, to growth, to family, to friends, picking blueberries out in the wild, coming home and having to clean them and getting a smack on the hand if we ate too many when we were cleaning them, pulling off the shells of hazelnuts so they can be stored, having fresh rhubarb pie, made at home. It’s so many, so many great memories of delicious food.
DEBRA: My major food memory from my childhood about gardens is my grandparents had a large vegetable garden. I was always helping them in the garden. And the key point of the garden is a large peach tree.
I remember just being very small (maybe three years old) and my grandfather would pick me up and hold me up, so I could go way high in the peach tree and pick whatever peach I wanted to have. He would guide me as to which one to pick so that I would get a nice, ripe peach.
And then, I would take it in the house and my grandmother would cut it up and put in a bowl and pour cream all over it.
And that was my favorite food, peaches and cream with the peach right off the tree with all the sunshine in it and the grain and the leafy vegetable out of the garden. And that is one of my earliest food experiences. I think that most children don’t have those experiences today.
BRIDGET GUZZI: Yes, I agree. That’s a beautiful story, by the way. The children in my neighborhood do. They aspire to my trees that are growing right now and their daddy or their mommy picking them up when the food is ready to pick their own. It’s a story we can share today.
DEBRA: I know that you are involved in wanting to inspire people to grow food at home. But let’s start by telling the audience what are some of the problems going on in the food world today that this is a solution for from your viewpoint.
BRIDGET GUZZI: Well, I saw a lot of the leaders in this movement including Pesticide Action Network, Ronnie Cummings from Organic Consumers Org and listening. I post documentaries on my website which is how my learning takes place. And what I’m seeing is that we are in a position right now where everything is failing.
We’re taking great risks. I listened to David Suzuki yesterday talking about genetically engineering new trees for our forests and how he talked about the spill-over from the roots and the pollen and we’re really at a time of crisis here.
We need to back up, we need to stop this disease and we need to prevent it by getting into our gardens with organic practices, sustainable practices. And that’s only then can we, I believe, get a handle on what’s going on.
DEBRA: And tell them you grew it here. What do you think is a good way for people to start? What’s an easy thing to do if they’ve never garden before? What’s a good first step?
BRIDGET GUZZI: I think by being a leader. And that’s exactly what I do with my demonstration garden. I pulled up my lawn sometime go and there’s nothing more than a beautiful canvass of lawn to be honest with you. You engage on a community on a personal level this way.
There are three schools that walk by. Children are continuously learning and watching food grow. I can invite them in to the extent I can and show them the processes. But most importantly, I’m looking to the adults and say, “I like that. I’m sensing that. I can taste that food that you’re growing.”
For years Debra, when I started this, I would grow food and I would give away heirloom seeds thorughout the neighborhood. So, I was bringing people in, one person at a time. And then I put my foot down and I said, “Okay, it’s time for me to start.”
So, by being a leader, by showing, by demonstrating, you can grab the most amount of people to come to that who wants to grow at home and deliver the message that your children have to be sick anymore. You can have fun, you can grow, you can become so very healthy in your garden.
DEBRA: We have to go to break now. We are talking with Bridget Guzzi, owner of Gardens of California and her website is GardensofCalifornia.com. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. We’re today with Bridget Guzzi, owner of Gardens of California, GardensofCalifornia.com. We’re talking about the Organic Edible Garden Movement, specifically growing your own fruits and vegetables at home.
So, Bridget, what was the first thing that you planted? What was the first thing that you did in your garden?
BRIDGET GUZZI: What I’m planting in my garden?
BRIDGET GUZZI: What I’m planting in my garden depends on the season. I’m in California, I’m in an area where I can grow year-round.
So, I eat in season and I plant is season. It’s an array.
I, myself, am an eccentric gardener. I understand I need a clean soil. It’s imperative to have worms in my soil or I can’t go forward. I understand I need to have birds and hummingbirds and little pests around in my soil around my garden. But what I grow is dependent on what the season is.
I save my seeds and I grow them once again. So, it becomes just a beautiful, beautiful reflection of honoring what we can get from Mother Nature when take care of it.
