One of the questions I am asked, is “Why should I grow my own food? I can get what I want at the grocery store, even organic produce.”
I Eat Healthier
There are several reasons that I have always grown some of my own food. One of them is that it promotes healthy eating. I am much more likely to eat a variety of vegetables if I have just picked them from my own garden. Sometimes I decide what to cook for dinner depending upon what is ready for picking. I also find that the vegetables that come from my garden taste better. This is because they are picked just at their prime. Vegetables at the grocery store, even organic vegetables, are harvested one or more days (sometimes weeks) before they are offered for sale. Because they have to travel varying distances from the farmer to you.
Good for the Planet
And that brings me to another reason for growing my own: food from my garden doesn’t travel so far. Think of the use of fuel to transport vegetables and fruits from South America, or even across the U.S. There is no use of fuel to transport vegetables from my garden to my kitchen – just good ole steps for my fit bit to record! I’ve heard it said that the average distance a vegetable or fruit travels is 1500 miles from farmer to plate. That’s a lot! In fact, it takes between 7 and 10 calories to produce and deliver 1 calorie to your plate.
Grow or Buy Local
That’s also why I urge folks to buy from local farmers what they do not grow themselves – the transportation distance is much less, and the vegetables are usually harvested within 24-48 hours of when they appear in the farmers market.
Getting back to healthy eating, a March 2008 report was released that said organic plant based foods are more nutritious and provide an average of 25% more nutrition than conventional foods at the grocery store. This study was based on a comprehensive review of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic vs. conventionally-raised foods, controlling for level of maturity, handling after harvest, and testing in the same form. Further, there are more studies showing that pesticide and herbicide residues are still on the conventionally raised foods that are offered for sale at the supermarket.
Home gardeners often choose to grow heirloom and heritage varieties, as opposed to conventional varieties of vegetables. This practice preserves biodiversity of our food. We are losing biodiversity at an astonishing rate. As agriculture has become more and more the realm of agribusiness, crops are selected for their uniformity, ability to be machine harvested, and maturing at the same time for efficient harvest. AS a consequence, fewer and fewer varieties are being cultivated. According to the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN), 75% of plant genetic diversity has been lost worldwide since the 1900s.
And finally, I garden because I experience a feeling of independence, even by growing one or two vegetables. I also get more vegetables for my dollar when I grow my own. And there is the feeling of well-being that comes with digging in the dirt and watching a plant grow and the eating the food it gives me. That feeling of well-being is also why gardening is used as “dirt therapy” for veterans with PTSD, as well as in prisons (there is a marked reduction in violence), and in people who are dealing with emotional and mental issues.
In short, there are a number of reasons to garden.
And in the coming installments, we’ll talk about what you should consider when planning a garden, what to plant, how to plant, and how to harvest. Stay tuned ….