Growing Your Own Is More Than a Life-Style Choice


When we decide to grow our own food, we begin to reintegrate ourselves into nature's processes. Our western culture has been separating humans from nature for thousands of years. We tend to put each aspect of our lives into cubicles. We go downtown to the office. We expect agriculture to be off over the horizon. We “preserve” nature in special areas away from our work and living spaces. Then we go home where we have little in common with our neighbors. By growing our own food we bring a piece of agriculture and a piece of nature home with us. If our neighbors are doing the same, we will have that in common with our neighbors. This is the beginning of what I call “a pattern of interactions” that can build upon itself.

When we separate nature and agriculture and business and housing, we prevent the resources produced in one process from contributing to the productivity of other processes. Each process imports resources and uses them up. The by products become waste products. Resources are depleted.

In an integrated system, all of the products of an interaction can cycle locally. Food scraps from the table can feed the chickens. Chicken waste can feed the worms. Worms can feed the chickens. Worm castings can provide the nutrients for vegetables. Vegetable trimmings can feed the chickens. The chickens, eggs and vegetables can feed the people producing the table scraps. I call that “closing the production loops.” That is the way a system becomes healthy and how resources are conserved. A closed loop system can increase its contained resources with each process cycle.

Winter Greens 

There are no experts in what I am writing about. Our culture emphasizes separation rather than integration. We have thousands of knowledge specialties and few generalists. We belittle the generalist as a “jack of all trades and master of none.” But if we rely solely on experts we will always suffer unintended consequences because the expert has little knowledge of aspects of system function outside their expertise.

When experts give their opinion they are speaking from a silo of information that forms the boundary of their expertise. If you ask an agricultural scientist they can tell you all about the chemicals you need to grow food in a sterile system. They know no more than you about integrating agriculture into a naturally healthy system. If you ask an ecology scientist they can tell you all about the interactions in a natural system. They know no more than you about integrating a natural system into a suburban habitat. Every one reading this article is as qualified as anyone else to figure this out.

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