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Why Should We Grow Gardens?

Few things can help us on the journey to self-sufficiency more than a garden. Gardens can provide many benefits besides just producing vegetables. Digging in the dirt is good for your body as well as your mind. Tending a garden is relaxing and rewarding. Contact with microorganisms in the soil is good for our digestive system. A community garden is a great way to have social interaction with other people.

Here are some interesting facts about gardens:

There are more microorganisms in one teaspoon of soil than there are people on the Earth.

Potatoes are more closely related to tomatoes than they are to sweet potatoes.

Peaches, pears, apricots, strawberries, and apples are members of the rose family.

A sunflower is not really one flower. It is made up of hundreds of tiny flowers, each of which turns into a seed.

A strawberry is the only fruit that bears its seeds on the outside.

Peanuts are not nuts – they are legumes and are related to beans.

Gardens used to be everywhere
The first big grocery store chains showed up in the 1950s. Before that, we got most of our food from local growers. Today our food travels great distances to get to us. Because of that, it has to be picked before it is ripe so it doesn’t go bad during transportation. As a result, it isn’t fresh when we get it.

Most of our food is mass-produced using traditional big agriculture methods. There is very little variety in big agriculture. Output is dominated by a few crops including corn, wheat, and soy. Mono-cropping techniques lead to depletion of the soil which in turn lowers the nutritional value and the flavor of the food. Mono-cropping also increases pest problems. A huge field concentrated with the same crop attracts the pests that feed on it. Then the crops are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides which get absorbed into the plants. Many of the crops are GMOs. There is much debate over GMOs, but many think they are not a good thing.

Gardens used to be all over this country. Most people had a garden. Then the new model emerged with the big grocery store full of abundance. This coincided with the baby boom after World War II and the emergence of television. Advertising was a strong influence in this new medium. We were sold the idea of a better life. The TV told us what to buy and what to eat. Slowly we were losing our traditional roots that included gardens. Hey, Ozzie and Harriet were the ideal American family, right? I grew up in this era. My father had been raised on a farm and he always had a garden when I was a kid. When I was growing up, I didn’t get it. Why do all that work when there is so much food at Kroger. Eventually the American dream didn’t involve gardens anymore. It became all about the suburbs and pretty lawns. It has gotten so bad that people think a garden is ugly. Recently there have been news stories about local governments trying to stop front yard gardens. In 2011, a Michigan woman faced jail time over her front yard garden before eventually winning her case. There have been other examples. If more people grow a garden, there will be fewer people left to complain about it. When we outnumber them, they’ll come around. Exercise some civil disobedience – grow a garden.

Gardening is good for the soul. I find working in the garden to be very relaxing. Planting something and taking care of it as it grows and produces something useful is rewarding. Eating a fresh tomato right off the vine is a pretty nice bonus too.

Gardening is good for the body too. We need bacteria for a healthy digestive system. Our gut is full of them. Our bodies can handle eliminating the bad bacteria and allowing the good ones to thrive. Foods like yogurt and sauer kraut aid in this process – I’ll talk more about those in future posts. When we come in contact with the soil, we boost the beneficial bacteria in our gut. So don’t be so quick to wash your hands all the time. Eating a little dirt is good for you!

It’s also about quality and nutrition. Many of the foods we buy at a grocery store have been sprayed with chemicals to protect them from insects. They tell you to wash the food but some of that stuff doesn’t come off. When you grow a garden, you control what goes into your food – and what doesn’t! When you grow your own food, it isn’t always as perfect looking as what you get at the store but you know where it came from. If what you grow has a bad spot or a bug, you can cut around it. It won’t hurt you! I love the taste of our tomatoes compared to the cardboard tasting things from a grocery store. Personally I was hooked the first time I tasted a cantaloupe I grew. The flavor was incredible compared to what I had from a store. The quality is better. The nutrition is better. It is fresher. It just plain tastes better.

It starts with you
I started my garden in 2009 with just one raised bed. It has expanded many times since then. There have been many challenges. Some years have been better than others. Still, every Spring I get excited when it’s time to start planting. I begin every year with optimism as I try new plants or go with old favorites. If everyone had a garden, collectively we would be less dependent on the mass-production system. That might seem like dreaming, but we have to start somewhere. Why not start with you? Get out there and plant a garden. We can change the world one garden at a time.

Resources for this post:
Michigan Woman Faces Jail for Front Yard Garden http://www.permies.com/t/9204/lawn/Michigan-Woman-Cited-Garden-Lawn

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