Tune to the Seasons, Find Adventure, and Other Ways Growing Food Will Cultivate Your Best Self

Reader Contribution by Darby Weaver and Life Arises Farm
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Our modern world is a very interesting place: As technology continues to pull us into the future, some of the foundations and frameworks that got us here are starting to fall apart. As we move into a more globalized world, the rural landscapes that have sustained the rise of cities and civilizations the world over are rapidly losing people, farms, and biodiversity. With the daily news cycle force feeding the public the horrible truths of climate change and political unrest, we can all find ourselves feeling a little hopeless. I’m here to tell you that there’s always hope and that hope begins with each of us starting to take a little more pride and responsibility for what makes our lives work.

Growing your own food might feel daunting. Many of us are completely separated from the generational wisdom of food cultivation carried forward by our ancestors. The many conveniences that surround us have made it seem almost pointless to toil away in the dirt and our busy lives have made it feel like we’ve got no time to dedicate to it in the first place. Below I’d like to share 10 totally solid reasons why you should try growing some of your own food.

1. It is super fun. Let’s start with something pretty universal. We all like to have fun, right? And with our social media platforms, it’s even somewhat of a competition over who’s having the most fun. So why not win that freakin’ competition? Growing your own food is like baking, cooking, making art, playing music, or writing love poems. It’s taking something that is already beautiful and putting the most beautiful parts of yourself into it. Watching a tiny seed grow into a tiny plant which grows into something you can pick and eat is a magical experience. It will naturally make any space more beautiful and you can take so many selfies with the plants at every stage of development.

There are challenges just like any good video game or puzzle and absolute drama like when a squirrel discovers your tomatoes or the local deer start showing up right outside your doorstep with bad intentions. Becoming a gardener will also give your family so much ammunition during the holidays for terrible themed gifts and your family members may even start referring to you as “the crazy gardener”, “the one with the green thumb”, or even accuse you of being “crunchy.”

2. You will eat better. With so much garbage food touted as real food in the grocery stores and convenience stores of the world, and our relentless schedules constantly keeping us on our toes, many of us have succumbed to the temptations of the frozen food section, the delicious powdered cheeses, and every night restaurant visits or fast food binges. When you grow your own food, you will find yourself holding baskets of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You will find yourself cooking these fresh crops, throwing them in your lunch bag as snacks, and your mind will be blown by house delicious they are. The reason why these fresh vegetables are so much more delicious than any horrible turnip or cardboard tomato you were forced to eat as a child is manifold. 

For starters, it was grown from the very love of your heart and there are few things tastier than love (grandma’s cooking, right?) Secondly, the produce itself didn’t have a prohibitively expensive price tag. Thirdly, the vegetables in the grocery store, organic and otherwise, were all grown utilizing super soluble forms of nitrogen which made them grow big, but left them tasting bitter. The food you grow on your own will be developing flavor from the myriad of nutrients mined by the diverse ecology in your soils or containers and will end up being more delicious, have better texture, and be better for you as a result.

3. You’ll get tied into the rhythm of the seasons and the weather. Ever find yourself stuck in a conversation with a coworker, acquaintance, or total stranger about the weather? When you grow your own food, you will go from not knowing what to say to potentially finding yourself oversharing how you feel about the weather and how it is impacting your crops. While it’s always good to add tools to the awkward socializing tool box, growing your own food will literally tune you to what’s happening outside. Our modern day experience of well lit, climate controlled boxes has separated us from the rhythms that guide the forces of our world. Our ancestors were so tuned to these annual, seasonal, and daily movements that the Earth’s greater wisdom was factored into all decisions, creations, and ceremonies.

There is something to this relationship and we are seeing the negative effects that have spurred from this separation in our mental health, the management of our moods and emotions, and within our ability to cultivate a sense of peace. Being tuned to nature gives us a sense of purpose for each season, a knowing that each rhythm has its place. The restlessness and depression that can beset us in the winter months can change into a restorative period that allows us time for reflection, and a quiet moment for our gardens and our bodies to rest.

4. You’ll become a more adventurous cook. By the time you’ve harvested your 200th zucchini from that one plant you planted in the back corner of your garden, you will find yourself spending time googling recipes and maybe even picking up actual cookbooks and turning actual pages for inspiration. Growing your own food lures you into the kitchen more than you’d think and you’ll find yourself making homegrown appetizers, experimental roasts, maybe some glazes, and even some raw superfood salads and smoothies, all while swinging your wooden spoon around like the freakin Barefoot Contessa. Your date, spouse, and or children will start showering you with compliments and you’ll realize that you were born for this hype.

5. You will spend more time being active outside. Now I know a lot of y’all are wholeheartedly dedicated to your spin class, hot yoga, cross fit, weight lifting, couch snacking, or what have you, but there is something to be said about the whole body work out of tending a garden. Instead of picking up weights and putting them down for no reason inside a box full of mirrors and sweaty humans, imagine picking up heavy objects outside in the cool, beautiful air surrounded by birdsongs. Imagine stretching your whole body while pulling weeds and not having to hold in your bodily functions in fear of social ruin. Imagine putting your entire self physically to work and in the end reaping the rewards of healthful, nourishing food for you and your family.

