More and more people are starting to grow their own food as a result of increased concerns over how food is produced. Thanks to documentaries such as Food Inc. and Fresh the general public has become much more aware of the problems associated with our food system. The major issues still remain:
- Environmental Degradation
- GMO Crops
- Chemical Fertilizers, Pesticides, Herbicides and Fungicides
- Highly Processed Food-like Products
- Fossil fuel Intensive Agriculture
- Food Desserts
- Handful of Corporation Controlling Food
To overcome these obstacles small and large-scale growers, non-profit groups and individuals are collaborating to come up with solutions to these problems.
On the broad-scale, organic and regenerative agriculture practices are revitalizing our landscapes. Appropriate soil management and low/no-till agriculture is increasing soil biology and preventing erosion. Increased soil biology is an effective way to help filter contaminants from our ground water. On sloped agricultural land reforestation with agroforestry or food forest species are reducing erosion, cleaning air, diversifying crops and sequestering carbon.
Small-growers, especially in urban areas, are finding creative solutions to solve access to fresh, nutrient rich food. Land sharing/lease arrangements are being made to allow young, willing farmers access to otherwise expensive and unattainable land to start farming. One of the most innovative urban farm strategies is SPIN farming (Small Plot Intensive). This system of agriculture is a step-by-step guide to growing, marketing and maintaining small farms in urban areas. The most successful story is Curtis Stone (Green City Acres, Kelowna, BC) whose pedal powered farm business is grossing over $60,000 in annual sales utilizing several unused yards in his neighbourhood.
Non-profit groups are working with individuals regionally to gather funds to start urban agriculture projects. They are also working with local government or municipalities to establish policies and bylaws to enable these ventures. Urban agriculture projects include:
- Backyard Sharing
- Community Gardens
- Community Composting
- Public Food Forests
- Rooftop gardens
- Urban Bee Keeping
- Urban Hens
Individuals are perhaps having the greatest impact. People are taking the initiative to grow their own food no matter where they live or how little land they have access to. Permaculture has taught me you do not need a lot of space to grow a significant amount of food; all you need is creativity. Some of the strategies being utilized in urban areas are:
- Container Gardening
- Edible Landscaping
- Raised bed Gardening
- Small-scale Aquaponics
- Square foot Gardening
- Vertical Gardening
- Window Gardening
The best part about these methods of growing is they are easy, available and accessible to everyone. The opportunities are limitless! Every person can use his or her balconies, backyards, roofs or windows as an opportunity to grow something. The benefits are numerous on many levels including:
Personal benefits include increased physical, mental and spiritual health. The nutrients provided from a home garden far surpass most industrially produced food. The physical exercise a garden provides is a great way to stay in shape. Mentally gardening releases endorphins and provide a relaxing break from the day-to-day hustle and bustle of urban living. Growing your own food also offers piece of mind because you are in control of where your food comes from. Finally, getting your hands dirty provides a greater connection to nature and allows gardeners to experience and observe the wonders of natural systems from seed to harvest.
Economically, growing your own food can save you money. As food prices continue to rise because of increased fuel and production costs, it is a good investment to grow even a small portion of your own food. It also saves costs in heath care. Because you are physically, mentally and spiritually balanced, you experience less stress and therefore are less likely to get sick.
You can also sleep easy at night knowing you have done your part to reduce your carbon output. Industrial agriculture requires a lot of fossil fuel to cultivate, harvest, process and distribute food, often from half way around the world. Growing and buying locally significantly reduces fossil fuel use and keeps greenhouse gasses out of our environment. Plants also sequester carbon and work to clean our air so win-win.
Finally, you will realize a greater connection with your community. Speaking from personal experience, when I planted my garden on my front lawn all of my neighbours wanted to know what I was doing. During the process they got to learn about Permaculture and I go to share my harvest with them. Also, this will always give you something to talk about at parties. Gardening is the #2 recreational activity of Canadians so chances are the person standing next to you on the bus, grocery lineup or at a party will want to talk ‘green’.
So go out, start a garden. If you are worried you do not know enough to garden pick up a book, google “starting a garden”, ask a friend or family member or attend a terrific course from a local Permaculture instructor . The resources are out there, the benefits are numerous and the best part, its FUN!