This year one of my goals is to convince each and every one of you out there that you should grow at least some of your own food.
On the surface growing your own food may seem pointless–maybe even ridiculous. Why bother?
Our days are packed — there are so many things we have to accomplish every day that taking the time and physical effort to grow your own vegetables may seems like wasted effort. After all, around almost every corner there is a grocery store with heaping mounds of produce and shelf after shelf of canned vegetables. The only effort you have to make is picking it up and placing it in your cart.
For most of our lifetimes the people we’ve seen growing vegetables gardens were doing it for the simple joy of gardening. Maybe they wanted to grow vegetables that you could not buy in the store. Maybe they chose cultivars that were superior in flavor or just unusual and therefore unavailable.
That is not the way things have always been. The idea of growing food to supplement (or replace) what you could buy in the store for economic stability and freedom has been a longstanding tradition in American history. In pretty recent history-say our great grandparent’s time-there were still many households that had a “kitchen garden” to provide food for the family.
Now the prices of everything are on the rise–I’m sure you’ve noticed it at the stores. Suddenly that produce section of the grocery store carries a much steeper price tag. Growing a vegetable garden can be part of a plan for more economic freedom. Whatever amount you grow, be it ever so small, you are spending that much less on food.
However, there is more for you to consider.
There is a freedom in growing your own food beyond the financial. There is a certain amount of “freedom from the system” that you get when you opt out of the grocery store and grow your own.
Ok, I know that sounds a bit like I’ve gone over the edge, but stay with me here for a few minutes and I’ll explain. I promise-I’ve not become a conspiracy nut!
First-the vegetables you grow are always there.
Sure-the vegetables in the grocery store seem to always be there. . . but. . . Did you know that most grocery stores only have a day or two of food in stock?
Trucks come in regularly with food to replenish everything on the shelves and in the produce section. If something happens to disrupt or slow down those deliveries (think hurricane, truckers strike, or gasoline shortage) the food the grocery store has on hand will quickly be depleted*.
If you have a 1lb bag of carrots in the fridge or a couple of cans of carrots in the cupboard those might not last you very long. If you’ve got a 10 foot row of carrots in the garden, well, you’ve probably got enough carrots not only to eat but to store and share. (note: in the fall, you can just cover those carrots with about 8″ of mulch, leave them in the garden and dig them up all winter!)
Second-when you grow your own vegetables you know exactly what you’ve got.
When you buy a can of corn at the store or a couple of peppers in the produce section. . . do you know if it’s been genetically modified? Do you know if the plant has been sprayed with pesticide? Do you know if it’s been coated in wax? Nope. You have no idea!
And for those of you who haven’t really ever paid attention, they’ve done some pretty funky things to plant genetics in the last couple of decades. Yes- they’ve really spliced fish DNA into your tomatoes, and engineered corn and other crops so that when they spray an entire field with RoundUp the only thing that lives is the crop. That is dangerous not only because I’m worried about what the effects of the genetic engineering might be, but also because it possibly puts our food sources in jeopardy.
What if the diseases or bugs mutate so that the pesticides no longer work and we’ve got a super bug that decimates our food crops-which tend to be all the exact same TYPE of corn, or wheat or whatever? What if someone wants to plant that field that has been soaked in RoundUp for years with a different type of crop? Can they?
I don’t know the answers to all these things-but what I do know is that the world is a diverse place for a reason, and more diversity in our food supply is a good thing and creates redundancy for when there is a problem.
When you grow your own veggies you can know exactly how they have been grown, you can make choices about what techniques you want to use, and you can plant a diversity of types that don’t exist on a commercial scale.
These are all good things!
Third-you can grow more flavorful varieties.
I love raspberries-they are my most favorite fruit! Have you ever wondered why raspberry jam really isn’t much more expensive than grape jam, but that fresh raspberries are much more expensive than grapes? Well-it’s because raspberries are very delicate, prone to mold and hard to ship.
The actual varieties of vegetables in grocery stores are mainly chosen for two characteristics. #1-their ability to stand up to the rigors of being shipped across the country and #2-their ability to all mature at the same time so that machinery can be used to harvest them.
Notice that I didn’t mention “flavor” and “nutritional value”.
When you grown your own you can find varieties that mature over time, taste great, or even are just fun and unusual. Like purple carrots, yellow tomatoes, blue potatoes! It’s up to you!
Fourth-you can grow vegetables even in a small space.
Would it be great to have a huge garden that supplies every vegetable your family is going to eat all year long. Sure, that would be fabulous. If you have the land, if you have the time and if you have the desire! But you don’t have to do everything-especially if you are new to gardening.
You can start small and still have an effect. Grow a few herbs in pots, or a patio version of a squash plant, cucumber or tomato right on your deck! Or you can stick some pots in a small sideyard-as long as it gets some sun.
I hope I’ve given you all a few things to think about. In the past I wrote about 13 Reasons to Grow a Vegetable Garden. This year I’m going to continue to write more specifically about gardening topics and techniques, as well as encouraging you all in your gardening adventure.
So what do you think-will you try growing at least a little something this year? What are your thoughts and plans?
*note: this is a good reason to keep a well stocked pantry as well!