Eat Locally - Grow a Garden

Thomas N. Tomas

We have turned our food supply system upside down. We used to grow most of our own food locally and supplement it with special foods we could not grow at home. Now most of our food comes from thousands of miles away. Even farmers who produce food eat very little of what they raise. How many wheat or corn farmers eat the wheat or corn they grow?

Our food system has been turned into a commodity system in which producers turn commodities into money and consumers spend money to buy manufactured food products. The connection between those who grow food and those who eat it has been completely dissolved.

By planting a garden, we can reverse the trend. I am not suggesting that we all return to growing most of our own food. What I am suggesting is that we can make a significant difference in our food supply system by growing what we can and sharing locally.

For example, lets look at potatoes. If you plant potatoes in April and again in June, you should be able to harvest potatoes from your own garden from at least July through December. That's half the year that the potatoes you eat will not have to travel from the Red River Valley, Idaho or Maine to your table. You will have eliminated the use of all that energy to transport potatoes and know what was used to grow them.

You will also gain an appreciation for what it takes to grow and store the potatoes you eat the rest of the year. If you buy the rest of your potatoes from local growers, you will further reduce the environmental cost of putting potatoes on your table. The same can be said for lettuce. Why grow lettuce in California and ship it thousands of miles when lettuce can be harvested locally from May through November?

It may not seem like much of a contribution to improving our food system, but it is something you CAN DO. Talking about problems is good but even a little positive action is more effective. How much difference can growing your own garden make? It is well to remember that, for most of the history of civilization, most people ate what they grew or gathered locally. It is the only stable, long term way of feeding ourselves. It is good to keep these food producing skills sharp in case the era of plentiful, cheap energy comes to a close.

Growing your own food has other benefits. From June through September, we enjoy strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, apples and other fruit from my garden. We look forward to each in its season and avoid purchasing these fruits out of season, because the anticipation of home grown fruit is also enjoyable. We don't have to worry about health problems like those recently associated with raspberries from Guatemala or strawberries from Mexico.

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society: Home      Gardening