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We live in a consumer-driven world. We aren’t encouraged to produce anything on our own, but specialize in a certain area and allow others to provide what we consume. So, is it worth while to grow your own food?
About a decade ago I would’ve said no. I would’ve argued that it’s easier, cheaper, and less time consuming to buy your food from the store. But, then again, my definition of food then and my definition of food now are drastically different.
Then, a gazillion food recalls were plastered all over the news. I was buying bell peppers from Canada in the middle of summer and research was telling me that the fresh produce we were consuming was often full of pesticide residue.
And all of these realizations helped sway me into changing into a gardener.
My husband had tried to convince me several times before, but it just hadn’t clicked for me. But, once it did… I haven’t looked back and we continue to try to improve year after year to produce more and more of our own food.
Knowing where it came from and how it was grown became increasingly important for me and is one of the main reasons we began growing our own, but here are my top 11 reasons you need to start growing your own food.
11 Reasons to Grow Your Own Food
1. Know What’s In It (and On it)
Strawberries are often at the top of the dirty dozen list and have an average of 20 chemical pesticides found on them by the time they reach supermarket shelves.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t want to be consuming unknown chemicals and I certainly don’t want to be feeding it to my children.
We are told over and over again that we need to add more fruits and vegetables to our diets. And while I think that’s a great idea I don’t want to add all of the excess chemicals with them.
By growing our own food, I can grow it organically and know exactly what’s in it and on it. There’s no more questioning whether or not it’s actually safe to eat or whether the rinse in the veggie cleaner got all of the questionable substances off. That, in my opinion, makes all the effort worth while.
2. Know Where It Came From
I don’t think there is anything quite as important as knowing the source of your food. Knowing your farmer has never been more important than it is today.
And if you grow your own? Then you know exactly where it came from.
A lot of produce on store shelves is shipped from overseas and travels an average of 1,500 miles before it is consumed. Think about that. 1,500 miles… that’s a lot. But, if we grow our own? We not only know where it came from, but we also reduced our carbon footprint immensely.
And for things that you simply cannot grow yourself? Buy it local! Get to know your local farmers. You’ll still have the benefit of knowing how it was grown, where it came from and still reduce those average food miles significantly.
3. You’ll Make Healthier Food Choices
Store bought produce… I have to admit. I kind of avoid it. It’s expensive, it doesn’t generally look the best, it’s often tasteless. And even when we do purchase it, a lot of times it’s well past edible before we find it hidden in the crisper drawer.
By growing some fresh veggies and fruit right on our property we can make healthier food choices. Instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips, we can grab some beans or sweet peas right out of the garden and eat them fresh. Or, a few fresh cherry tomatoes.
It also allows me to cook with a new mindset. Instead of wondering what I’ll be able to find at the store that will be fit to eat, I can plan our meals around what’s ripening up in the garden.
And, for whatever reason, my kids are a lot more interested in foods that they’ve helped grow than they are in some random head of broccoli at the grocery.
4. More Nutrient Dense Produce
That stuff at the store? It’s generally lacking, significantly, in nutritional value. It’s often grown for high yields, longevity, and sprayed with chemical pesticides. This often results in food that is severely lacking in nutrients.
In fact, since 1940, we’ve seen a significant decline in the mineral and vitamin content of our fresh produce at the grocer.
When we grow our own produce, we don’t have to have massive yields and produce that resists bruising. Nor do we have to deplete the nutrient content in our soil (which results in less nutrient dense foods). Instead, we can select heirloom varieties and grow our food in a more organic way to provide us with not only great tasting, but more nutrient dense produce.
5. Save Some Money
When I first started looking into beginning to grow our own food I thought it would be so much more expensive. But honestly? It isn’t.
Now, this isn’t to say it can’t be. If you go all out purchasing tons of containers and gadgets and every seed variety you can get your hands on, it probably will be more expensive. But, if you stick to the basics, grow a row garden, and improve and build as you move along… it is so much cheaper.
I know not everyone can have, or wants to have, a traditional row garden. But even raised beds can be made fairly inexpensively if you get creative.
