Home grown food has superior taste, an unspoken joy, a definite satisfaction. If you’re not sure this is the case, you had better read on… By Rod Bailey
People the world over are starting to appreciate the importance of home gardens and small scale market farming. Many have never had another option. How many millions have always been subsistence farmers? If they do not grow it, they do not eat it. Even just a generation or two ago, much of our food was grown in our back yards, or at least in the local area.
Then we started to think it was somehow degrading to get our hands dirty, or to be “just” a farmer. We were persuaded that it was better, for the sake of efficiency and economies of scale, to get the “experts” to grow our food. But the last 50 years of industrial agriculture has told its sad story. Now, there are worldwide concerns about the negative health effects of pesticides and herbicides and GMO’s, about the doubtful nutritional value of force-fed factory farm food, about the sustainability of our environment under big agriculture. People’s minds are turning back to a safer and more gentle time. The local food movement is growing and is here to stay, and what is more local than your own garden?
What we need in our crazy mixed up world, where we often feel out-of-control of important aspects of our lives, is, well, to take back some control!
There is one guaranteed way to know exactly whether your food was grown in contaminated soil using contaminated fertilizers, what pesticides and herbicides have been sprayed on it, if it is GMO or not, whether it has been irrigated with contaminated water, whether it has been grown in an ecologically responsible manner. How?
Well, don’t just refuse to buy garlic imported from China where you believe agricultural chemical use is largely unregulated and environmental pollution is unavoidable—grow some of your own! It is one of the easiest of all crops, and you will be 100% confident of its healthfulness. Yes, support our farmers wherever you can by refusing to buy imported food, but why not join them in growing your own food? I know of no other way to have complete peace of mind and food security than to grow as much of your food in your home garden as you can.
Health from the ground up
Far beyond simply avoiding the negative aspects of big agriculture as already mentioned, the health and nutritional benefits of home grown produce are plain.
Taking the time to carefully balance your soil will improve nutrient and phytonutrient value. Eating foods-as-grown in season has special health benefits. Picking food ripe and ready to eat makes a real difference in taste and nutrition. Picking it as you need it guarantees a freshness that cannot come when it is picked green, refrigerated and transported hundreds or often thousands of kilometers. If you do preserve or process it, you are certain it contains the whole food, and only ingredients you are happy with.
And we haven’t started to discuss the inestimable benefits of the exercise that gardening gives us! Or the blessings that spending time in the sun is to our neuroendocrine system and our mood. Or the effect on the mind of time spent viewing and studying nature instead of man-made artificiality and those screens that have become so ubiquitous!
With a little bit of knowledge and infrastructure, there are very few parts of the world that cannot have a garden year round. Healthy food can now be only a few steps away from your kitchen!
Resilience for hard times
As a teenager, I well remember a time when money was scarce, and we ate nearly exclusively out of Mum and Dad’s garden. I would take a couple of Grosse Lisse tomato’s, a Crystal Apple cucumber or two, a cob of corn, a couple of pieces of home-made bread and a salt shaker to school for my lunch. Money was scarce, but food was not—it was right there in our garden!
Today we don’t have to look too closely at current food production and distribution methods to see how vulnerable we can be when we don’t grow at least some of our own food. The fresh food industry is a finely balanced and precarious behemoth where a hiccup in the weather via floods or drought, in electricity or diesel supply, in transport or refrigeration systems, in fertilizer or chemical supply, a contamination incident or the failure of a major business would be a real threat to supply the two retailers that most Australians rely on.
Home gardening and small scale market farming should be seen as a national security issue. Interruption of the supply chain would have serious national implications—not just to your family and mine, but to hospitals, nursing homes, etc. The day is coming when the agro-chemical complex will fail us, and then we (and our friends and communities!) will be so thankful we have invested in our home gardens!
A noble independence
There is a special satisfaction in living a busy and self-supporting life. Being a passive consumer reliant on others for our well-being does none of us any favors. There is no more fundamental area of our lives where most of us have the opportunity to be at least partly self-sufficient than in growing our own food!
And you don’t need to be blessed with many acres of land to grow on like I am. Think of all those smart and hard working Italian Nonna’s and Poppa’s who transformed typical suburban backyards into living larders! Although worldwide around 4 billion people now live in cities and are thus dependent on big agriculture (including nearly 70% of Australians), the recent urban food movement has taken off, and innovative growing methods have allowed even small city apartments to become productive. Who hasn’t been amazed and inspired by how weeds can grow in the most impossible places in city footpaths and concrete walls? If you want to do it, you can, in spite of your constraints!
The Ideal Plan
I undoubtedly come to the topic of home gardening from a biased (but unrepentant) point of view. I believe that life in the garden is the very best opportunity for human beings to live balanced, sustainable, productive, healthful, cheerful and fulfilling lives—and we all have it in our genes. Our first parents were created to be gardeners, and given stewardship of the first garden. If
only every family had a home on the land, with enough space for a good garden to feed themselves (and to share or sell their produce), they would have both the means and incentive for a useful, industrious, and self supporting life. I do not believe that anyone has ever improved on that plan. Why settle for anything less than doing the best you can in your circumstance?
Editor’s Note: Rod Bailey writes from Australia. This article was originally written as an introduction to a whole foods cookbook geared for a secular audience. We have chosen to keep his Aussie “lingo” to retain the flavor of the article. The principles transcend the geographic location or the intended audience.