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Chicken Little in the garden?
by John Hershey
by John Hershey

John Hershey is a dad, gardener, writer, and lawyer (in that order). He lives in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and two young sons.

John's humorous essays on gardening appear in many newspapers and magazines, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor, GreenPrints, and Warm Earth (Australia).

April 18, 2010

This is a hard column for me to write, because it requires me to admit that I occasionally listen to Glenn Beck on the radio. I’ve had to spend more time than usual in the car lately, and my favorite music station seems to have switched to a “More Talk, Less Rock!” format, so from the same morbid fascination you feel when staring at a car wreck, I often find myself surfing along the crazy wave of AM talk radio. I had heard a bit about Mr. Beck before, so I was not too surprised by his lengthy and sometimes even entertaining explanations about how everyone who disagrees with his rather unusual political views is a traitorous commie.

But after tuning in a few times, I was surprised to discover that, despite our vast differences on every other issue, Glenn Beck and I share one passion: gardening!

On a recent show, a woman called in to brag that in her family, they gave each other “guns and seeds” for Christmas this past year. “Sounds like Valentines Day at my house!” Beck replied.

I was surprised that the topic of gardening came up at all, and intrigued that these people chose as their two gifts one item that seemed to fit quite nicely in the spirit of Christmas, and another one that, well, not so much.

But since this was the first time I felt even a small connection to this world, I kept listening, and soon a pattern emerged. Beck frequently urges his listeners to grow gardens and put up food. And during the commercial breaks, he sells “survival gardening kits” and “food insurance programs” along with gold bullion and other products marketed at people who believe the country as we know it is about to come crashing down around them.

Finally I saw the connection: the feeling of freedom and self-sufficiency we get from gardening appeals not only to liberal idealists like me, but also to paranoid right-wingers. I’ve always believed that gardening improves people’s lives and society as a whole, but I never imagined a garden had the amazing power to create common ground between me and Glenn Beck!

If it can do that, gardening can surely unite all the reasonable people in between. In this time of great political and social division in our nation, it turns out that gardening is the one thing that can bring us that fresh, local food can make our minds and bodies healthier, or by fear that our president is systematically dismantling our way of life, you find your answer in the garden. And whether you expect to meet your neighbors in a community garden to protect yourself from processed food, or you expect to fend off your neighbors with your AK-47 to protect your food supply from marauding mobs in a post-apocalyptic Obamageddon, (I just made up that word! Or I thought I did, but then I googled it and it turns out 239,000 people thought of it before me), we’re all looking to the garden for a measure of food security these days.

So whatever drives you, a progressive vision of sustainability and independence from industrial food or a right-wing panic that the First Lady’s efforts to promote gardening and healthy lifestyles are really a smokescreen for the socialists who have taken over our government to impose food totalitarianism, (if you think I’m exaggerating, you haven’t been listening to Glenn Beck!), it’s about believing that one person can make a difference. Either way, it’s a good thing when people grow fresh vegetables for their families. The food is healthy even if the thinking behind it isn’t. And at the very least, when we’re out in our gardens, we’re not sitting by the radio or TV listening to Glenn Beck.

John Hershey ( is raising kids and vegetables organically on a suburban homestead in Littleton. To read more garden-variety humor and commentary, visit his website:

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row