6. You’ll Be Happier and Reduce Stress
“You can bury a lot of troubles by digging in the dirt.” – Author Unknown
I have anxiety and high stress, especially since my mom passed away. But, when I get outside and spend some time working in the garden? I feel a million times better, my stress practically melts away and my anxiety is pretty much non-existent.
Gardening, that sense of pride when you see something growing or put that farm to table meal on the table? That feeling cannot be duplicated. I don’t know what it is… but it’s that feeling I was missing for so long and I finally found it.
Gardeners are also inherently more happy, according to studies. Maybe it’s the dirt, maybe it’s the vitamin D from the sun. But, whatever it is, it’s worthwhile.
7. It’s Fantastic Outdoor Exercise
Weeding, planting, harvesting, even just walking through the rows in the fresh air, are all great forms of low-impact exercise. I know that I feel better when I have a little intentional movement in my day and I try very hard to get that movement in daily. But, the movement my garden requires? Makes me feel even better.
Sure, if I let the weeds get out of hand then I might be sore from all the bending and pulling. But, I also feel better and more physically fit when I spend that extra time in the garden every day.
8. Fresher, Better Tasting Produce
You ever purchased a tomato at the store? Not usually the best tasting thing, right?
But when you take a bit out of a freshly sliced tomato from your own back yard?
Commercially produced fruit and vegetables are not produced for their amazing flavor. They are produced for longevity and high yields. They will hybridize plants specifically to meet certain criteria… like a tomato that doesn’t easily bruise and stays fairly firm. While this is great for the store shelves it isn’t so great for the flavor of the food.
When you grow your own, it’s fresher and probably not one of those super-productive, tasteless hybridized varieties from the store. So, it’s going to taste better. And you might actually want to eat it!
9. Better Variety
Like I just mentioned, commercially produced fruit and veggies are hybridized for high yields and longevity. The varieties are few and even if they weren’t, the stuff you can buy at the store is incredibly limited.
But, when you grow your own? You get to choose varieties. You can pick stuff simply because of the color or the shape or size. Or, you can pick things that produce more flavorful fruit or are more accustomed to your growing zone. And you can pick several different varieties of the same plant and test them all out to see what you and your family enjoy best.
I absolutely love going through the seed catalogues in the winter and finding new and interesting varieties to order and try in our garden the following spring. It’s fun and it’s amazing. Plus, it allows me to keep up seed diversity and continue on our heritage with heirloom varieties that would be completely lost if commercial farming completely took over.
10. Provide Food Security and Become More Self Sufficient
I’m a huge proponent of finding ways to become more self sufficient regardless of where you live. And growing your own food? It tops the self sufficiency list.
While we don’t grow anywhere near all of our food, it is our ultimate goal to continually improve and find ways to produce more and more. Self-sufficiency and food security are important to me. As important as knowing exactly where it came from.
We don’t have to worry about the local grocery being out of something if we have the means to produce it ourselves. And let me tell you, they’ve been out of a lot lately. I love knowing that I can run out back and grab some fresh produce in the summer or grab a jar out of the pantry that was canned from our own fresh produce in the winter. It’s an amazing feeling and helps us on our journey to being more self sufficient.
11. You Can Teach Your Children Something Amazing
It’s sad, really, that a lot of kids have no idea where food comes from. They don’t know the hard work, the time, the effort, the energy that goes into producing the food on their plates. Many think that doritos and salsa just grow on trees somewhere or that food simply comes from the store.
We’re losing our humanity to large corporations that provide us our most basic of needs and make us feel inadequate and incapable of taking care of ourselves. And it rubs off on our children….
By growing our own food, I am able to help nurture a love of food, cooking, and production in my children. They know where their food came from, what went into producing it, how it was grown, and the love that went into growing it.
They’ve learned so many valuable skills just by helping us out in the garden and that, to me, is the best reason of them all.
Growing your own food has so many incredible benefits and these merely touch on the surface. But, I cannot think of a better skill to learn and to teach to our younger generations than gardening. It gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment that cannot be duplicated anywhere else and empowers you to feel like you can provide basic needs to yourself and your family.