PlowShare is a group of local backyard fruit and vegetable gardeners and farmers who desire to interact, swap seeds, and promote sustainable gardening. (No dues or commitments.) Meetings are held the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. (potluck begins at 6:30 p.m.) at the Georgia Farm Bureau, 925 Athens Road, Crawford, Ga.
Why Grow Your Own Food?
Since the end of WWII, major corporate agribusiness and food companies have been on a mission to produce the most product for the least cost to maximize profits (economics 101). The use of massive amounts of surplus munitions converted to ammonium based fertilizers allowed farmers to reap bumper crops which began stocking supermarket shelves and, in turn, launched the greatest economic boom in US history. Farmers became addicted to the use of chemical fertilizers to meet market demands. For decades, Americans consumers also became increasingly dependent upon the low cost, processed foods that were readily available and easy to prepare. Gradually, small farmers were faced with the decision to either “Go Big or Go Home”. Agribusiness now controls the vast majority of food production in the United States.
Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (N-P-K) are the three chemical elements which were thought for decades to be all that farmers need to grow good crops. Calcium was added in the form of lime to raise soil ph. In recent years more and more farmers are coming to realize that other elements are important in plant health. Elements such as magnesium, zinc, sulphur, etc., are also important to plants and to human health. Much of our farmland is almost completely devoid of these elements and in turn lacking in our diets.
Because of the use of chemical fertilizers on such a broad scale, a myriad of problems arose. These fertilizers were/are highly toxic to soil organisms which are vital to the overall health of crops. Chemical fertilizers met the immediate demands of keeping plants alive and producing, however, as the soil life was diminished, the need for more chemical fertilizer and eventually pesticides became necessary. This is where we are today—millions of acres of cropland that produce our food which is dependent upon these ever increasingly complex chemical compounds which undoubtedly affects the health of those who consume it.
In 1984, the EPA approved the widespread use of human sewage sludge for use on cropland. Most of this matter comes from larger municipalities which have major industries and institutes of higher education and research which contribute to the waste. Heavy metals, solvents, bio-hazardous waste, and pharmaceuticals end up in sewage processing plants across the country. According to government testing and requirements for reporting, the finished waste is supposedly safe for application on agricultural crops within certain guidelines. However, a common practice among farming operations in the US is to periodically plant root crops to “clean up the soil” of heavy metals. And, many of the over 180,000 known chemical compounds, most of which are in use today, are very persistent in the environment. These chemicals have a cumulative effect.
If all of this does not set off alarm bells, then consider the food that is imported into the US which comes from countries that have far less restrictions on growing food crops.
Reasons to grow your own food:
To avoid all of the issues mentioned above. You control the conditions under which your food is grown. You can decide what amendments, fertilizers, and chemicals (if any) you wish to use in your garden.
Freshness. Most produce on store shelves has been transported perhaps thousands of miles from where they were grown which means they were picked before they were fully ripe and lacking in nutrition.
Variety. Farmers grow what is best for their bottom line. Some varieties do no ship well or they don’t all ripen at the same time making it difficult for the farmer to make a profit. Or, they depend on GMO varieties for chemical weed control. You can choose from among many varieties to get the flavor and properties you like.
Taste and nutrient value. Produce raised in your back yard can be picked at the peak of ripeness and freshness. Nothing is tastier, fresher or more nutritious than eating fruits and vegetables eaten only minutes or a few hours after they were picked.
Health benefits. Not only does your garden provide you with good nutrition, but it also gets you off the couch and provides good exercise and plenty of vitamin-D from being in the sun. By eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods your diet will be richer in fiber and your total glycemic index intake will be far lower. You will be swapping high fructose corn syrup for healthier complex carbohydrates. Another added benefit may be stress reduction.
Cost. Growing your own fruits and vegetables can save you some money compared to store bought produce. But, depending on your choices of inputs, it can cost considerably more. Cost savings can be realized by using what you have on hand, i.e., composting and other free organic inputs. Compared to the cost of organic store bought produce you should be able to save a considerable amount.
Food security. In the event of regional natural disasters, war, terrorist attacks on our food supply or transportation systems, or political unrest, having a home garden and a supply of saved seeds may be the salvation of you and your family.
Positive family interaction. Growing your own food can be a great opportunity for families to share time together and to form stronger bonds. It can be the perfect venue for teaching kids where their food comes from while introducing them to the concept of responsibility and teamwork.
by Don Williamson