Gardeners are the future. And not in some trendy-hipster-boutique kind of way–I mean in we’re-going-to-save-the-world kind of way. Think about it: what if everyone grew a useful plant, whether it’s a basil plant in a pot on a ninth-story fire escape, a few tomato plants in a raised bed in the backyard, or a quarter acre of sweet corn and green beans for the freezer? What if everyone grew just one herb and learned how to use it for a health concern: tulsi for dealing with everyday stress, calendula for soothing cracked heels, or elderberry for immune support?
We would fundamentally change our society. We would be happier, we would be healthier, and as a culture, we would have a greater concern for walking lightly on the earth. This isn’t the kind of change that comes from the top. It comes from each individual making the choice to do something creative. To take back control over even just one food or medicine in their life. To know where it came from, and where it’s going.
Saving the world is a pretty tall order. But don’t think of it that way–look at it as something you can do for yourself. Here’s why you (yes, you!) should grow something:
1. It tastes better.
Something you grow and harvest when perfectly ripe will be at the peak of freshness, unlike the supermarket produce that takes weeks to get from a farm across the country (or the world) to a shelf where it will sit days longer, losing moisture, until you take it home. You’d better believe freshness affects flavor, or at least you will once you’ve popped a cherry tomato still warm from the sun in your mouth.
2. It’s more nutritious.
As soon as a vegetable or herb is pulled from the ground or cut from a parent plant, its cells begin to die. This results in a loss of nutrients over time, and water-soluble vitamins like B and C and antioxidants are some of the first to go. Some storage crops like potatoes, turnips, and carrots are naturally good keepers and retain more nutrients over time, while leafy greens like spinach, kale, and parsley are delicate and degenerate quickly. (Leafy greens also happen to be some of the highest in vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds to begin with!) By controlling the harvest of your own food, you can ensure that it’s as nutritious as possible when it hits the dinner table.
3. The possibilities are endless.
At the supermarket, you’re limited to varieties that have been bred not for flavor, but for shipping and storage. But there are thousands of varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that you’ll never have the chance to try unless you grow them yourself. Heirloom varieties frequently offer better flavor, more intriguing visuals, and great origin stories. Whether you start your plants from seeds or purchase locally-grown transplants, you’re opening yourself up to a whole world of possibility. Industrial agriculture tends toward monoculture, so it’s going to take a whole lot of small-scale home gardeners to preserve the beautiful biodiversity of our food supply.
4. It gets you outside.
Time for some straight talk: being indoors all day isn’t good for the human body. To be healthy, we need fresh air, movement, and contact with the earth. After a long day it’s tempting to zone out in front of the TV or internet, but spending even fifteen minutes outside gardening–pulling a few weeds, watering, or pruning and harvesting–can help reduce stress, stimulate circulation, and nourish the lungs. (Granted, some aspects of gardening can be stressful: pests, disease, and weather can harm your plants. But dealing with those challenges presents opportunities for problem-solving, learning new techniques, and sometimes letting go.)
5. It equips you with vital skills.
You don’t have to be a prepper to understand that our modern way of life is quite fragile. Globalization has brought us cheap food and consumer goods, but if the right cog in the machine breaks down at the wrong time, we may be facing gas shortages, sky-high food costs, and public health epidemics. One way to make ourselves more resilient is to regain the gardening skills and knowledge that saw countless generations through tough times. Gardening not only gives you access to fresh foods and natural remedies, but also leads to acquiring other traditional skills that could come in very handy–seed saving, tool repair, basic construction, home medicine-making, and familiarity with natural cycles.
Ready to dig your hands in the dirt and start gardening? Check out our resources in the sidebar!