As Americans, we are fortunate to have easy access to a wide variety of meat, grain, fruit, and vegetables at our local grocery store. For exotic and rare items, there are a plethora of gourmet specialty stores that stock all that one could ask for—from dragon fruit to langoustine, galangal root to Wagyu beef. As much as we (myself more than most) love these conveniences and luxuries, the pleasure is complicated. We have gotten further and further away from where our food comes from, less connected with its origins than ever before in our history. Fast food has stolen our patience and made a two minute meal seem normal. In my opinion, all this has led to a lack of appreciation for the food we eat as well as the people and processes that make it all possible. We are not lost yet, though. I believe we need to work to reestablish that relationship with our food. I am not advocating that we all start raising our own cattle in the back yard, or that we only eat what we catch or grow, but rather that we connect with some of our food in some way. Planting and tending a garden is an absolutely fantastic foundation for this relationship. The appreciation of something that you yourself grew from a seed or seedling is unparalleled. Read on for a few tips to get you growing!
Ready to get your hands dirty and grow something? Check out SFC's Grow Local classes in the Teaching Garden for fall, with classes for every experience level.
- Start small: a few plants (2-4) will help get you accustomed to the time commitment and routine of tending a garden. Planting much more than that for your first time may be too much to manage and can lead to less than successful results. Keep it easy, build some confidence and grow the operation from there.
- Grow things you enjoy. Hate cilantro? Don’t plant it, there is nothing less motivating in gardening than working for a plant that you find absolutely no enjoyment in. Think about what you grab from the produce department every time you go shopping and see if you can grow some of that yourself, this way you will not only be motivated, but you are less likely to have much waste.
- Do your homework. Before you plant come up with a list of possible options then do a little research as to planting times, ideal sun, water, etc. If this is your first time, keep it simple. Plant things that need the same general sun and water, that way you are tending one patch as opposed to fighting a war on multiple fronts.
- Be proud. Share whatever excess you have with friends and family, they will love it and you will feel great about the feedback you get. Try and convince someone to grow a garden of their own, and see if you can have diversified plants, it starts a great trade system and keeps you in some product that you didn’t grow yourself but are still connected to.
- Share your knowledge. This is the most important. If you have the opportunity pass this down to children. The sooner a child gets involved in the process the greater their appreciation will be as they get older. This is how we get ourselves back to knowing our food and caring about it as a people.