DEBRA: So, what’s in season right now?
BRIDGET GUZZI: Some of the things I growing? Right now, I have so much. I have two asparagus beds. I have taken out English peas and put in some carrots. I have watermelon veins that are growing down my front yard. I have sweet potatoes. I have green beans. I have beautiful, big sunflower heads that are coming out so I can harvest them and eat them and put them in my breads and my foods. I have cabbages, tomatoes, lettuces. It’s just is an array of anything or everything I can get my hands on. I love to grow!
And what I have done with my particular front demonstration garden is I’ve integrated herbs and flowers into that. One of the compliments that I get is how beautiful that you have thought this to be a garden where it’s just not a standard bed. You’ve designed it like a piece of artwork. So, there are lots going out there, Debra.
DEBRA: It sounds like an abundant, wonderful lawn. I’ve gardened off and on in different ways in my life. I studied different types of gardening including permaculture. But I am of the mind as you that I like to see edible things all mixed up.
I love to see just nice rows of lettuces and I want a beautiful garden. And herbs and flowers (especially herbs and edible flowers) mixed together, I have a little pathway up to my front door.
I haven’t planted it this way yet, but it’s actually I think a perfect spot to have about – oh, it’s about probably 30 feet altogether if I were to plant it on both sides and about three feet wide just to have this gorgeous border of edible flowers and all kinds of herbs all mixed together and lettuces.
I think that would just be a gorgeous thing to do. I could just go out there and take whatever I want and make a beautiful salad and it would just be lovely in addition to my garden.
It sounds like you’re just wanting to plant things to be integrated and beautiful, that it can look like a garden instead of – I think that people sometimes have this idea that their house will look like a farm instead of something like a garden. And that’s not necessarily so. It sounds like you’ve got that one down.
BRIDGET GUZZI: Yes and also, right now, I’m harvesting calendula on a continual basis and chamomile and the neighbors are welcome to it. It’s a great way to get a prune because they stop by and they grab some for themselves. Wonderful peace are made from this. And once again, the garden’s organic, so I have no fear.
And if I may, about taking out your lawn, when I started this process, I worked so hard. I dug, I did this on my own. And people who walk their dog by (because that was a concern for me) started to go the other side of the street or if they brought their dog by my garden or into my yard, I will always receive their dogs underneath the chin because I love them. They don’t lose their legs on my yard.
There is an outgrowing, tremendous respect in this community for this type of process and I’m going to see it come further, further to light and the lawns are going to be removed. I’m excited, Debra!
DEBRA: I’m excited too because as you’re talking, I can just see all the lawns in your neighborhood being removed and being replaced by gardens like yours. And then, it really takes somebody like you taking that first step in the neighborhood and saying, “I’m going to do it and set an example,” and then, other people can see the beauty in that and do it as well.
So, I’m glad to see that your neighbors are responding in a respectful way. I’m assuming you don’t have any concern about people stealing your produce?
BRIDGET GUZZI: This is about bringing beauty and adding beauty too and it just replicates in ripples through people’s hearts. And they see this and they feel it. If somebody is so in need, they are so welcome!
DEBRA: I am very happy to hear that I have heard some people say, “Oh, I need to put up fences around my garden so that people don’t steal it or rabbits don’t steal things or whatever.” But I think if there’s such an abundance. If I were to fully plant my yard out (and I don’t have a big yard), if I were to fully plant it out, it would be so much more food than I could ever eat. There’ll be plenty for whatever animals or insects want to share. If somebody walk into my yard and took some food, they’ll be plenty for everyone.
Here, I live in Florida and almost everybody here has citrus trees in their backyard because they were planted so long ago. I don’t have mine anymore because we had a citrus blight come through. But when I moved here, I had five mature citrus trees. I have grapefruit, lemons, tangerines (the best tangerines you’ve ever eaten). We had so much citrus fruits we couldn’t eat it all. And everybody else has so much citrus fruits they couldn’t eat it all and so we’re constantly trying to give it away. There’s so much!
How can we go hungry in a world if we’re all growing food? We just would not. We just would not. I really think that this is really the solution to hunger. I remember reading an article about in Cuba from years ago, but we’re coming up on our break again, so I’ll tell the story after the break.
