Going right from high summer to early fall this year! Just last week it was in the 90s, and now we are getting 40s – 70s for temperatures every day. Monday night we even got down to 38F here in Bakerton. Normally our first frost wouldn’t be until mid-October, though just 30-40 miles to the west, over the Allegheny Front, it would be fairly normal. This really shows the importance of micro-climates. Those of you have heard one of my talks know that I am big on the idea that most anybody can be successful at gardening if they just follow a few basic principles, and pay close attention. Two of the interlocking principles that I talk about involve paying more attention to …
The USA is an immigrant culture, with a broad range of food traditions imported from around the world. This is no less true of Canada, as this article from the September 23rd issue of the Toronto Star shows. A quick visit to community gardens in first and second tier cities across the continent also shows this clearly as many plots are maintained by recent immigrants, and their plantings are full of crops many longer established Americans might not recognize. The eggplants to the left represent Thai, Turkish, Japanese, Indian, Laotian and Italian varieties. All of these varieties are from the eggplant trials in Burlington, VT’s Intervale gardens in 2002. Here is a comprehensive photo gallery.
Finally, the simple fact is that growing your own food frees you from both cultural and economic dependence on the corporate food system and gives you control over central parts of your life. Food security speaks to the economic aspect of independence, but cultural “food freedom” is just as important. Click to See All Seven!
A lot of people these days seem to think that growing their own food is a difficult and specialized skill beyond their capability. This is especially true among those who have grown up in urban and suburban settings. Many may not even have a relative who has produced their own food. But the fact is that humans have been growing food for more than 10,000 years, and there is a broad cultural memory of how to do so that can be tapped if one just slows down a bit and listens. Click to See All Seven!
The USA is an immigrant culture, with a broad range of food traditions imported from around the world. The artisanal and the cultural motivations are especially closely related, as there are many specialized food ingredients which are impossible, difficult or expensive to obtain in the market – especially in all but the most cosmopolitan areas. But if you grow them yourself, you can control the supply that you need to fulfill your personal or cultural desires. Recognition of this fact goes beyond just the maintenance of food cultures among new immigrants; the growth of the international Slow Food movement is also evidence. Click to See All Seven!
Growing food can be profoundly satisfying as a pasttime; this cultural aspect is highly developed in Europe and Great Britain, where the production and preparation of food is a core activity for a significant segment of the population. This is especially true for those who enjoy cooking; growing crops for the kitchen is just one more element of the culinary passion. Click to See All Seven!
The distance fresh foods travel from farm to table in an industrialized system also affects their flavor. The chemical constituents of nutrition and flavor are similar (though genetics and growing conditions also contribute to both). Another factor is that the choice of variety also makes a difference the large growers have to choose varieties that ship well, while you can choose a variety for reasons, culinary or otherwise, important to you. Click to See All Seven!
The time and distance that separates you from the sources of supermarket food takes a toll on nutrition, too. Large scale growers shipping nationally have to choose vegetable varieties that stand all that handling, even if it means they have to give something. And most of the healthy vitamins and mineral components in fresh produce begin to decline the moment of harvest. The longer the wait, the less there is left. Even organic crops — though they start out better — suffer from the centralized, long distance shipping system. Some of the crops highest in anti-oxidants such as beta-carotene are kale and winter squashes, both of which are relatively easy to grow. Click to See All Seven!
The average distance that food in an industrialized system travels before you buy it at the “local” market is ~1500 miles. This means that the “time to table” can be a week or more, even for “fresh” produce. Home grown food is also more environmentally sustainable / responsible because of all the transportation energy that is saved. Over time, that long distance food is going to get more and more expensive, too. The case is clear: if you grow it at home, and eat it at home, it is fresher and greener. Click to See All Seven!