From the more practical, money-saving side of things, to controlling your own destiny, the benefits of a victory garden are many.
Gardening for Personal Gratification
There is nothing, nothing so gratifying as walking out your back door to cut some lettuce, pick a tomato, and dig up some carrots to throw together a salad.
You know that the food was grown in sustainable conditions. You know that the laborer was treated fairly. You know you're not eating poison in the form of pesticides and herbicides. You know that it took zero fossil fuel energy resources (no gas and no oil are used in transport) to get your food to your plate. It just takes the energy you spent walking into your backyard!
Save Money: Grow Your Food
Skyrocketing food costs are due in part to the increase in gas and oil prices.The vast majority of our food isn't even coming from within our states, and all that food has to get to your store somehow. The food you eat is often shipped from farms and factories all over the country, sometimes even all over the world! New studies show that more than 40 percent of food is thrown away before it even gets to the consumer, much of that because of spoilage during transit.
Local food advocate Joel Salatin writes on the subject, “The average morsel of food sees more of America than the farmer who grows it, traveling fifteen hundred miles from field to fork.
Growing your own food on your property cuts out the middleman. You can take pride in knowing that very little food is wasted when you grow it yourself. You also don't have to pay the farmer, the truck driver, the gas company, the cashier, the produce manager, or any one else.You only pay yourself, and you get paid in a glorious bounty of food — best paycheck ever!
Control Your Own Destiny
Growing your own food makes you feel powerful in a world where lack of control is commonplace. Knowing that the food you’re eating is safe and full of nutrition is priceless. Don’t get lost in the shuffle and leave your fate in the hands of others. You can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and take control! Families in the 1940’s made an effort to provide for themselves, and you can too!
Be Prepared: Garden for Food Security
(Cue singing hyenas and scar-faced lions.)
Another reason to grow your own food is for preparedness. Food is a necessary resource, and we can't live without it. In times of need, be it an emergency, or getting laid off from work, it’s important to know that your family can still eat. Having the knowledge and ability to grow food will never let you down. You'll never find yourself saying, 'Dang! What a useless skill!’ Unfortunately, the knowledge and skills for food production are getting lost more and more as each year passes.
Educate the Youngins’
If you talk to many children these days, you'll find that they’re quite confused about foods that don’t come in boxes and bags. Many of them can’t tell you that a carrot is the root of a plant, or that mashed potatoes are made with a vegetable that's grown underground.
If you plant your own victory garden, this can be your way of showing your food independence, but you can also teach your kids valuable lessons.
This next generation is going to have to bear the burden of our current food system. Change starts with these kids, and raising them well is the best thing you can do for our future. Your kids crave knowledge; they want to learn, so teach them! Allow them to form a connection between the earth and their plates. Working together in the garden can strengthen your family culture. Cook together, eat together, and you will grow together.
Container Gardening in the City
You don’t need to be a farmer to grow a victory garden, and it’s okay if you don’t live on seven acres in the country. You, too, can grow a victory garden with just a little creativity and persistence. For city dwellers, you'll need to think outside the box — or inside the box, rather.
You can grow a lot of food in little containers — boxes, cartons, buckets, bags, even in old tires—the sky’s the limit! My fiancée and I live in the heart of the city and we still manage to keep chickens and a garden.
Think about how helpful it would be if you could grow even just one of the plants you regularly eat. You could cut that right out of your grocery bill, and I guarantee it will taste much better than store bought. To read more about growing in small spaces, check out the link on city gardening at the bottom of this article.
No Garden? No Problem!
If growing your own food is an absolute impossibility for you, but you still want to do something to make a difference, there are still several things that you can do. Consider buying your produce from a farmer’s market, or a CSA (community supported agriculture) instead of from the grocery store. This food is not only cheaper, it almost always comes from a local farm, and you have the opportunity to talk to the farmer first hand!
I’m all about putting my money directly into the farmer’s hand for the food they grow, rather than paying several companies in between farm and table. If your farmer’s market isn’t an option, start making calls to your local grocery store and ask them to carry more produce from local farms. If they are eager to keep you as a customer, they will do what it takes to make you happy.
I truly believe that every action made to improve our food system makes a difference. Even if that action is simply shopping at the farmer’s market once a month or starting an herb garden on your windowsill, every little bit of change helps. These things add up, and before you know it, you may start a food revolution in your own neighborhood. You can change the world; all you have to do is take that first step.
Sowing for victory in this day and age has a different connotation than it did in the 1940's. Growing your own food may not help in the war effort, but it will help save the environment, strengthen family bonds, save money, and increase your independence.
The time is now, so get out there! Sow some seeds! Sow for independence! Sow for knowledge! Sow for victory!
Resources: Gardening and Local Agriculture
Local Harvest: Find a CSA near you
USDA’s Farmers Markets listing
ImaginAcres’ “Small Space, Low-Skill Gardening”
Michelle Obama’s Kitchen Garden (MOTHER EARTH NEWS)
Simple Homemade’s Gardening Basics for Beginners
Vegetable Gardening for Beginners
Resources: The Condition of Modern Food
Cancer Prevention Coalition’s food pages
Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms
Center for Ecoliteracy
The Food Trust
Find out more about victory gardens by reading Meredith’s post “Sow for Victory: Bringing Back the Victory Garden.”
Photo by Fotolia/naffarts