This is Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. We’re talking about Organic Edible Gardening with Bridget Guzzi.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Bridget Guzzi, owner of Gardens of California. That’s GardensofCalifornia.com. She has a very beautiful website inspiration itself.
Of course, it’s about organic gardening, but it’s different from other organic gardening websites. It’s not about what to plant or where to plant it or how to control pests so much as it’s about the whole philosophy (I guess would be the good word) of why grow your own food.
And it has beautiful pictures.
I just want to explore some of the things that you have on your website, Bridget.
First of all, I want to make the point about how fresh food contributes to good health. Why don’t you tell us something about that?
BRIDGET GUZZI: How fresh food can contribute to our health? Well, I live a fairly daring life and often, I wake up in the morning and ask if I’m still here. And every time I look for an answer, I look to my garden. I look at my grandson, singing in the garden (he’s six months of age) and I’m watching his development. I am not seeing the concern for the many other children who are eating GMO, processed and non-organic foods are having.
I believe in it because it worked for me, it worked for my children who were raised in a garden and it’s now working for my grandson. We need to make that natural transition back to our gardens. We don’t know what’s out there and what we’re eating, we can start knowing that by getting it at home.
And it’s time for us to think like a fish, not a fisherman. We need to watch for the bait that’s out there that’s disguise as natural and we need to lean in to real foods one gain. We can do that at home and the benefits will show.
DEBRA: I totally agree with you. Our bodies need to have nutrition from fresh foods. And sometimes I write up like a little scale of what would be the worst foods and what would be the best foods. And the worst food is always processed food with lots of additives in it, and the best food is always, not food from the farmers market, but food right from your own backyard.
There’s just no better food than walking out into your backyard or side yard or your front yard and pulling a tomato right out of the vine or pulling a lettuce right out of the ground and eating it immediately. It has the most nutrition, it has the most aliveness and you know exactly what it is that went into it.
I used to have chickens too. I don’t know if you have any chickens, but I used to have chickens until the police took them away because they’re against our city ordinance. But when I had chickens, it was just a miracle to me (I’m going to have chickens again. I’m changing the ordinance). But it was just a miracle to me to go out and feed them the food and then see the egg come out.
You know intellectually that’s what’s happening, but to go and take my own scraps from the kitchen and wheats from the garden and feed them to my chickens and then have this egg come out that I could see embodied in the egg and feel it as I’m eating those ingredients that I have put into the chickens was quite amazing.
It’s the same thing with growing food I think because you know what you’re putting into the soil and then this plant grows and that’s what you’re eating. It’s that cycle just right there in your garden.
BRIDGET GUZZI: Oh, I agree! My neighbor has chickens, Debra. I actually collect the snails from my garden and bring them over to feed her chickens. And when I need some micromanaging here with pests, she brings one of them for lunch.
DEBRA: It all works! I saw on your website you mentioned something called Horticulture Therapy. Could you tell me about that?
BRIDGET GUZZI: Oh, certainly! I’m actually certified in horticulture therapy a couple years ago in Oakland, California. And it just sung with me. It just resonated. And that was my plant-and-human connection. It works really well.
I work and volunteer to various populations (children with autism, some elderly, developmentally delayed in different environments) and when I structured gardens in California initially in 2008, I structured it on the principles of horticulture therapy in services that I could offer. And one of these is a birthday party that I designed. It is based on the structures of horticulture therapy and continuing with the grow-at-home.
The party basically involves a package party where the children get an earth box or a large growing container, I bring the soil, watering cans, plants, the seedlings work every well with this (and some seeds for them for future use), a reading, a gift, one of my garden book. And the party favors are Norcal pots with herbs or seasonal plants, whatever is in season.
So, it starts the plant-care relationship. We’re emphasizing the human-plant connection here. And Debra, I encourage everyone to do their own party. And if they want any help or suggestions, they can send me a note. And as you write in Toxic Free (your book that I’m enjoying so much), we don’t need to wait for others to find our way to health and happiness. I really appreciate that sentiment that you sent out in your book.
