Something I dream often about is being completely self-sustained. By this, I mean growing my own food, milking my own cows, having a team of chickens for entertainment and eggs, making my own cleaning products and body care products, and woodworking, etc. In the 21st Century, it is likely you do only a couple or none of these things. I do none. I do buy organic and local produce as often as possible and have been, for the last month or so, buying raw milk directly from a local farm.
The next step for me, is to grow my own food. Gardening and working with dirt is wonderfully healthy for mind, body, and spirit. My mom and I grew an abundant garden one year when I was about 11 and it was not only fun, but rewarding as well. It’s a shame that now edible gardening is a lost art, especially in urban areas. Back in the day, it used to be the norm…back when it wasn’t normal to have red peppers in the dead of winter if you lived in the Pacific Northwest. Did you know that as recently as 1946, nearly 50 percent of all produce grown in America came out of backyard gardens? If you walk through a produce department at Safeway you can’t even tell whether it is summer or winter. If we want red peppers in winter, we get them. Even if they’re from Chile. Most of us have no idea the environmental and societal implications of being disconnected from food. I believe such a disconnect makes for an ignorant, arrogant, and lazy society (heh…pretty harsh.)
According to Joel Salatin in Folks, This Just Ain’t Normal,
“Cultivating this habitat awareness and responding to it’s nuances allow the gardener to enter a world of mystery and grandeur. Ultimately all gardeners realize that their landscape depends on something much bigger than themselves. Seasonal cycles, frost dates, degree-days, day length, and even waxing and waning moon cycles all play a part in this majestic garden dance. It’s a place of wonder and awe, ultimately impressing on the gardener a palpable humility toward this divine ecological umbilical.”
In other words, we don’t want the next generation’s children asking, “Where is the salsa tree?” According to Salatin, this was a real question from a real kid. Actually, it would be cute if it was a small child but this was a middle schooler.
Back to the whole self-sustained idea. It really got me thinking when I read that most communities would run out of food in three days following a natural disaster like a flood, hurricane, earthquake or political unrest. What if Safeway freight delivery drivers went on strike? What if there was a fuel crisis and food wasn’t delivered by truck for a week? Fifty years ago, people would be prepared for this with cans of vegetables and freezers of meat in their basement. Mostly they were preparing for winter, but it’s a good idea to be self-sustained. We are such an instantly gratified culture that we don’t think ahead or prepare when it comes to the stuff that keeps us alive.
In addition, I have 5 more reasons for you to grow an edible garden:
1. What Salatin refers to as, Immunological Exercise. In other words, exercising your body’s immune system. According to researchers published in Foodborne Pathogens and Illness regarding the hygiene hypothesis, “This hypothesis states that a lack of exposure of children (as well as adults) to dirt, commensal bacteria, and ‘minor’ pathogenic insults results in an immune system that does not function normally. This lack of antibodies to true pathogens in the immune system has resulted in the dramatic increase in allergies and asthma in developed countries over the past twenty years.”
2. Research found one of the many millions of bacteria in dirt acts as an Antidepressant! A strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to trigger the release of seratonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at Royal Marsden Hospital in London, first stumbled upon these findings while inoculating lung cancer patients with a strain of M. vaccae to see if their symptoms improved. She noticed that in addition to fewer cancer symptoms, patients also demonstrated an improvement in emotional health, vitality, and even cognitive function. (from healinglandscapes.org)
3. Stick it to the man! We all have that rebel inside of us. Well now you can be a rebel with a cause. Who needs conventional topsoil destroyers and ecologically irresponsible corporations to put food on their table? We can feed ourselves thank you very much! I do not support “traditional” farmers who polute 25% of the United States with chemical-ridden soil. Vote with your dollar. I vote against Monsanto, the government bureaucrats supported by Monsanto, and GMOs everyday.
4. It is Budget Friendly. Your own garden can allow you to eat the freshest food possible for the smallest price. Buying a pack of seeds for a few bucks can get you pounds of veggies!
5. Cultivate a richer respect for God’s green earth. Being familiar with the timeless methods of growing food is therapeutic. The time spent outside in nature, the skills developed, and the reward of your bounty. We are all personally dependent upon the ground to provide us with nourishment. Without it we wouldn’t be here. Let’s get down to earth 🙂
Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of a garden. You can start out simple with a potted tomato plant. If you don’t have a backyard you can use flower pots or wooden boxes. Put them on your front porch, patio, or front lawn.