Why go to the trouble of growing your own food when it’s so easily available from supermarkets? It may seem a strange question to ask on a website dedicated to gardening but sometimes it’s useful to take a step back and ask why we invest so much time and energy. The answer to that question will vary from gardener to gardener but understanding the reasons can help us focus on the most enjoyable aspects and motivate us when the weeds seem overwhelming. That’s why we asked our Facebook community the same question and the responses were fascinating. Read on for a great dose of inspiration!
Providing for a Family / on a Low Income
In the wake of the credit crunch it’s only natural that many people now grow their own food to help make ends meet or to supplement what they can afford. Gardening doesn’t just save on grocery bills, it’s a low-cost, healthy, family activity too. Small wonder then that waiting lists for allotments in the UK are often more than 10 years now and container gardening is more popular than ever. Since most people feel the need to spend time keeping a relatively tidy garden, why not make it productive?
"So we don't starve to death. :-) also so we can afford to pay the mortgage."
"Because it’s great fun for me and the kids. We all like the food too."
Gardening is Good for the Soul
So many people told us gardening was their therapy. I’m inclined to agree as it ticks so many boxes for our mental health – fresh air and exercise, away from the daily stresses of work, expressing our creativity, a sense of accomplishment... the list is endless.
"To feed my family and my soul. Nothing like a few hours of dirt therapy to make life a little sweeter!!"
"I do this to play in dirt... need a good excuse when you become an older lady!"
"When I'm out there life makes sense... It's a living metaphor for so much. Perspective is good, and so are fresh tomatoes."
"Having a work of art to look at in my yard"
"It keeps me from randomly throttling people.=)"
Health and Sustainability
Organic food is increasingly popular but most shops treat it as a luxury item to be sold at a premium price. Being able to grow food without pesticides and eat it straight from the garden is superior in every way to produce that is pumped full of additives, packed to prevent it deteriorating, transported and then sold as ‘fresh’. There’s also the understanding that we’re contributing to the sustainability of our planet and reconnecting with the skills that helped past generations cope with climatic or economic disasters.
"I like being able to provide food for my family that is better tasting, more nutritious, and I can control what is used (or isn't) on the plant & soil."
"I garden to reclaim the skills of self-sufficiency my grandmother and her generation took as routine."
"Reducing the grocery bills, reducing chemical intake, reducing negative impact on the Earth, reducing reliance on ‘others’ to survive"
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Taste Better
I challenge anyone who has tasted a fresh tomato from the vine or sweet corn straight from the plant to tell me that taste isn’t a factor in growing your own. For some it will be a primary motivation – gourmet chefs around the world now have their own gardens and that can be available at home too, picking out wonderful tasty heirloom varieties to grow each year. For others it’s more of a side-benefit but enjoyable none the less. I enjoy cooking so much more since growing my own, especially throwing together Italian vegetables and herbs – with such great-tasting fresh ingredients it’s hard to make mistakes!
"It tastes better. Shops’ and supermarkets’ veg don’t match up to home grown. What can beat the taste of home grown new potatoes?!"
Ethical Reasons for Growing Your Own Food
I’d like to add another angle on this subject – one which isn’t always at the front of our minds but I think many of us feel subconsciously. Increasingly there’s a suspicion of the way our food chains have become dominated by companies whose primary concern is shareholder’s profit. From supermarkets to international agri-businesses the goals of market domination and convenience foods seem to obliterate the connection with our planet, its people and animals.
By way of example, I was shocked but not that surprised by this week’s report from the Guardian newspaper about farm workers’ conditions in Southern Spain. Just a few miles from the tourist resorts of the Costa del Sol are vast greenhouses that supply Europe’s supermarkets. Charities are labelling the shanty-town existence of the migrant labour force as practically ‘state endorsed slavery’ with many lacking running water and adequate shelter. Conditions are so bad that the Red Cross is now handing out food rations. What a shocking indictment of our modern food supply system and one that I’m sure is not restricted to Spanish farms.
Simply growing our own vegetables doesn’t solve this injustice but it does help reconnect us with our food sources. It makes me more conscious of waste, more careful to look at labels in the supermarket and gives my children an understanding of the value of natural organic food. Few of us have the time to grow on a scale that would make us self-sufficient but it’s still worthwhile to take a step in the right direction.
Like so many who responded to this question, I don’t think I could imagine not growing at least some of my own food now – it feels like part of who I am. That’s why, just like our Facebook community, you’ll rarely find a gardener who’s not passionate about the food they grow and longing to tell you about the benefits!
There are many other great reasons to grow your own food and we’d love to hear your views on this subject – please add them as comments below...