Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Unintended Consequences of Backyard Vegetable Gardening

If you follow us online, you know that we like to garden on our rather tiny property here in Indianapolis.  We've got a strawberry patch that is now in full swing.  We plant a variety of leafy greens, squash, tomatoes, onions, turnips and so on.  We've had chickens for a few years now.  It's been a wonderful exercise for our family.  It helps ensure that our kids won't think that their food is grown on the sun or in a grocery store. Yes, these are responses uttered by city youth attending a food and fitness camp that I was associated with this time last summer. The garden is an invaluable teaching mechanism for these  city kids of ours and a meditative act for parents who both probably belong on a secluded, wooded farm.  But substantively reducing our grocery bill it does not. 
Strawberries and eggs from the yard
Once the feel good times around seeing a tomato ripen or pulling an egg from a nesting box are over, growing a little bit of your own food can really be pretty depressing. If you are an urbanite that thinks about what it would be like if you had to grow your own food in an act of independence or out of necessity, you're going to have a bad time.  It really makes you appreciate the system of producers and distribution in place to ensure access to food, including fresh produce, meats, dairy, and inexpensive food products.  I'm not trying to justify "big food", that comes in a later post.  What I do appreciate is the scale with which our food system feeds our ever expanding population.  It's a critical aspect of food production foodists and organic aficionados sometimes marginalize, in my opinion.  Reform is necessary and it should be practical.
Vegetable gardening forces me to think about the scale of food production that would be needed to feed a substantial community.  In my mind if we want significant change, that is a large swath of the populace eating a sizable amount of healthy food for a significant length of the year, we've got a long way to go. Vegetable gardening makes a poignant statement about the need for more organic farmers, assuming the demand is there.  Despite the fact that our garden/yard really only feeds us a fraction of what we eat, we'll still continue to garden and enjoy what we produce and the experience around it. 

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