Today, we live in a fast-paced world and rely almost exclusively on others for our food. Grocery stores, warehouse and convenience stores provide commercially grown and prepared, non-perishable, pre-made, pre-packaged foods. These foods can be highly processed with added fats, sugars, preservatives, and chemicals used to increase the shelf life. Even the fresh produce offered is frequently grown hundreds of miles from where it is sold. There is not much “local” in the food we buy locally.
It used to be a more common practice for people to have their own gardens, and enjoy home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients. In 1918, however, the first self-serve grocery stores began in the United States. So began the demise of the home garden.
The ease and convenience of grocery stores has caused us to lose touch with what goes into (and on) our food. The amount of pesticides sprayed on our food can be dramatic. We are exposed to a cocktail of chemicals on a daily basis. Studies have shown there is a clear intersection between how food is produced and the impact on public health. The only sure way to know what’s on our food is to grow it ourselves.
For the past five years, I have been a gardening educator at a local Montessori school and I was constantly amazed how many kids had no idea where their food comes from. When asked where their food comes from they replied, “H-E-B.” They had no idea that a carrot grows underground, flowers on pea vines turn into pods with peas inside, or what a broccoli plant even looks like. By exposing children to gardening, they can explore where their food comes from and learn to appreciate it more! Kids are five times more likely to eat vegetables when they have grown it themselves. If you have trouble persuading your children to eat their vegetables, give them a shovel and have them help you in the garden.
We live in a culture of generations of people who have misplaced their connection to the earth, the seasons, and the environment. We are losing our innate desire to nurture and feed our bodies with healthy, fresh, unadulterated foods we have grown. Having a garden, however, can be a positive step to put you in control of where your food comes from. It makes you an active participant in what you put into your body from seed to table. There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of going out to your garden, harvesting what is ready and preparing it for you and your family the very same day.
Fresh vegetables from the garden taste better, keep longer and contain more vitamins and nutrients. Store bought tomatoes are a far cry from the vine-ripened tomatoes you can grow yourself. Carrots are sweeter. Fresh picked lettuce in a salad is hands down better than bagged pre-cut salad mix. Think of your garden as your very own personal grocery store full of things you and your family love to eat.
I grew up in Colorado and like many of you from up north, I thought growing food only happened from mid-May until early September. Lucky for us, the Austin weather we all love means that we can grow food year round! In case you missed that, YOU can grow food year-round. How awesome is that?!?
Grow what you like to eat in your garden. Start small. What is your favorite fresh herb? Fresh herbs can be expensive to buy but easy to grow and add amazing flavor to your recipes. What’s your favorite vegetable? Planted in September, broccoli, for example, is a powerhouse producer that you can keep harvesting until March.
Gardens offer hope. They bring joy. Create community. As we observe a tiny seed grow into a plant and give us food we see first hand the magic of life.
Plant the seeds of health and wellness. Let your garden empower you to make positive lifestyle changes and grow patterns of healthy eating. Bring on the plants and fill your plate with fresh vegetables from your garden.