Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why Grow Vegetables?

I've been spending some time lately preparing for the upcoming gardening season.  Specifically the vegetable garden.  Each year I plot out the rotation of vegetables, and consider any new varieties I would like to introduce.  Starting in February I planted onion seeds indoors, and soon there will be tomatoes and cucumbers among other things.  Small seeds planted with great hopes for the coming season and all that it will bring.

Hoping for a lot more of this in the coming season
Admist all this I have wondered why?  Why bother doing all this work each year?  What am I getting out of it?  What possesses me to dig up all this dirt, plant seeds, weed and water?

And why should other people be doing it too?

If you ask people why they should grow vegetables often the immediate answer is to save money.  I think this is a half-truth.  Starting a vegetable garden from scratch isn't easy.  Building beds and enriching soil can be back breaking work.  Purchasing tools, seeds, and plants can be expensive to start.  But like many things, once you have the equipment for the job, you are set.  Tools, given they are good quality, should last a lifetime.  Instead of purchasing seeds each year, you can begin to gather seed from your own plants.  So while there is an initial investment of energy and money, that cost will be offset by years of gathering food for free.

A fraction of the cost of store bought but what else?
I actually think money is the least important consideration when growing food.  There are many more important benefits we should be taking note of.

Preservatives, genetically modified seeds, pesticides, and fertilizer.  All of these can be found in food we purchase at the grocery store.  But do we know exactly what sort of chemicals are involved, and in what quantities they can be found in our food?  Probably not.  Even the most diligent shopper might have trouble with these issues since, for instance, genetically modified food in Canada is not required by law to be labeled.  Are we aware of what these agricultural alterations do to the environment and to our bodies?  When you grow your own food there is no question.  It's your soil, your seeds.  My veggies get water, sunshine, and homemade compost.  I have no questions about what they contain.

Do you know what your food is being sprayed with?
Not only does garden fresh food lack an unexplained chemical component, it actually has a higher vitamin and mineral content.  Fresh food, ripe and picked straight off the vine, has had a chance to develop vitamins and minerals that vegetables that have been picked unripe and shipped will not have.  The quality of your homegrown vegetables will make you healthier and they also taste better.  After eating heirloom tomatoes all last summer we've had a hard time adjusting to shop bought tomatoes this past winter.  There is a distinct lack of flavour that is hard to ignore.

Shop bought tomatoes just do not compare
Once you've discovered the taste of fresh veggies chances are you might be more willing to experiment.  I used to hate beans.  I'm not sure I've ever voluntarily eaten a bean in my entire life.  Until last summer that is.  I was gifted with a handful of beautiful seeds that I couldn't resist tucking into the ground.  I thought if I couldn't eat them surely someone else would be glad to receive fresh beans as a gift.  Well, I didn't gift that many.  Turns out, fresh beans were far better than I could have ever anticipated.  So are radishes, garlic scapes and mustard.  All vegetables that normally I would not eat from a store but when they come out of my garden they might as well be different vegetables entirely.  I know now that if I grow it, I'm more likely to eat it and enjoy it.

If you didn't grow your own garlic would you know about eating garlic scapes?
The truth is our society in general has lost touch with our food.  Many people, particularly children, are so far removed from their food they don't even know where a potato comes from.  We are unaware of how pesticides and fertilizers are used in agriculture, and how pervasive genetically modified crops have become.  This lack of knowledge has led to weight problems and poor health.  Even the act of cooking has become a lost art.  The reality is that food has become a commodity.  Corporations are routinely changing it to make it cheaper and faster to produce.  Their goal is to make money.  Do we really want our food, something we require in order to survive, to be left up to corporations whose only goal is profit?

I invite everyone to take back their food.  Grow a tomato in a pot on your balcony.  Plant a tub full of lettuce  There is joy to be had in bringing your own food to the table.

