Why you should... Grow Your Own Food
I have never been much of a trendsetter. The clothes in my closet today, look quite a bit like the clothes that were in my closet in the ‘70s, with the exception of a few Hawaiian shirts that I added ten or 12 years ago. However, today I find myself on the forefront of the trend: growing my own food. When I planted my first vegetable garden in a Chicago suburb in the early ‘70s, I had no idea that what I was doing would lead to me being part of a trend in 2018.
A study by the National Gardening Association shows that over 43 million households in the U.S. planted a vegetable garden in 2009. This number represents 37% of total U.S. households, and an increase of 7 million households over the 36 million reported for 2008.
So what is it that is driving people to grow their own food?
• Economics In 2008, nationwide, the total spent on food gardens was $2.5 billion. The return on this investment was $21 billion. On an individual basis, the average household with a 600-square-foot garden spent $70 a year and in return received $600 worth of veggies. Sure beats the stock market.
• Food Safety Reports of food borne illnesses appear regularly in the news. The use of pesticides by the industrialized food producers is a continuing concern. Many processed foods available in the grocery store contain additives and preservatives that a growing number of people want to avoid for health reasons. If you grow your own food, you know exactly is in, and on, it.
• Exercise Gardening activities provide both cardio and aerobic exercise. Studies show that an hour of gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women and almost 400 calories for men. Spend some time bending and stretching in the garden, and you will feel like you have attended an exercise or yoga class.
• Taste Compare a tomato or ear of sweet corn picked from your own garden, with the same items purchased at your local supermarket. You will discover that there is no comparison. The food you grow in your garden is fresher, and therefore tastier.
• Environment Growing your own food means that you are not purchasing industrially-grown food. At home, pesticides are not polluting the water supply, chemical fertilizers that result in soil erosion are not being used and the only energy use is provided by you and your family. No fossil fuels are needed for your home garden. You also control the amount of water used to grow your food.
Gardening is a great way to bring a family together and jointly learn about how the food you eat is grown, as well as what it takes to put fresh fruits and vegetables on the table. What a great way to teach children and grandchildren responsibility and to develop a strong work ethic.
Gardening provides the opportunity to expand your social circle. Truly serious gardeners may want to become certified UC Master Gardeners, as I did. My personal experience has been that since becoming a Master Gardener in 2013, I have probably tripled the number of people I know in Napa.
• Community If you have enough room to grow your own food, then maybe you have enough room to grow food for others. There is nothing more gratifying than dropping off ten pounds of excess tomatoes at the local food bank. You will feel proud and happy.
Even if your home does not have room for a garden, you can still grow food. Consider container gardening if you have a sunny patio or spot in your backyard. You will be pleasantly surprised at how many tomatoes, peppers, eggplant or zucchini can be grown in pots. There are also community gardens in Napa where you can rent a garden space and grow whatever you like year-round.
There is a downside to gardening and growing your own food, and
that is that you may become what
is considered a garden nerd, geek or food snob. You will become fascinated with exotic sounding garden tools such as a Japanese Hori-Hori knife. You will consider calling the Water Police when you see your neighbor watering not only their lawn, but also their driveway, sidewalk and the street. You will turn up your nose when you see someone buying chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, and that same nose may get punched if you try to tell that person that they are evil. In social situations you will gravitate towards people using terms such as NPK, integrated pest management, heirloom or pinching off. The worst is when you become convinced your tomatoes are better than anyone else’s tomatoes and you enter them in the Napa Town & Country Fair.
No matter what it is that is driving you to grow your own food, I think you will find that your new hobby will give you and your family great pleasure and improved health, while saving money and helping the environment too.