Happy Thursday to everyone! Today’s Reader Question deals with something that is very near and dear to my heart:
I am enjoying reading your daily gardening posts but I don’t understand why you put so much emphasis on growing your own food. I live very close to a grocery store and frequent my local farmers’ market. Perhaps if you can expand on your reasons, I may have a better understanding.
Delores in Northern Virginia
Delores, thank you for your question…it means a great deal that you would take the time to write in. I hope that my answer doesn’t come off condescending as that is definitely not my intention. [Stepping up on my soapbox] There are so many angles from which I would like to answer your question and I hope that I can articulate each one well.
- Just-in Time Delivery Systems. In the average American store, there are only 3 days worth of inventory. These stores are your local grocery store, the larger chains and all the way up to Walmart. The JIT delivery system is a very efficient beast and when there aren’t any disturbances in the process, everything clicks along at a happy pace. But what happens when one thing in that chain goes awry? I’m sure you remember when gas prices exceeded $4/gallon in late 2008 and the truckers were threatening to strike because their diesel prices were over $5/gallon. Think for a moment what would happen to the store shelves if that were to happen.
- Processed Food is Crap. Plain and simple, it’s crap. Think about what you eat daily and I’ll guarantee that over 75% of it comes from a box or a can. The food manufacturing business is a multi-billion dollar industry that profits from the mentality that everything can be purchased from the grocery store. Nutrition is compromised when foods are processed and God knows what is added to the food to keep it from spoiling or to keep the texture from being appalling.
- GMOs. I could go on and on about genetically modified organisms. Take a look at this post for more information on how companies like Monsanto are patenting life forms and calling it food.
- The Connection between People and the Earth. Don’t worry…I’m not going to go all hippie on you here but man was designed to tend the earth and its inhabitants. Those inhabitants include plants, animals and other humans. There is nothing more satisfying to the human soul than to eat from a garden that you have tended. To know that you are responsible for the transformation of a mere seed into a vegetable is an incredible and moving experience. I hear lots of people say that they don’t have time to tend a garden but then they spend countless hours plopped on the couch watching TV or liking things on Facebook. It’s really about priorities.
- Independence. While you may never be able to provide 100% of your needs from the backyard garden or chickens, taking control of even 10% of your family’s food consumption is very freeing. You begin to realize that eating seasonally is better for you and you don’t have to run to the grocery store for every little kitchen item. As my grandma always says, “you make do”.
Your Children. If you have a garden, your children will enjoy tending it with you. My two and five year old children loved going to the garden last summer. Granted, they weren’t much on pulling weeds but they loved harvesting the veggies. They remembered how small they were when we planted them and they have a connection with their food. They understand that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store…they see that it takes real people to produce the food that goes on their plates.
I’m not sure exactly when we Americans went so far off course and let corporations take control of our food production. Perhaps it was when two-income households became the norm and Mom was busy working instead of preparing food. Perhaps it was when parents began signing little Johnny up for every extracurricular activity known to man and the family became so busy that no one ate dinner at the same table. I’m not sure when it happened but I am sure that it’s not normal. While I don’t claim to be an anthropologist, I feel confident stating that at no other time in human history has the common man been so disconnected from his food. I think it would be a fair wager to bet that your grandparents tended a garden and probably even had small livestock like chickens. I’m 36 years old and one of my grandfathers was a farmer who took care of his family by working the farm. I can imagine his satisfaction, knowing that no matter what was going on in the world outside of his farm, he was confident that he could provide his family with healthy, nutritious food. Can we say the same?
[stepping off my soapbox] I’d love to hear the opinion of other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers…whether I’ve ruffled your feathers or you’re completely onboard, leave me a comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy gardening!