Growing your own food just makes you feel good!
If you're interested in knowing more about why growing your own food is important I encourage you to look at the following:

Argentina's Bad Seeds - People & Power - Al Jazeera English














32 comments:

  1. very true Marguerite and well presented.
    My lack of veggy growing has been due to lack of knowledge. But after growing my first potatoes 3-4 years ago the taste and joy of just going into the garden to collect them, instead of having to carry heavy bags back from town, encouraged me to grow them each year since.
    I have also been reading books from the library about veg growing and even purchased a book despite my no more books rule since reaching 60. I am looking forward to growing a variety of veg this year in my new raised beds.
    I have planted my first garlic but do not know what garlic scapes are though I have read about them on several blogs. Frances

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    1. Thank you Frances. Glad to hear you're expanding your garden horizons into veggies. One of the things I like about veggie growing is the chance to start over each year. Every season gives you the opportunity to learn a little more and then you can try again. I learn more just experimenting than anything else.

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  2. bravo, marguerite .. these days, what with all the gmo seeds, and corporate interference, growing our own food as much as we can is the best way to eat food we can trust .. we have a veggie garden in our back yard that we share with our neighbour, plus we have a bed at the community garden here .. i love our community garden because, among other things, it gives people the opportunity to learn to grow food for themselves ..
    i grow vegetables for the sheer joy of it .. which can only enhance the nutritional value, i think ..
    i often wonder why the home and garden channel on tv doesn't take up the mantle and start teaching people to grow .. isn't that part of what television is meant to be .. an educational tool .. ? .. ah, well .. i suppose there isn't much money in it ..
    so .. thank you, for encouraging people to 'take back their food' ..
    a well thought out post ..

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    1. Thank you Jane. I actually laughed at the idea of tv as an educational tool. While the possibility is there, Knowledge Network is an excellent example, the problem is money is the driving force. 'Entertainment' makes more money than education unfortunately.

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  3. Bravo from me to Marguerite. This is so excellent..so well written and it echoes exactly my feelings. Now to follow your links and videos.

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    1. Thank you Brenda. You might find the links both uplifting and frustrating. They make me so upset but also make me want to get out there and 'plant some sh*&' so to speak :)

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  4. This makes me think I should shed my aversion to veggies :)

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    1. absolutely! We should all shed that aversion. who knows, if you grew your own veggies you might you actually like them :)

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  5. Good post. I grow mainly tomatoes and herbs. In addition to the reasons you mention, my wife grew up around her mother's large vegetable garden. I'm more interested in ornamental and wildlife gardening, but Judy insisted that I grow some vegetables because she feels that a home is not a home without a vegetable patch.

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    1. Like Judy, I grew up in my mom's veggie patch, not having veggies would just seem wrong. Funny though how many gardeners are divided between veggies and ornamentals. I've seen some really amazing examples of gardens incorporating both and wonder why we seem focused on growing one or the other.

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  6. I try to grow as much as I can. Which isn't that much, but I'm learning. The round-up ready crops scared me into wanting to know what was in my food!

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    1. The more I learn about round-up the more I dread supermarket food. Like you, I'm growing as much as I can, increasing a little bit each year. I'm certainly not an expert gardener but that's part of the fun. Each time something grows it's a huge celebration.

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  7. I'm with you, I'm not really convinced you will ever really save much money growing your own vegetables but you will enjoy the great flavors, and knowing that your food is clean, free of chemicals and other evils. That in itself is worth all the effort:)

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    1. I've heard the money argument so many times and it just felt a bit off to me. Looking at my budget I know my garden eats up a lot of money but I realized the money just didn't matter, I was getting something more out of it.

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  8. Hi, I've just come across from Gardening Brens - I agree entirely with you - sometimes you do wonder why you put yourself through it - but it has got to be worth all the worry about whether things will germinate or survive etc. growing your own is far better than the alternative. Good post.

