Three Reasons to Grow Your Own Food
The term “victory garden” has circulated in the United States since World War I, as Americans on the home front sought to supplement food supplies and contribute to war efforts. Many are comparing the current coronavirus pandemic and its effect to that of World War II, so it is no surprise that Victory Gardens have resurfaced as a trend in American homes. US gardening companies experienced record high sales in 2020. Seeds were sold out across the country. Millennials and Gen Z entered the gardening scape their parents inhabited for years. It seemed the age-old practice of growing has reached a new renaissance.
People were drawn to the garden for good reason. Aside from the great outdoors, there are many reasons why growing your own fruit and vegetables is a beneficial practice. So, whether you need some convincing or would like to pat yourself on the back a bit more (as you should), here are some of the reasons why growing your own edibles is helpful to you, your wallet, and the planet.
Homegrown produce puts the grower in control of what they consume.
First and foremost, if you are the grower then you know exactly what products are applied to your produce. A study by the Environment Working Group found that 70 percent of fruits and vegetables in the US contain trace amounts of pesticides. Because of this, 90 percent of Americans have trace amounts of pesticides in their bodies. Read the full article from the EWG here to get the full story.
There is also the matter of nutrition. Growing your own produce ensures that you get the most nutrients from each fruit or veggie. The grower is in the control of when each edible is harvested when grown at home. If a fruit or vegetable is picked before it is truly ripe and ready, its nutritional content is cut short. Growing your own ensures that you get the most vitamins and minerals out of your garden by letting the produce take its time.
Furthermore, nutrients start to degrade the moment a fruit or veggie is harvested. If produce travels for a week and then sits at the store for another few days, it significantly shortchanges the nutrients in each item by the time they make it to your home and into your meal. If a bell pepper only travels from your backyard to your kitchen, there is less time for the nutrients to break down.
Another way homegrown produce outshines that of its mass-produced counterparts comes down to soil. Many large commercial farms engage in monocropping-a practice where a farm only grows a single crop, thus exhausting the soil and eliminating its biodiversity. If the nutrients are stripped from the soil, they are stripped from the plants grown from that soil as well, then you cannot enjoy those nutrients in your diet.
Lastly, it cannot be ignored that fresh produce tastes better. It is not all in our heads, either. There is scientific evidence for why fresher produce has better taste. A lot of it has to do with those vitamins and nutrients that produce is robbed of in transport and harvest when heading to big grocery chains. For a fuller explanation, check out this excellent blog post.
Often when making the case for growing your own produce, the economic benefits are left out, but the numbers don’t lie. A Roma tomato plant may produce up to 20 pounds of tomatoes per season. The cost of 20 pounds of Roma tomatoes at the grocery store could easily exceed $40.
You are also less likely to throw out vegetables and fruits grown with your own blood, sweat and tears. If time and energy are invested into a project, a person is more likely to make sure it does not come to naught. You will find use for the things you grew. An extra salad will make its way into a meal. Berries are added to cereal or oatmeal. Throwing less produce away means throwing less money away.
The prospect of less waste could greatly benefit the planet as well. Big agricultural practices put some strain on the Earth and its resources. Some of these practices are necessary for the sustenance of humans. There is no denying that humans must eat. However, eliminating wasted produce reduces these negative impacts. According to the United Nations Environmental Programs, 30 percent of food, equaling $48.3 billion, is thrown away every year in the United States.
As was mentioned before, monocropping (also called monoculture) strips nutrients from the soil that are difficult to replace naturally. It leads to a vicious cycle where big farms rely on chemical fertilizers to supplement nutrients in the soil that are needed to produce crops. The more crops are grown, more depleted the soil gets. Rinse and repeat. Then those chemical fertilizers (and pesticides) make it into the surrounding environment and entire ecosystems suffer.
Beyond the soil, there is the impact of commercial farming on our air and atmosphere. Iowa State University performed a study on the distance most food travels to get from the farm to our table with the current food system. The study found that the average produce item travels 1,500 miles to reach its point of sale. That produces anywhere from 5 to 17 times more carbon than if the food was purchased locally.
Odds are, if you are reading this article you did not need to be sold on the benefits of growing your own fruits and vegetables. Now you know that the practice is not only fun, but it is a big win for your body, your wallet, and the world around you. Perhaps that is the reason it is called a “victory” garden. May we all be champions.