Adrienne Young: Planting the Earth, Growing Herself Adrienne Young is a folk-country musician who is also a big supporter of community gardens and sustainable farming. As she tours the U.S., she invites local organic farmers to speak before her shows. Her green activism also explains the title of her new album, Room to Grow.
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Adrienne Young: Planting the Earth, Growing Herself

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Adrienne Young: Planting the Earth, Growing Herself

Adrienne Young: Planting the Earth, Growing Herself

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

When you open up a CD from musician Adrienne Young, you know instantly about her other love aside from music. She includes packets of seeds with her recordings. Adrienne Young is a big supporter of community gardens and sustainable farming. Her latest CD is called "Room to Grow," by the way. And as she tours the U.S., Young invites local organic farmers to speak before her shows.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair has this profile.

(Soundbite of song "All for Good")

Ms. ADRIENNE YOUNG (Musician): (Singing) It's just one more day out of my life gone for good, gone for good.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Adrienne Young has pretty much carved out a music career single-handedly. She self-produced her new CD and released it on her own label. She plays banjo, guitar and writes most of her own songs. She's become something of a darling of the folk-bluegrass-country set.

(Soundbite of song "All for Good")

Ms. YOUNG: (Singing) Why can't I let go, I'll always wonder. All this surrounds me. Why do I hunger?

BLAIR: Adrienne Young is a seventh generation Floridian. Two people who have deeply inspired her are her grandparents who live in Tallahassee.

Ms. YOUNG: Grandma, would you please come sing with us for a minute?

Ms. FRANCES BOOTH (Singer and Musician): I can't hear you. I'm…

BLAIR: Frances Booth, Young's grandmother, is a singer and musician. Her husband Willis Booth is a mandolin player and a retired chief of police for the state of Florida.

(Soundbite of song "Old Folks at Home")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Way down upon the Swanee River far, far from away.

BLAIR: Aside from music, another big part of this family's heritage is gardening and citrus farming. One of Adrienne Young's ancestors is credited with bringing the first grapefruit to Florida from the Bahamas in the early 19th century. But Young says the agricultural tradition almost stopped with her own parents who were much too busy to plant things. They divorced when she was a teenager. Young says, growing up, she spent a lot of time at her grandparents'. Both sets had gardens.

Ms. YOUNG: So that was something I equated with a more traditional familial experience where you slow down and don't have to talk all the time and just kind of putter with purpose.

BLAIR: Young says her parents' divorced set her on a search for something to belong to. First, it was the Grateful Dead. Then it was living and working on an organic farm. At the end of the day, everyone who worked there would eat together.

Ms. YOUNG: There was this energy that lit up everybody's face at the end of those meals and it was so obvious that the choices of the food were directly related to how one relates to all other creatures in life. And that was really the turn there where I realized that it was going to be a huge part of my life.

BLAIR: Today, Adrienne Young lives in Nashville. A lot of her songs are about searching for a little inner peace and quiet like this one called "River and a Dirt Road."

(Soundbite of song "River and a Dirt Road")

Ms. YOUNG: (Singing) What I wouldn't give for a river right now. Carry me away so far away from this crowd.

BLAIR: Adrienne Young's lyrics are introspective. But talking to her, she lights up on the topic of sustainable farming. She's got an almost encyclopedic knowledge of organic farms around the country.

In Tampa, it's Sweetwater Farm, a hidden oasis just a 10-minute drive from the Tampa International Airport.

Ms. YOUNG: Look at those. You have snapdragons, beets, kale, onions…

BLAIR: Sweetwater is community-supported agriculture. About 200 families subscribe, which gives some shares of the harvest. Carrots, onions, asparagus, 14 different kinds of lettuce - you name it, they grow it. And that variety is important says Rick Martinez who runs the farm. He says, unlike industrial farmers, organic farmers pay attention to more than just the crops that come out of the soil.

Mr. RICK MARTINEZ (Founder and Executive Director, Sweetwater Farm): We are feeding the soil. We are nurturing the living soil, which then nurtures the plants.

BLAIR: Martinez, who founded Sweetwater Farms 12 years ago, says Adrienne Young understands that and has a good sense of what it takes to make things grow. His favorite song of hers is called "Plow to the End of the Row."

Ms. YOUNG: Wake up in the morning in the moonlight gray. We got dirt to break, we got a note to pay. I'm going to plow, plow to the end of the row.

Mr. MARTINEZ: Because I can relate. I've been out at night plowing to the end of the row, you know, endlessly. And so, you know, it touches a place deep inside of me.

(Soundbite of song "Plow to the End of the Row")

Ms. YOUNG: (Singing) Sun just broke out over the trees. I got a aching in my back and a trembling in my knees. If the mule won't pull then the plow won't go, if the seed don't set, and the crop won't grow.

BLAIR: Adrienne Young is donating a portion of every CD she sells to a fund called Save a Seed. She has impassioned views on the role plants and nutrition play in society. She says things like there is consciousness in leafy greens and food is the great leveler. She's tried to get her grandparents to buy organic without much success.

Frances and Willis Booth, now on their 80's, both grew up in families that ate what they raised in their own backyards by necessity. Frances Booth isn't quite sure what to make of her granddaughter's dietary demands.

Ms. BOOTH: Sometimes when she comes here, she wouldn't eat what we have. You know, she just pick at it because we do not eat it. It's quite expensive and I - it's just not in our budget.

BLAIR: But Willis Booth says even though he doesn't really understand that the movement she's a part of, he likes her passion.

Mr. WILLIS BOOTH (Mandolin Player; Retired Chief of Police): She's got the same blood running in her veins that her primary(ph) forbearers had. And I really think that he would like to see the land used properly. There is a penchant on the part of the people to want to be self-sufficient to some degree. And this is part of that.

BLAIR: Adrienne Young thinks people should want to grow, whether it's cultivating the earth or simply living life.

Ms. YOUNG: On life's journey, there's always room to grow, always. It's infinite. And no matter how little the space you're working with, even if it's just a tinny little planter in your kitchen, there's a room to grow, so let's do it.

(Soundbite of song "Room to Grow")

Ms. YOUNG: (Singing) We all outgrow the skin we're in. But we can weave, we will build that stitch by stitch, row by row, making sure there's room enough to grow.

BLAIR: Adrienne Young is taking her music and her message on the road throughout the summer. In July, she'll be in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

NORRIS: You can hear more songs by Adrienne Young and discover more music at

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