Now there are so many good reasons to grow your own food that it seems silly to list them, but I will anyone. No melamine. No carcinogens. No GMOs. You know where it came from, and where it has been. Your kids can pick a strawberry or tomato and pop it their mouth without wondering whether they'll get cancer. Oh, and it tastes better, is more nutritious, fresher and nicer. And it doesn't burn fossil fuels, warm the planet, or require a hog manure lagoon. Really one of those win-win situations.
If you haven't been paying attention to the contamination of our food supply, you might want to check out these two articles, detailing the simple truth - the melamine isn't really all that unusual. What's abnormal is that we noticed.
Now some of us already have big gardens, and some of us are just getting started. This week's project is to grow more of your own food - in many places, now is a good time to start your garden. If it isn't - if now is your dry season or your winter, just hold this thought and revisit during garden season.
Now if you don't grow any of your own food, the step up from 0 may seem like a big deal, but it isn't really very hard. Get a windowbox or two. Or a pot. You don't have to buy it - cut off the top of a big tin can that you get from a restaurant nearby, and poke holes in the bottom. A 5 gallon bucket (again, with holes), or just about anything will do. Put it in a sunny spot. Add dirt, and your own compost if possible. Plant some food. Put in a few basil plants and a head of lettuce. Or if you have a big container, like a 5 gallon bucket, put in a cherry tomato, with a few lettuce plants underneath. In your window boxes, plant some gem marigolds (good in salad), nasturtiums (even better in salad) and arugula - voila, a decorative salad. Pat Meadows, who knows more than anyone I've ever met about container gardening (she used to run a seed company devoted to container-friendly varieties) has a great container gardening yahoo group - well worth joining by sending an email here:
Or you could join a community garden and get a plot of land. There's no better way to learn to garden than hanging out with lots of other gardeners. Community gardens are cool, and one of those plots is a great way to learn to maximize your return.
Or perhaps you can start on your own lawn. You might consider checking out the books _Food Not Lawns_ and _Micro-Eco Farming_, not to mention Toby Hemenway's wonderful _Gaia's Garden_ about home scale permaculture. Maybe replace some of your foundation plantings with blueberries while you are starting your garden. You don't have to dig raised beds or do anything fancy - just lay some plain cardboard or newspaper over the ground, wet it thoroughly, put some compost, grass clippings and maybe composted manure (or whatever you've got) on the ground and plant right into what you've made. It really isn't that much work!
Don't have enough lawn? How about growing in a neighbor's yard and sharing the proceeds. Aaron has a terrific article about how he did just that with an elderly neighbor. This could both give you more food and improve your community. Here's that article - well worth a read, and one of his best. http://poweringdown.blogspot.com/search?q=sunny+spot
If you've already got a garden, what about expanding it? Consider adding fruit trees and bushes, or if you mostly grow food for fresh eating, how about dry corn for cornbread and dry beans? Perhaps you simply need to grow more potatoes or apples or cabbage or onions to last you through the winter? Or maybe if you built a simple coldframe, you could have fresh greens for salad through the whole winter. Perhaps you are one of those people who puts your garden in on Memorial Day and harvests everything before the first frost - you could have fresh food for months more on either side in many cases, with simple season extension techniques like cold frames and row covers.
Or maybe you already do all that. Well, how about a bigger challenge. Maybe you've already got a small farm and livestock. Do you grow any food for your animals? What about some small grains like buckwheat, oats or corn for your hens and your family? You can grow all small grains like grasses in an ordinary garden plot and thresh and eat them - or just give them whole to the hens or goats or whathaveyou. Or maybe you need to expand - maybe you grow all the food you need - could you start a small CSA? When people hear the word "CSA" they think "must be a big farm." But that's not true - we started with 5 customers, and a CSA can be as simple as "I'll grow enough veggies for both of our families if you'll buy the seeds."
There's a huge range of possibilities, depending on where you are. But everything you do to produce your own food makes you more secure, your family healthier and improves the state of the earth. All you need is dirt and a seed to get started - you can grow as you go.