Grow Your Food
Since we planted our single 4×4 raised bed garden in the backyard last year, our once tiny organic garden has expanded throughout the back, into the front yard, and to both sides of the house. We have supported the whole operation with no amendments other than the compost we make from our food scraps and dried leaves.
As we work to expand our Gainesville organic garden, the question on my mind remains, “How much food can we realistically grow on this small property?”
My goal in gardening is to grow more food — and to do so in a financially and environmentally sustainable way.
To Grow Your Own Food is Empowering
I worked on a local organic farm for six months, and despite the meager pay and browbeating sun, I felt proud to do what felt like a patriotic act: to grow food for the benefit of people in my community.
Now that we have expanded our home garden and I’ve unquestionably caught the gardening fever, nothing has made me feel like I’m having a direct and meaningful positive impact like growing my own food.
When the average vegetable travels thousands of miles (aided by fossil fuels) to arrive at your plate, to grow your own food is environmentally sustainable.
When the far transportation of food relies on gasoline that is decreasing in supply and increasing in price, to grow your own food is economically smart.
When corporate farms are paying workers a wage that equates to modern day slavery, to grow your own food is humanitarian.
And when any of the above is bringing you down and you feel like your legislators aren’t doing anything about it, then to grow your own food is empowering.
In our efforts to grow more food around our small brick house in the Gainesville “Student Ghetto,” we have planted seeds in almost every spot that gets at least four hours of sun. We just mix the sandy soil with heaps of compost and plant seeds. Voilà. It works.
A Resourceful Gardening Approach
We are innovative, frugal and resourceful in our gardening approach:
- We use dead branches, fence posts and shovel handles for growing pole beans.
- We turn old five gallon buckets into hanging tomato and basil pots.
- We use old tires to grow tomatoes.
Who would have thought the best way to recycle something is to use it to grow food?
Friendship & Food
Another major benefit of growing your own food is that it enhances your friendships. When we have people over, the backyard is the obvious go-to spot, among the plants. People love it.
The garden ecosystem brings life to the atmosphere, and it’s a wonderful thing to show people. I love to give new friends tours around the garden because they are always so amazed — as am I — at the beauty and splendor of the garden.
I want everybody to see how easy, and how rewarding, it is to grow food.
Because our current agricultural model is impossible to sustain, the evolution of farming is certain to bring on radical changes.
With 82 percent of Americans living in cities, the next few decades are likely to see a rise in urban farming. It is already happening, and mostly in the US’s most devastated areas.
In New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, Our School at Blair Grocery is educating and empowering at-risk youth by showing them how to grow food.
In Detroit, downtrodden lots are being turned into garden plots where poor single mothers grow organic produce to sell and support their families.
Update (Aug. 2011): I have recently begun a project to document inspiring urban food initiatives at UrbanFoodAmerica.org.
If we want to solve our environmental, social and economic problems, we need to grow our own food.
Don’t wait. Plant a seed today.