Question: Why should we grow our own food?
Answer: I’ll give you ten reasons.
One of the things I love most about the Digging Deep Campaign is that it’s not all doom and gloom. We don’t normally herald the impending arrival of an environmental doomsday scenario in which roughly a third of the world population dies in a sh**storm of drought, flood, typhoid, typhoon, and crop failure. On the other hand, every once in awhile you have to ask yourself what motivates folks like us to write, research, and experiment so passionately on the subject of sustainable food. I suspect that for most of us, it’s at least in part about fear.
I recently heard a rumor that America’s corn crop is in for a disastrous year. (Actually, many industry experts are predicting a bumper crop.) While only semi-credible, the rumor certainly brought me right back to how I got involved in the sustainable food movement in the first place—the fear that our food system will soon fail us and we’ll all be, well, screwed. At first, I thought the answer was going to be the reemergence of small, sustainable family farming. Now? I’m not so sure. I think the critics are right when they say that sustainable farms can’t feed us all, at least not right now. That’s not because there’s something inherently wrong with small farm methodology—it’s just a matter of scale. Already, many sustainable farms are hard pressed to keep up with demand. What if something catastrophic does occur and the burden of feeding 315 million falls to our already over-worked small farmers?
Our current local food systems can’t feed us, but I think we can feed ourselves. It’s time for folks toliterally take matters into their own hands. Not because I actually think the corn crop is going to fail and everyone who doesn’t have a CSA share or their very own milk cow is going to starve to death. No, it’s not quite that simple. While the threat of a “food crash” has certainly renewed my sense of urgency, I have plenty of other reasons for growing my own food. As someone who is currently working in Milwaukee to expand opportunities for folks to grow their own food, I’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about why people should start edible gardens. To that end, I’ve put together a top ten list of reasons that I’ll release in the next post or two. To kick us off, here’s my first two!
10. Property value. Starting an edible garden can add value to your house just as any form of landscaping can. Furthermore, one study showed a positive impact on property values in the immediate vicinity of community gardens, with the largest impact in lower-income neighborhoods. This is particularly good news for the majority of us who now live in an urban setting—it turns out that gardening is actually good for the neighborhood! Community gardens have also been connected to decreased crime in some neighborhoods, though others have reported an increase in theft due to tomato bandits and the like.
9. Garden Therapy. Gardeners everywhere will tell you how therapeutic gardening can be, but gardens are now being used formally by organizations and therapists for everything from stroke rehabilitation to grief. While therapeutic benefits of gardening aren’t limited to growing food, I personally find it more rewarding to grow something I would otherwise need to purchase for my own survival. Flowers and ornamentals are great too, though, and many are actually edible!
Until my next post, think of your own reasons. The question isn’t why do I grow my own, it’s why don’t you?
American Horticultural Therapy Association: http://www.ahta.org/content.
Edible flowers: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/
A different list of Top Ten Reasons: http://www.foodmatters.tv/
Sources for this Blog Post: http://www.growingcenter.org/