Every year I spend many, many hours in the garden and in the kitchen. I think knowing the why behind the task can be motivating and enlightening. Why should you strive to grow as much food as you can? You’ll find the answer in the 10 reasons below.
I didn’t really grow up knowing or tasting homegrown food. Maybe a little here or there. My parents weren’t gardeners. But the first time I tried a strawberry from my mother-in-law’s garden I was in love. It was such a huge difference in taste and flavor the store bought varieties paled in comparison.
When I started my own garden, I got a feel for how good food could be. And when I made a goal to eat only homegrown vegetables for a year, I literally couldn't go back. All the sudden, my food tasted better than any restaurant I could go to locally. Did I suddenly become a good cook? Maybe, maybe not. What did happen was the quality of the ingredients I was using was out of this world.
Did you know the average distance your food travels to get to your plate is 1500 miles? Barbara Kingsolver author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle puts helps bring the number into perspective. She said, “The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations.”
Too many Americans are accustomed to purchasing food that is out of season and shipped from far, far away. I imagine people would be outraged if they couldn’t get fresh tomatoes from their local grocery store in the dead of winter. We truly live in an age of entitlement where if we want a food out of season, we feel it must be available to us.
What if we turned that sense of entitlement into gratitude and appreciation for homegrown food? Can you imagine the difference it would make if everyone grew something in their backyard? Even if it was just one plant. Pretty soon, people might know what real food tastes like and not want to go back to the tomato imposters shipped from Mexico or California. It would reduce fossil fuel use and help the environment by leaps and bounds.
Every hour that passes after food gets picked from the plant, it loses nutrients. Since food is traveling an average of 1500 miles to get to you, that requires several days of time and consequently nutrients lost.
That’s not even mentioning the nutrition loss already present because of depleted soils. In a University of Texas Study, they found declines in nutrition for 43 different vegetables and fruits when they compared data from produce in 1950 and 1999.
Let’s also consider that much of the produce at the grocery store is picked green and unripe. It is left to ripen in the trucks during transit or in ethylene chambers right before they they get shipped out from distribution centers. Picking before peak ripeness drops the nutrition and the flavor.
However, even more important than picking when ripe is choosing varieties with high nutrition levels at the outset. That brings me to my next reason you should be growing your own food.
#4 More Varieties
A walk through the grocery store reveals 2 varieties of carrots, 1 option for celery, 3 varieties of tomatoes, 1 option for spinach, are you seeing where I’m going with this? If you open up a seed catalog you’ll find at least 100 varieties of tomatoes, 50 varieties of carrots, 10 options for celery and much more.
Growing your own gives you freedom. You get to choose what you like and what you don’t. You get to choose what varieties will work best for your area and your garden. And most importantly, you get to choose varieties that actually taste good.
#5 Food Security
I’m not a doom and gloom person or a prepper. However, recent events like the flooding in the midwest, shows us how just one event can have a big effect on our food. Because the so many farmers lost crops and livestock in the flooding, both corn prices and meat prices are expected to rise. Having produce in your backyard is like insurance. You don’t need to worry about food price fluctuations if it’s coming from your own yard.
#6 Saving Money
Growing a garden can save you so much money. I don’t pay extra expenses for my food to travel to me, I don’t pay taxes on food from my garden, and I don’t pay for someone to process my food for me, jack up the price, and then market it to me as “fat free, gluten free, carb free, etc.”
A little side note: Remember that quiet food is healthy food. If your food is screaming all the health benefits on the box, you can pretty much guarantee it’s not healthy after all.
#7 Pesticide and Fungicide Free
I don’t know about you, but the idea of having chemicals all over my food makes me sick. We feel safe because we can’t see them but they are there. You may be surprised to know that even in Certified Organic produce, there are a number of approved chemicals that can be used.
If you grow a garden, you get to be the boss of your food. You choose and know exactly what goes into and on your food. No secrets.
#8 Less Food Waste
In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. According to the USDA that equates to 133 billion pounds of food. 133 billion pounds!
If you take a look in the grocery store, you’ll see lots of perfect fruit. Those of us who have grown a garden before know that the majority of the food doesn’t come off the stem looking that good. And what happens to the majority of the imperfect produce? They get thrown away.
In 2014, to fight against food waste, Intermarché, the 3rd largest supermarket chain in France, started a campaign to sell imperfect fruits and vegetables at 30% off. What a great idea! I’m still waiting for the United States to catch on to that trend.
Here in the US you also still have the problem of all the produce that gets ruined and rots during transit (remember it’s an average 1500 mile trip). And that’s where the garden comes in. I have virtually no food waste from my garden. Zero. We eat imperfect food. If my produce gets to the point where it’s inedible, off it goes to feed my chickens who in turn give me eggs and meat. Anything the chickens don’t eat goes to the compost. Compost goes back into the garden to feed my plants. Everything gets eaten, reused, or recycled back into the garden.
#9 Reduced Danger of Food Contamination
New reports are popping up everywhere of food recalls increases. Did you know that instances of food recalls are up 10% from 2013? In November of 2018, romaine lettuce was recalled because of E-Coli contamination. I remember reading the article and feeling calm. I didn’t have to worry because we were eating lettuce from the low tunnels in the garden.
Just in the past 60 days there have been a number of food recalls. If you want to scare yourself into growing your own food, just click HERE.
#10 Improving Mental and Physical Health.
I have seen the benefits of improved mental and physical health first hand. When you have a garden you naturally eat healthier. You also get more exercise by working in your garden. And last but not least, you get a natural increase of dopamine and serotonin from your brain as you work in the garden.
I commit to a years worth of food from my garden. However, I realized not everyone has the time or space to do that. Even if you started a small garden it would make a big difference. The most important thing is to start somewhere and gain that knowledge and take part of the numerous benefits of the garden.