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Articles by Claudette

Gardening for Personal and Planetary Health 8/09

August 2009

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When I was a kid everyone had a vegetable garden in the back yard. I guess it was an economic necessity for a family with eight kids, as it was for many families of the time.

Every spring one of us kids would lose our boots, stuck deep in the mud of last year’s garden. It was completely irresistible. The trip downstairs to the root cellar was less so, however. It was a creepy dungeon, albeit one that supplied a winter’s worth of potatoes. I cringed to put my hands into the burlap sack, lest I encounter a spider, or a soft potato sprouting roots.

I would give my eye teeth for a root cellar today. I get the most wholesome feeling plucking fresh vegetables from my very own garden with my very own hands and preparing them for dinner. (Okay, maybe I’m a bit of a freak, but I really get off on this sort of thing.)

Though the seeds, soil and sunshine do all the work, I take great pride in my harvest. My role is small, but the rewards are priceless. Sadly, vegetable gardens today are few and far between.

It’s time for change, my friends. Growing your own vegetables will keep you healthier and will save our planet. The most immediate benefit of fresh produce is the maximum taste and nutrition provided. The bending, stretching, squatting, digging and hoeing provide valuable physical benefits – the bigger your garden, the smaller your behind.

Our food supply system is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases. CO2 emissions for the production, processing, packaging and distribution of food consumed by a family of four have been estimated to be about 8 tonnes a year. (Click here for more astonishing facts.) With increasing population and decreasing oil, this way of life is not sustainable.

11 Healthy Reasons to grow your own vegetables

1. Taste – You can’t beat it. The vegetables we are used to buying, sometimes have no flavor at all.

2. Convenience – It’s much easier to step outside to cut some lettuce than to get in the car, drive to the grocery store, park the car, wait in line . . .

3. Vegetable consumption will increase – You can’t help but consume more vegetables because of the first two reasons. And vegetables are so good for you.

4. Nutrition – The sooner you consume a vegetable after it is picked, the more nutrition you get. When your produce gets to the supermarket, it’s already depleted. If you store it in your fridge for a week, it compromises the nutrition even further.

5. Fitness – All that bending and squatting is good for your butt.

6. Being outdoors – You get to soak up a pleasant frame of mind and Vitamin D. You don’t get Vitamin D from vegetables. You get it from sunshine.

7. No hidden pesticides – When you grow your own vegetables you know exactly what’s on them – nothing.

8. Family activity – Here’s something you can do together. If your kids plant it, they just might eat it.

9. For sharing – Your friends and neighbors will love you when you harvest more than you can eat.

10. Cost – Once you’ve created the garden space, the cost is negligible. You can save money all year round with cold storage, freezing and canning.

11. The Planet – It’s worth every small action we take to reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gases.

We do the best we can, right? Times have changed with families being busier than ever and double garages taking up would-be garden space. Maybe you’re ready for change. Has this piqued your interest?

Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
• If you’re short on space, or courage, start small with a tomato plant or strawberries in large pots.
• Mix vegetables like lettuce, carrots or radishes in with the flowers
• Convert a flowerbed to a vegetable garden
• Dig up some lawn to create a garden plot
• Create a raised bed for visual interest and easy access (less kneeling)
• Purposely grow different crops than your neighbor and exchange produce
• Share a plot with a neighbor for shared work

If you don’t like mud and dirt but you love fresh produce, support your local farmers market. Now here’s a food supply we want to see flourish. You will pay more, but you will be supporting a good cause. In doing so you’re also doing something good for yourself. You gotta love that.

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