Fishing without eyeballs

Food for life.

Food for life.

(Come friend Aunt Ruthie on Facebook and let’s hang out.)

Call her boring or old fashioned—you won’t be the first—but Aunt Ruth loves watching a truism elevate into that maligned category of cliché. What a clichéd phrase lacks in flashy truthiness, it makes up for as something you can let your elbows rest on, something enduring.

Take this old chestnut: Give a person a fish, and they have food for a meal; teach a person to fish, and they have food for a lifetime. Auntie Ruth doesn’t much like to fish—she’s easily bored, has a native aversion to sports with waders, and fish eyeballs make her a bit’ barfy—but she gets it.

So, surprisingly, does the federal government. It’s not widely known but, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—food stamps—can be used to buy seeds and plants. As in organic seeds and plants. And while the chaos of unemployment can make something like urban farming seem utterly impractical, maybe it isn’t.

Corbyn Hightower lives in Roseville. She worked in the natural-foods industry and was used to organic food—as were her three kids. Following a bad turn or two, she signed up for SNAP; with a little research, she discovered how to buy organic seeds for planting a vegetable garden. Hightower told Ruth in an email, “We sold our only car and built raised beds on our driveway. My kids love picking and eating straight from the garden … we eat almost exclusively organic, unprocessed food.” (She blogs at, where you can follow her adventures in more detail.)

There are resources. Check out SNAP Gardens (, where you’ll find resources toward helping your organic garden grow. Both the Davis and Sacramento food co-ops take EBT cards and sell organic seeds and plants. Ask the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op about its discount program for EBT cardholders. Also, the Sacramento Area Community Garden is a partner with SNAP Gardens—it lists four community gardens on its website. More community gardens are listed on the city of Sacramento’s website under the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Farming: Why, it’s like fishing without the eyeballs. Mo’ bettah, says Aunt Ruth. Mo’ bettah.