DEBRA: Thank you! And I do believe it. I believe that each of us has the power to create whatever it is that we want to create in our lives and make our own decisions and that we don’t have to live by what the government says or what multinational corporations want to give us.
We can live around them and say that, “This is the right thing” as you have and take out matters into our own hands. Every single person can make that choice. So, I’m very happy to see that you’re doing what you’re doing.
What if somebody doesn’t have a yard? How can we grow food?
BRIDGET GUZZI: Oh, well, there are always pots and community gardens. We have local community gardens here. I would hope that would search out one that has organic, sustainable practices. Of course, we support our farmer markets and we support our small growers, organic growers who are up and coming.
We have a lot of weather issues that are going on right now. People could lose plants. People could go under. We have so many issues going on. So, this focus, this at-home garden focus is basically a supplement to also all of the people to [inaudible 00:34:23] and the small farmers who are trying to take on the big agra and make a difference.
DEBRA: We’ll talk more after the break with Bridget Guzzi of Gardens of California. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and you’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio where we discover how to thrive in toxic world. We’ll be back in a minute.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. We’re here with Bridget Guzzi, owner of Gardens of California.
Her website is GardensofCalifornia.com.
Bridget, one of the things that I like in your website that you have is that you designed a line of clothing for gardening, things like smocks and dresses. Tell us about your clothing line. What inspired you to do that and what materials do you use and things like that?
BRIDGET GUZZI: Sure, Debra! Well, I love fashion, I always have. I’ve had a ball with it my whole life. But when I started out as the design entrepreneur for Gardens of California, I wanted to offer more than a fashion statement. I wanted to offer a difference. So, I decided perennial, comfortable, safe, functional garden apparel and branding on value was the way to go.
I set the bar very high. I took as many social and environmental considerations and respect into this apparel as I possibly could. From lead-free buttons to a silver-weave, sun-protected, breathable fabric, made, rated and tested here in the USA to global standard certified cotton. I also manufacture local to not only keep jobs here and watch quality, but also to avoid potential exploitation of workers in underdeveloped foreign markets.
And Debra, my gateway to you is Harmony Susalla of Harmony Organic Art Design. After years of getting started and researching fabric largely through the Fashion Business Incorporated in L.A., I came to know Harmony. And I not only came to know it, but I really came to love her.
DEBRA: I love Harmony too.
BRIDGET GUZZI: Oh, for sure! Her store is so kind and it’s so healthy. And once I met Harmony, I knew I had an outstanding source of fabric to offer to the consumer.
When I heard about how the workers who grew the cotton were respected, they were paid, they were not subjected to pesticides and herbicides, and when I saw the work that she put in getting this global standard for this beautiful cotton and what I experienced mostly from natural print (after just the array of digitized, loud, aggressive printset that have been in the market), I just felt so warm and at home and connected to nature.
So, Harmony is the bomb when it comes to prints and fabrics, she lives in nature. She’s an environmentalist and really a wonderful person to know.
When I do a show of presenting my apparel and selling my apparel, I always recommend Harmony for anyone who’s sewing at home especially for children. If they’re sewing at home for children, also the sheets (which you and Harmony discussed previously) and also for new entrepreneurs who were coming in to the apparel market.
DEBRA: And you can find Harmony on my website, just type in ‘Harmony Art’ into my search engine and her listing on Debra’s list will come out. But I am also adding a lot of websites that are making things out of her fabrics. I just added your website today to Debra’s list,
Bridget, for your organic gardening apparel.
The last question I want to ask you – well, it might not be the last question, but I’m hoping we’ll talk about this in-depth. As I’ve been saying throughout the hour, I love gardening and I have had gardens in the past. But the problem that I run into with gardening (and maybe you can help me with this) are two things.
One is I don’t always have success and I get discouraged. I know that I need to [inaudible 00:42:50] about gardening, but also I did much better in California as a gardener than what I’m doing here in Florida. I am learning the differences about Florida gardening and what I need to do.
But as much as I experience bonding with nature while I’m doing it, sometimes I don’t always get the result where nature gives me what I am expecting in return for all that I’m doing trying to grow these fruits and vegetables.
