When you appreciate how important food is to your health, the next logical step is to grow your own food. The advantages of this are numerous, not only to the health of you and yours, but to the health of the planet, too!
When you grow your own food, the logical advantages are economic – the food is free, or virtually so. But the unsung advantages are far more extensive.
Eating freshly picked food is far more nutritious and far more delicious! Eating freshly-picked, mature and ripe produce is the time when the nutrients are at their maximum. As soon as produce is picked, the nutrients start to dwindle. Storage and traveling depletes nutrients badly. Store bought food is always picked too early, which depletes the taste as well as the nutrients.
Home produce is always seasonal. Seasonal food is always the healthiest. For example, citrus is a cooling fruit, so shouldn’t be eaten in winter. Coconut is too. Coconut is a tropical fruit. Citrus, before being cultivated, only grew in summer. Nature is wise!
Contact with the earth connects you to nature. In itself, this activity, done regularly has been proven to extend and improve quality of life. We need to connect to nature to survive in this crazy, fast-track world of ours. This vital aspect is often ignored.
Connecting with the earth also grounds us, or earths us. In effect, this helps de-stress us. Walking barefoot on grass or soft earth is good for this, but handling the earth is also appropriate.
The exercise of gardening means you are using a lot of your body. You are bending, lifting, turning, and weight bearing – that all important exercise to ensure your bones stay strong and healthy.
Gardeners also tend to thrive in gardening communities. They help each other out, they swap goodies, they share and support each other – all vital aspects for a healthy soul!
Gardening sustainably and productively is wonderful hands-on education for children. Teaching children how to garden can mean your are teaching them how to live. After all, if you know how to grow your own food, you know how to live. Anywhere. Isn’t that the most precious gift of all?
OK, so you may be familiar with all those benefits, but why is growing your own food so good for the planet?
Market gardeners grow mono-cultures. Everyone is familiar with the disasters of mono-cultures. Disease is rampant, so insecticides are widely used, leading to soil depletion, organism and wildlife destruction and unhealthy, chemically laden food for us.
Some market gardeners only grow a limited variety of plants, using the same soil for the same harvest over and over. This depletes the soil of natural fertility, so chemical fertilisers are used. This has the same impact as do the insecticides. An excesses of both wash into our rivers and then the sea, polluting these and those who inhabit them.
Gardeners inherently have a diversity of plants. When you learn how to garden sustainably, you learn which plants support the health of other plants. For example, cucumber growing up corn can work really well. A synergy is created between the two plants which is greater than the sum of the individuals.
Permaculture is a system of gardening that works this way. The plants do most of the hard work.
An excellent example of how well backyard gardening helps the planet is Russia. For decades urban Russians have enjoyed small, family, gardening plots, dachas, which provide a family with most of their food.
The figures are staggering. In 1999, 71% of the population of Russia produced 87% of the country’s fruit requirements, 77% of its vegetable requirements, 92% of its potato requirements, 50% of its milk requirements and 60% of its meat requirements.
When you grow your own food, you tend to nurture the soil, allowing beneficial organisms to thrive, planting trees to shade and stabilise the soil. You tend to share your bounties with visiting wildlife. Many symbioses develop where everyone benefits.
Is there a single better way we can each so easily do, to ensure the planet survives in tact for future generations?