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    1. Hi Elaine, seems every year at this time I think about all the work ahead and a small voice in the back of my mind wonders what exactly am I doing. I can't imagine not doing it though which is a good thing :)

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  9. Excellent post! I agree that it isn't always cheaper and a lot of hard work including planning and educating ones self on pests, soils, crop rotation, etc. In our fast paced society many people don't want to be bothered. I do it also, as you mentioned, for my children so they have a connection with the food they eat. I think when we are aware of what we are putting in our mouth our relationship with food changes too. And there is nothing more rewarding than watching a child harvest veggies and get so excited about it. This week my school group harvested carrots and the children mouths dropped open when they saw the first carrot come out of the ground from the tiny seeds they had planted several months ago. It made my day!

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    1. What a wonderful experience watching those kids grow their first carrot. You gotta feel good about that and it's something they won't likely ever forget. I remember growing a lima bean in elementary school in a little plastic cup, I loved checking that plants progress each day.

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  10. I've stopped buying supermarket tomatoes. I've got a few left still in my cache of frozen ones. Those seeds you gave me sprouted!, I'm looking forward to harvesting their fruit and tasting a fresh one again.

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    1. I have one last bag of frozen tomatoes I'm hoarding :) One of my only issues with growing my own food is that for such a large part of the year you're left with nothing fresh. Glad to hear those seeds sprouted, I have yet to start mine.

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  11. A lovely post and all so true,I love picking my own fruit and veg and thinking what meal can come from what we have gathered that day.The watching of the seeds as they are growing from the soil,I am still like a kid in a sweet shop checking them daily

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    1. I love that image of checking in the sweet shop :) I get a little obsessive in spring too watching for signs of growth.

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  12. Spot on, there are so many other, better reasons to grow your own edibles than to save money, though I won't complain if that happens too. But the taste, the satisfaction, and the knowledge that I know exactly how and where what I am eating as grown and when it was picked? Unbeatable.

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    1. Thanks Janet. I've got no complaints if I save money but I sometimes wonder if we're misleading people when we say gardening will save them on the food bill. As you say, the other benefits are simply unbeatable.

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  13. I truly enjoyed your article, right to the point without losing ground for being too sensational which many anti-GMO articles tend to be. My hope, like yours, is that more and more people will wake up to the fact that their non-food, mass produced diets are making them sick, tired, depressed and overweight. Thank you for an inspirational piece.

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    1. Thank you Brenda, I'm so very glad that you enjoyed this. I know what you mean about sensationalizing this topic. Sometimes people get very dramatic (which is understandable) but instead of helping their cause they end up driving others away.

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  14. Great post, Marguerite! I once read an article about about how produce is grown and shipped to the grocery stores. I realized that by the time I bought a package of green beans off the supermarket shelf, they could easily have been two weeks old. You can't get much fresher than picking them from your garden an hour before eating them. And there is nothing, I repeat nothing, like the taste of a home-grown tomato!

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    1. So true Rose. I wonder how many people realize the amount of miles logged by their produce. I know I was mystified when I found this out. It's no wonder the taste is so poor when it finally gets to us.

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  15. Like you I love fresh homegrown veggies. I don't grow them to save money though, it is cheaper at the farmer's market. I only grow them for personal satisfaction and knowing I don't spray chemicals. There is just something 'Earthy' about getting back to nature and starting seeds, watching them sprout and later reaping the benefits. Nothing compares to that feeling.

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  16. I loved the videos! Isn't it amazing that kids couldn't recognize a simple tomato? I liked the other video too, but know from experience that it isn't easy to fight with various government bodies over using vacant government owned land. I have had nasty run-ins with the Region of Peel about the few things I have snuck into the vacant lot next door.
    Growing your own food is so rewarding. I haven't had great success, but that does not deter me in the slightest. Nothing rewarding is ever easy.

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  17. I've watched that Ted Talk - I loved the saying that "growing your own food is like printing money!" I can't wait to get started - I might start some soil preparation this summer. I've been exploring the strategy of "permaculture" garden design. It seems to make sense to my way of thinking. SPRING is in the air!

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  18. Growing your own food just makes you feel good! as well as saves your money on groceries and enjoy better-tasting food.

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