So question number one is how do you get through that discouraging phase and learn enough to be able to have success with gardening like you have?
And number two is, I’m a working person where I’m working full time and more doing my work, how do people find time to garden enough in order to be able to produce enough in order to feed themselves?
BRIDGET GUZZI: Okay. As for discouragement, there’s really nothing to be discouraged about. Seedlings are like people and seeds are like people. They have various degrees of potential and we need to respect what they bring to us. I just not have found that that has been the way for me. And I know people are losing plants right now because of the weather changes, so be it. We are not in control. Mother Nature is in control.
So, go back, and do it again and do it again and until it comes about. That’s my feeling. I don’t bring negativity to my garden or discouragement. I bring hope. When I put a seed in, I give it a kiss and say, “Good luck!”
DEBRA: I like that!
BRIDGET GUZZI: “Do well, I love you! Love me back.” But it’s all about the focus and the respect that we know who’s in control.
As to the time factor, there are a lot of people out there right now who have lawns and who have gardeners who are maintaining their lawns because they don’t have the time. And my suggestion for that is to say to your gardener, “How would you like to eat well?” because I’d like to eat well.
So, you can take your garden and a gardener if you don’t have the time and let them build these for you. And when they go home, they’re going home with some fruits and vegetables and you’re eating well. We’ve made a beautiful transition as far as what we’re doing with the time that we have.
So, we ourselves may not be able to, if busy, apply ourselves, but we can have our gardener do that. We can change everything with one homne garden at a time.
DEBRA: I like that suggestion too. I hadn’t actually thought about that. I have thought about, “Well, maybe I need to hire somebody to do the gardening for me and then that’s another expense,” but now that I’m thinking about it, it probably wouldn’t cost anymore to pay somebody to be working in my garden and growing food than it would cost to buy the food.
Right now, I don’t have a gardener, but I do know people that don’t have gardeners. They don’t have yards in which to garden. I think that would be a fabulous thing for people who don’t have time to garden to hook up people who don’t have yards. People could do the work and get paid in the produce because there will be plenty of produce for everybody. A yard, as I’ve said before, can feed much more than one person, much more than one family.
Another thing that I wanted to say (it’s actually a realization that I had while we were doing the show and looking at your website and talking with you), it really is I think about making transformation to growing food and being in connection with nature and your yard. It’s almost like an at-hom organic edible garden lifestyle. If I were to say, “I’m going to make that central with my life and even put in 20 minutes a day, instead of going to the gym,” I don’t go to the gym, but I’m trying to figure out where could people get time in their lives to do this.
I go for walks. If I were to spend more time walking instead of bending over and weeding and getting exercise by working on the garden, it would produce food. I think that’s what’s needed. It’s for people to be thinking (including myself) in terms of how can I incorporate growing food into my life?
Sometimes people think, “In order to do something like this, it’s going to take a lot of time. I can’t do it because I don’t have time.” But what happens is that things get busy in my life and I don’t go out and take care of the plants and I think that taking care of the plants, having time to take care of the plants, they don’t require that much care, do they? Taking care of the plants, sharing care of the plants with someone else is akin to taking time to take care of ourselves.
It’s the same issue. Are people taking care of themselves and their lives in other ways? Taking care of our gardens is taking care of ourselves because the garden takes care of us if we take care of it.
BRIDGET GUZZI: And we get that.
DEBRA: Yeah, it’s a really important point. I would like to see more and more people understand the necessity for health, that health isn’t just doing whatever you want, eating junk food, drinking tap water and going to the doctor and taking a pill when you get sick. Health is taking care of ourselves and taking care of each other and taking care of the environment and the food. And taking care ourselves to give ourselves the best quality things that support life. I see you doing that and appreciating that very much.
Are there any final words you’d like to say? We’ve got just a few seconds.
BRIDGET GUZZI: I would like to say thank you. This has been one of the nicest introduction to someone who’s making such a huge difference. I appreciate your time and I feel wonderful. Thank you so much!
DEBRA: Thank you! Thank you for being with me. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio.