CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Joe Lamp'l broke a branch off one of his mother's shrubs. Fearing Mama's wrath, he stuck it in the ground and ran. When he went back several weeks later, it had rooted. His love of gardening began.
Lamp'l has been the host of "Fresh from the Garden" on the DIY Network and "GardenSMART" on PBS. He's a frequent guest expert on shows such as "Today," "Good Morning America" and "The Victory Garden." He spoke recently at the International Master Gardeners Convention in Charleston.
He told the story of his early years as a gardener, jokingly describing himself as "smart, but not smart enough." He raised staghorn ferns, and he made a deal with his mother for one of the plants.
"I wrote a contract and had my mom sign it. It licensed the fern to her for 100 years for $10. I was so proud, because I still owned it." He realized that he needed to add a major in business to his horticulture major in college.
Lamp'l described the production of his show, "Fresh from the Garden," that ran for 52 shows and was based in his own 40- by 60-foot plot.
"We ran out of new things -- we really exploited the tomatoes," he said. "Because it was television, it had to be perfect. But as real gardeners, we learn from our mistakes."
Now, he's producing shows seen on public television and on the Internet: "Growing a Greener World with joe gardener" at www.growingagreenerworld.com. He described his earlier television work as being a hired gun, a talking head. With "Greener World," he's talking about his own ideas.
Lamp'l talked about his favorite episodes of his current show. Greensgrow Farms, in Philadelphia, has been providing restaurants and people with fresh vegetables for more than 10 years -- from a former galvanized steel plant that was eventually abandoned as an industrial brownfield. The co-founder of the 1-acre lot, Mary Seaton Corboy, had a vision for the spot tucked within densely packed rowhouses about three miles north of the downtown skyscrapers. The site has become the national model of urban farming.
He spoke of Ros Creasy, the edible landscape expert, and Graham Kerr, formerly "the Galloping Gourmet" and now building community through gardening. Lamp'l described Serenbe Farms, a 1,000-acre subdivision south of Atlanta.
"The wildlife habitats, the 350 vegetables in six organic acres, are a bigger draw than swimming and tennis," he said of the property.
I enjoyed learning about Will Allen, a former professional basketball player whose parents were sharecroppers in South Carolina. Allen left a profitable career at Proctor & Gamble to purchase Growing Power, a derelict plant nursery that was in foreclosure on the north side of Milwaukee.
Now a mature urban farming project, Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities.