Why We Grow Food – Becky Searle
When I got my first proper vegetable patch I had dreams of living off the land, fully dependent on the ground in front of me and my ability to use it. The area was about 100 square meters; not enough to sustain a family of 4. But any attempt was better than none. Food produced at home not only tastes better and costs less, but also has a significant effect on your carbon footprint.
Did you know that for every calorie of food that arrives on a plate in the western world an average of between 10 and 12 calories of fossil fuels have been used to get it there? Of course I’m not just talking about actual transport. I’m talking about manufacture and use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, mechanical harvesting, the processing and washing of said food, packaging and of course the distribution too – sometimes thousands of miles for the sakes of eating fresh strawberries in January.
When we choose to eat local food we are choosing to eat more seasonally, and reduce some of that carbon waste. But when we choose to grow our own food at home, we are learning about the true value of our food and connecting with the entire process of its production and processing, and gaining a better understanding of what eating seasonally really means. Moreover, eating seasonally is better for us too. Foods that are available at each given point in the year have been shown to contain more of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need in the different seasons.
But growing food is more than just a sustainable option. Watching seeds sprout into seedlings and then grow into strong healthy (and delicious!) plants is inherently satisfying. For most of us, we get into grow your own for the joy it provides us. The food we produce is the goal, but not the driving factor.
When we put our hands into the earth, our bodies release the chemical oxytocin; the same hormone that helps mothers and babies to bond and the hormone we experience when we are falling in love. In short, it makes us feel good.
There are numerous studies proving the beneficial effects of more time outside, and gardening is a great facilitator for this. More than that, it makes us want to be outside, around the garden that we have created.
Growing food is not solo venture, it is a collaboration between us and nature. We sow the seeds, then nature takes over for the next part. We plant the seedlings out and water them and nature takes over again. Being part of this reciprocal relationship of nurture and nature is inherently good for us regardless of the outcome. But when the outcome is fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, there are even more benefits.