In this day and age, we are bombarded with information about our food systems, and most of the information is scary. We read and hear about contaminated meats, the effects of feedlot animal production, pesticides on crops, genetically modified vegetables (GMO) and antibiotics in our dairy and meat products. Really, if one was to take every single piece of literature to heart—or even 75 percent of it—we would have a hard time knowing what is okay to eat. Fortunately there is a solution, and it lies in growing your own food.
Fifty years ago, the world of food production was vastly different and many people had their own gardens. Today, we’ve become a culture of convenience, and many people don’t want to do the work. But, with some simple practices and a little motivation, gardening can be completely painless and quite rewarding.
Growing your own food affects your health
So, why should you be growing your own food rather than relying on the supermarket?
You know what you’re getting. When you are growing your own food, there are no unanswerable questions about what was done to the food before it got to your table and your body. You know what (if anything) was sprayed on them, what the soil conditions were like, and who put their hands on your food. There are no mysterious (how did I manage to find an orange in February?) questions as you will have only food that is in-season. In turn, consuming fresher and cleaner food will help you combat chronic disease.
Grow organic for a fraction of the price. If you haven’t noticed, organic foods in the grocery stores are far more costly than their chemically-sprayed and treated counterparts. When you’re making the growing decisions, you can grow organics for a fraction of the cost. Shoot, you can grow all of your foods for a fraction of the cost! Pesticides have been linked to numerous health concerns including cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, birth defects and even autism. By using organic pest and weed control methods, you can enjoy produce without the health scares.
Better nutrition for the whole family. When you have fresh, in-season produce at your fingertips, you are more likely to eat it. And if you haven’t tasted the difference between a truly fresh vegetable and its long-lost cousin at the grocery store, you are really missing out. When growing your own food, not only will you eat more vegetables, if you have children, they will too. Gardening gives everyone a whole new appreciation for produce. Not only that, you’ll be fostering an appreciation of self-reliance and passing on an age-old, healthy tradition.
Exercise. You could spend your weekend afternoons indoors folding clothes while watching television, or you could spend them in the sunshine, getting your hands dirty with your family while growing your own food. Gardening is excellent exercise, burning about 275 calories per hour. The reaching, pulling and raking are all great for your muscles and your mind—which leads us to the next point.
Gardening makes you happy! Really. Scientists have found that getting your hands in the dirt is as effective as antidepressants. Gardening truly does improve your mood. It’s believed the antidepressant action is triggered by soil bacteria called mycobacterium vaccae, which activates the release of serotonin (a feel-good chemical) in the brain. In addition, spending time in the sunshine increases your absorption of Vitamin D, whose deficiency is linked to depression and anxiety.
You don’t have to own acreage to start a garden, or even a backyard. If you’re in an apartment, start with a few pots on your balcony. Herbs are an easy place to get your hands dirty for the first time. Once you’ve cooked with fresh herbs, you won’t be able to resist the pull of planting more and more vegetables for your physical and mental wellbeing.