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Why Bother to Grow Your Own

I grew up in a very beautiful rural part of England in a large country manor house which afforded my grandfather the space to grow a lot of food and bad tasting homemade wine. He prided himself on the compost pile, the fragrant blooms from the walled rose garden and his competition sized marrows that always won the summer garden fete.  This garden was his mental sanctuary while raising a second family in his 60’s. My childhood memories muster up the smell of rich soil, shelling peas and big fat strawberries. I had no idea of the virtues of good eating then, but it was an introduction to a life outdoors.

Fast forward – I married an outdoors man, who also grew up with the same “garden to table” environment, but more out of necessity due to real poverty. It was more than a hobby, he knew food in the garden meant food on the table. But being a man of extremes, he now takes it to an entirely new level of science as he has taught me the many ‘why factors’ of growing your own food.

Growing your own, or possum living as I call it, is an alternate self respecting lifestyle and choice.  It is a way of living and is more than just about having better tasting and more nutritious food. It is for us about getting off the commercial grid and taking control of our life. Growing teaches you to work within the rhythms of nature’s seasons and in harmony with it. It’s about personal growth and gaining patience.  It builds relationships between us, the garden and the land.  It’s spiritual, educational, addictive and it is for our benefit.

For me it’s also about colour!  The colours seem to represent different properties within the food and essential food colour groups, which fascinates me.  Our garden is a living art canvas and a micro world of intense animal life that includes bees, birds and butterflies that  absorbs CO2 and produces oxygen for a healthier environment.

So here are a few factors to consider about the ‘fresh’ food you eat:

(1) As population expands, food demands expand and quantity becomes more important than quality. Corporate farms are a loveless business,  profit per acre is what matters,  not your nutrient intake.  A corporate farm’s god is the profit pie chart. Private family style farms, like most of your weekly farmers markets, care and have a more personal investiture.

(2) The caliper of the term organic is very wide. What qualifies for organic in terms of food is a broad spectrum. Just because it professes organic, it does not always mean truly organic and that it comes from the best soil.

(3) It has been estimated that one third of the U.S. health care costs could be eliminated through an increase in nutritious diets.

(4) U.S. supermarket’s “fresh produce” now grows in soil in which 85% of the minerals have been depleted.  In essence, the soil is dead.

(5) The soil a plant grows in reflects the quality of the food you eat. Soil is a living organism that provides all the nutrients a plant needs that is then reflected in the food.  If the minerals are not in the ground, they will not be in the food.

(6) Fertilizers, at the apex of soil nutrients, contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, known as the “big 3.” Unfortunately, the types used in mass corporate farming  are largely synthetic, which does not lend itself to healthy living soil, it is harmful to local streams and lakes as well as their riparian life.

(7) Cold storage, although necessary for the mass market,  means an extreme extended shelf life.  Fresh can mean 4-6 months prior to your purchase.  And those big shiny polished apples you reach for, that gleam like majestic orbs, are sprayed with shellac, which is a furniture polish of sorts. Simply washing your produce won’t remove that.

Abraham Lincoln once said,  “Population will increase rapidly and er’ long the most valuable of all the arts will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil.” And we are in fact very much heading that way now.

So, if we know mass produced growing, or let’s  call it ‘ manufactured food,’  provides inadequate benefits  and you have the option to organically grow at home in dynamic living soil, which will produce untold benefits within your food, why not home grow? We all need to eat and eat the best way we can. We all know the benefits of healthy eating and exercise .

It’s relatively easy to get started and does not need as much space as you think, but you do need good soil and adequate sunlight.  You can grow in a pipe, which is about 20 lettuce plants in a 6′ vertical pipe. You can grow on a patio, in a window box or start a community school garden.

Optimally,  organic gardening should be about relationships.  This concept is called either companion gardening or bio intensive gardening. The idea is to maximize limited space and to put together plants that mutually enhance each other’s growth and nutritional  productivity.  Just like in life with people, so too in plant life – symbiotic companions.  When grown in this relationship, plants become stronger, disease resistant, attract more beneficial insects and will produce more and better tasting fruit with higher nutritive value. For example,  a small garden can thrive as a robust multi producing haven if the right plants grow together. Green beans and strawberries grown together mutually enhance each other’s lives and productivity, bibb lettuce and spinach also thrive together in close proximity. This method of growing translates to four times in special efficiency.  However, if a bad companion that behaves as an antagonist, such as a tomato plant next to a potato or fennel plant, they will harm each other or subdue their productivity. A human analogy – much like the Hatfields and the McCoys. And as Johann Wolfgang von Goeth said,  “Nothing happens in living nature that is not in relationship to the whole.”

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