Four Reasons To Grow Your Own Food
By Mary Johnson
Is there a difference between produce you grow vs. produce that arrives on a truck from 1,500 miles away? Is it better for you? Can you save money by growing your own? I've grown my own produce for 15 years and here's what I've learned:
- You can’t buy this taste and flavor at any supermarket: People who sample my garden surplus the first time have a universal "Wow!" reaction. This is especially true if they've never eaten just-picked heirloom or unusual varieties that aren't available in stores. When fruits and vegetables are harvested, they immediately start losing flavor and nutrients within hours. In fact, produce loses the majority of its flavor and nutrients the further it travels and the longer it sits on the shelf of your supermarket. When you grow your own you can try varieties from all over the world, and that are too tender to ship. You'll eat more vegetables because you can't resist, even if you think you're not wild about vegetables now.
- Your nutrition and health improves: With the produce at your kitchen door, you get it when nutrient content is at its highest. In addition, the convenient supply makes it easy to get your daily minimum of 3 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. I get that much at almost every meal! A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps to manage weight gain, cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and any number of other health problems. My weight today is the same as 15 years ago. Despite a family history of high blood pressure, the doctor tells me my cholesterol and blood pressure are "enviable".
- Garden exercise turns back the aging clock: I have a neighbor well into her 80's who still puts in a large family vegetable garden every year (with the help of a few family members to do the heavy ground work). The exercise of planting, hoeing, weeding, watering and harvesting has helped her stay mentally sharp, steady on her feet, maintain weight, muscle, and energy far longer than other seniors 15 years younger. And though every gardener has health changes, the exercise involved with growing your own food can help you recover faster, and keep problems manageable longer.
- You can save money over time and earn extra income: Growing your own not only saves money on food, it reduces trips to the supermarket and your transportation costs. It may reduce your healthcare costs, but all these benefits come in time. Getting started in gardening requires a modest up-front investment in seed, supplies, tools and you may need to pay someone to either till up a plot or to build raised beds. In one year, I save about $1,325 in produce costs. I only go to the supermarket once a week. On the other hand, I spend close to $500 a year on seed, supplies, and occasional help with heavy jobs. But you can get started for far less than that! While writing this newsletter still keeps me too busy to market my produce on a regular basis, I sell enough surplus to offset much of my seed and supply cost.
- Free and low cost resources to help you get started: Contact the local farm extension service that serves your area. Master Gardener volunteers can answer your questions and help you start your garden. My favorite vegetable garden guide: The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward Smith. A comprehensive guide to everything you need to know to grow your own food. Check your local library or invest in your own copy.