Saturday, October 23, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Grow Your Own

The "grow your own" food movement is gaining momentum across the United States.  And why not?  Your friends are doing it and talking about it.  Should you join in?  Here are my top ten reasons why you should:

10.  It's fun.  As a Costa Rican friend of mine says it's the closest thing to real magic that we know -- throw a few seeds into some scratched ground, apply a little water, hope for abundant sunshine and wait for food to show up as if delivered by elves.

9.  It's easy.  I think whoever started the fiction that gardening is a lot of hard work was someone who likes to brag about how hard he or she works.  It doesn't take much and it takes even less if you follow the two fundamental principles of nature -- plant too much and diversify.  Try everything.  Then see what works best without your work.

8.  It's togetherness.  Everyone can garden, from my 78 year old mother to my not yet 2 year old granddaughter.  And if we all lived in the same state, which unfortunately we don't, we could all do it together.  We could even have contests.  But at least we can talk about our gardens over the phone, and share pictures via facebook.

7.  Dealing with garbage.  People with gardens don't have garbage, they have compost.  Start a garden and never again wonder what to do with your banana peels, Sunday paper or morning coffee grounds.  Virtually anything that isn't plastic or metal can compost reasonably quickly into rich and fertile soil for your garden.  I might be a little cautious about detergents, shampoos and cleaning solutions, but other than that -- fingernail clippings, hair, lint from the dryer, dust swept up off the floor, etc. -- into the compost bin or pile it goes.

6.  Saving energy.  When your food grows right in your own back yard or other nearby plot it somewhat obviously takes less energy to get it to your table than when it grows in New Zealand or Chile or even California, for those of you who don't live here.

5.  Understanding soil.  For the most part in nature, soil happens.  Much of the energy of civilization seems to be directed toward preventing soil from happening.  Learning to build soil from the top down (watch this blog for a future lesson) helps us to understand how death and decay are not the complete and total end of life, but rather just another step in one immense continuous cycle.  Material decays into fertile soil whereupon it supports and gives new life to plants -- which in turn feed animals (including humans).

4.  Taste.  Fresh, homegrown food inevitably tastes better than food from stores or even restaurants.  No amount of preparation can compete with nature's freshness.  To me nothing tastes better than a tomato that doesn't even make it into the house from the garden.  If you think you don't like vegetables, based on buying them from the store, try growing your own.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

3.  Health.  Some people think we have a healthcare crisis in this country but I suspect about 80% of our healthcare issues are food related.  Fresh food not only tastes better, it's better, WAY BETTER, for you.  Grow your own food and reduce your healthcare costs.  Win win.

2.  Save money.  If you're like me, it's unlikely that you will save money in the first couple of years of gardening.  You will be so anxious to start this, try that, install another that you will spend far more on garden tools, decorations and unnecessary seeds than you will ever save on the food you produce.  After a couple of years however, you have your plot set up and you can even save your own seeds if you plant open-pollinated varieties.  This year we produced about $300 worth of tomatoes alone that we consumed ourselves and we had a lot of other crops also.

And now for the #1 reason to grow your own.  Become independent.  Growing your own food is the gateway drug to getting out of the rat race entirely.  You find out that life happens outside the money economy.  Through your very own effort from seed to plate you can produce what you eat.  Who knows where this newfound power will take you?  Who knows where it will end?  Maybe you'll decide to walk or ride a bike, instead of driving a car.  Maybe you'll take up sewing or knitting and abandon the Gap.

My hope is that everyone tries a little gardening and then decides to do with a little less world-trade based consumption, shifting instead to home grown or at least locally grown alternatives.

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