As I finished pulling up the last of our carrots last weekend, I am happy to report that our first year of using a full sized garden was an overwhelming success. My wife and I learned so much from our experience that I thought I would share one last garden update for 2012. Ultimately my plan was to weigh all of our produce and report exactly how much money we would have saved in groceries according to current organic food prices but it turns out I underestimated the abundance of fresh produce we actually ended up with. Lets just say we had beans, tomatoes and potatoes coming out of our ears! We decided to give away a lot of our produce to friends and family because it was just too much for two people. Besides, it feels really good sharing fresh and healthy food with people you care about.
Why Bother With A Garden?
If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, I would have a large sum of nickels. A common question that people kept asking was, ” Why bother with a garden when you can just go to the store and buy vegetables”. There are many, many reasons why I choose to grow my own vegetables. Below are some of the most important reasons why I bother with growing a garden.
Genetically Modified Food
Certain companies who have more money then most first world countries, have integrated GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) food into the worlds food supply without the proper testing it requires. These companies believe they are helping the world by creating food that is disease and pest resistant, allowing more food to be harvested for the growing population. The major concern for me is that proper testing takes generations to clearly find out if consuming food that has been modified on the genetic level is 100% safe. I have read reports that we have been exposed to GMO food for last 20 years without informing the general public. It was mostly corn and corn products so if you ever consumed corn chip products or canned corn from the U.S, then you most likely have been exposed to a GMO product.
This video sums it up quite nicely of why I do not want to eat any “Franken-food”:
The Food Tastes Better
Have you ever tasted a tomato grown in an organic garden? They are super sweet and bursting with flavour. There is no comparison to the tomatoes that are available in your local supermarket. The reason being is that most store bought tomatoes are picked when they are still green so they last longer while being transported to colder climate markets. They are then gassed with ethylene to turn them red before they are distributed to consumers. A tomato starts off green because they are full of chlorophyll, which is why most plants are green in color. During a process known as photosynthesis, the chlorophyll in the tomato takes in CO2 and converts it to sugar and oxygen. The longer the tomato takes part in this process, the more sugar there is left in the tomato. The gassed tomatoes in the supermarket do not have nearly as much sugar in them compared to a naturally ripened tomato.
The same thing can be said for a lot of produce bought in the supermarkets. Have you ever bought the bags of big carrots? Yuck! No flavour whatsoever! Most produce is mass produced and instead of focusing on flavour and taste, the producers focus on big and good looking fruits and vegetables.
I’m no scientist, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if a chemical kills a small insect, it’s probably not good for larger creatures. Consumers demanded more pesticide free food so “organic” produce was introduced at double the cost. Most people can’t afford the extra costs of organic food so the prices remain high and will probably remain that way forever. Recently there was a study done on organic food and they ruled that organic food is just as nutritious as regular food. Again, I’m no scientist, but did organic food ever boast that it was more nutritious then regularly grown food? Why didn’t they measure the level of pesticides found on the regular food and the long term effects from consuming them?
Even if you do buy organic food, there is no way in telling if it truly is organic. Even with my garden, there is no way of sheltering my food from chemicals in the air, the rain, or whatever a nut job neighbor down the street might be spraying his weeds with. I would need some kind of bio-dome setup to truly grow safe food and my wife already told me, no.
The costs saved from growing your own food really is a no-brainer, so instead I’d like to focus more on the health benefits of having a garden. Growing a garden is a lot of work, especially one that’s over 800 square feet. My wife and I enjoy spending time together in the warm weather and fresh air, and we get plenty of both when we are working in the garden. Whether it’s pulling weeds, digging dirt, or transporting water we get plenty of exercise as we tend to the flowers and vegetables. We also talk to each other when we are out in our garden. We talk about our week at work, plan for future events in our schedule and even give the odd whistle of endearment here and there! Not only does the conversation improve our marriage, I’m sure the plants get some benefit from it as well.
Agriculture is one of the oldest professions in human history. Seeds were saved for future generations to grow food and these open pollinated varieties are still available today. I chose to plant these types of seeds to develop my own sustainable food supply for my family and future generations. Seed saving or harvesting is really rewarding and very easy to do. Each variety of vegetable has a different approach to harvesting the seeds. Beans and peas are easy; you just wait for the pods to brown and you save the inner parts. Carrots on the other hand, are biennial meaning they grow seeds in the second year.
When you save seeds you want to save the healthiest specimens with the best traits to pass on to future generations. This usually means the biggest fruits and vegetables with a normal shape and color are selected to be saved. This is my first year of actually saving seed so I’m hoping it all works out. I will be posting more about this process next spring and sharing the results from over the winter. Wish me luck!
These are just a few of the many reasons why we have a garden. Sure, it makes good financial sense, but there are so many more reasons and it’s different for each individual. I’m hoping the time I put into my garden benefits both my family and its future generations so that they can grow up in a clean and safe environment and share the skills with everyone to keep it that way.
I hope you have enjoyed my garden updates, even though this is a financial blog. Please read my original post on Investing in your health if you want a good reason why I post about it!