6. It’s a great way to build community. So, back to that 200th zucchini you pulled from that one plant in your garden. You will reach a point with your summer squash harvests where enough is enough. You’ve run out of recipes and you actually can’t even imagine eating one more bite of zucchini or squash for the rest of your life. This is when Sneaking a Zucchini on a Neighbor’s Porch Day becomes critical. There will be times in the garden where the abundance of your crops will be overwhelming. When canning, freezing, and drying have all been accomplished, it will be time to share your harvests with your community. This can be through a foodbank, through cooking for your neighbors, or simply by giving fresh food to loved ones and family members.

These gifts and offerings will pull good people into your life. For those with limited growing space, joining a community garden can be a fun and supportive way of getting your hands dirty and growing some of your own food. Meeting other gardeners and sharing the joys and commiserating over the horror stories is a beautiful way to build community in a world that seems to be losing touch.

7. Your carbon footprint will be smaller. Most of the food you have access to in the grocery store has actually been shipped there from very far away. Whether its point of origin is another country altogether, or simply from a distant farm across the United States, an excess of resources have been used to get it there. It has also been packaged, likely with plastic, and has steadily lost nutrient every day of its journey. Growing your own food reduces your personal carbon footprint and limits the amount of resources that have been used to put food in your mouth. Additionally, it is super powerful to buy the food you can’t grow yourself as locally as possible. There are likely many farmer artisans in your region working tirelessly to rejuvenate the rural and urban landscapes that surround you and buying food from them supports that good work, continues to reduce your carbon footprint, and results in more delicious meals for you and your family.

8. You will learn about yourself. The garden is the ultimate place to get to know yourself. Many of the activities associated with caring for plants are meditative and soothing. While weeding or thinning carrots, you can tap into a quiet space where you may be able to better identify the damaging thoughts that race through your mind that typically go unchecked during your day to day routine. Additionally, the garden has small challenges, loss, and heartbreak on a scale that is more nurturing and lower stakes than that experienced in our day to day lives. In the garden we are not only cultivating beautiful plants and nourishing food to eat, we are discovering how we individually cope with the stresses and hardships of our lives and our experiences therein give us insight on how we may grow more balanced, more grateful, and more peaceful amid our repressed and internalized sufferings. 

9. You will be less reliant on the systems that exploit people, resources, and landscapes. It’s no secret that most all of the systems that manage resources on this Earth are problematic if not absolutely nefarious and corrupt. From the iphones that sit in our pockets all day to the salad bar at our local chain restaurant, everything that is so conveniently placed before us has come from somewhere else. The low price tag that is slapped on top doesn’t even come close to accounting for the people, resources, and landscapes that have been exploited to create it, sustain it, and make a profit for a select few from its distribution.

When we grow our own food we are taking one seemingly tiny step away from participating in a system that steals from the Earth and its people. We are making the choice that our ability to create is more miraculous, intuitive and enjoyable than our desire to consume. Stepping away from the shopping mania we’ve all been under since global commerce became the law of the land is the first step into a different world where wildfires, food apartheid, and top soil loss aren’t the status quo.

10. Your garden is a sanctuary that helps to save our world. Alright, I know the saving the world bit sounds corny and maybe even overly optimistic, but hear me out. I want you to imagine the world as a living being. All of the plants and animals just parts that make up a totally awake, living, breathing whole. You can imagine how this living world was at one time totally connected; each bioregion a network that connected to the next bioregion and tied the Earth together in a living fabric. This living fabric generating the homeostasis that brings balance, fertility, and sustainability to all layers of the Earth’s body. Now imagine the human influence over time. Imagine industry, agriculture, and civilizations carving out landscapes, mining and cutting raw materials from their places of origin. You’d notice in the Earth’s body deep wounds of separation limiting the Earth’s ability to self regulate.

When we grow our own food amidst the seemingly unstoppable chaos we have enacted on our living home, we create tiny seeds of biodiversity within the great, deepening wounds. Birds, bees, soil microorganisms, amphibians, mammals, humans and countless others all benefit from these little, hopeful sanctuaries. When we all plant gardens we are doing our part to try and tie the world back together and every bloom is an offering to the Earth that we haven’t given up on her yet.

Darby Weaverhas spent the last 11 years growing biodynamic produce and teaching holistic and ecological methods to learners of all ages and backgrounds through articles, agriculture intensives, workshops, and lectures.  She currently owns and operatesLife Arises Farm in Wolcott, Vermont with her husband Elliot Smith. You can read all of Darby’s Mother Earth News postshere.

Almost everything you need to know about growing and preserving your own food at home is in this 100-page guide from Mother Earth NewsHow to Grow and Preserve Your Own Food provides excellent articles filled with tips and advice for growing a healthy, successful garden, as well as canning your leftover bounty to enjoy in those cold winter months.
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