Front Yard Farmers

I’ve posted before about the many health benefits of home vegetable gardening. Here’s an overview of why growing some of your own food can be beneficial to your physical, mental and spiritual health, the health of the natural world, and of society overall:

1. Gardening is an inexpensive source of fresh, organic, seasonal vegetables.
This not only benefits your health, but the health of the ecosystem. Listen to this fascinating radio interview with Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma

We need to change our food economy from one that is based on distant, centralized, petroleum-intensive production (growing vast areas of single, government-subsidized, low-nutrition  commodity crops like corn, soybeans, and wheat) to a decentralized, local system of high-nutrient local and organic fruits & vegetables.

The food economy is related to social justice and even national security. The Farm Bill passed by congress every five years creates huge subsidies to agribusinesses like ADM that sends your tax money and the money of future generations into the pockets of large corporations. The result is too-cheap prices for the kinds of commodity crops that food processing companies love. They make high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated soybean oil, soy flour, etc. into high-margin processed junk foods that have led to the proliferation of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in this country.

The national security angle is twofold: one, our current food economy uses massive petroleum inputs, much of which comes from the Middle East, which drains American wealth, enriches some terrorists like Bin Laden and leads to massive defense expenditures and more importantly loss of life.

Secondly, by having a very centralized food system, we are vulnerable to disruptions by terrorist attack, contamination, crop loss, etc. A decentralized, locally-based system is far more efficient (less petroleum input), sustainable, and stable (able to respond and adapt to disruption).

So gardening is good for your physical health, the health of the ecosystem, and positive political change!

2. Gardening is a good way to get some moderate physical activity.
In our modern American world, we’ve gotten away doing the kind of daily physical labor our bodies were made for. Once again, cheap and abundant petroleum energy (which won’t last forever) has made us change the way we design and build our cities and our dwellings. In most places in this country, it is no longer possible to travel on foot and by mass transit.

It is easy to see when you travel the way daily lifestyles affect people’s body composition. In most European cities and in the older American cities like New York, Boston, and San Francisco, people walk several miles everyday in the course of going about their business. You see far fewer obese people in these cities than you see in more modern American car-based cities.

3. Regular contact with healthy, organic soil is good for your immune system and your mental health.
I’ve posted about this before here.  In over-sanitized modern environments, we do not come into contact with enough beneficial flora (mircobial life) that is essential for healthy immune systems, digestion and elimination. Auto-immune disorders such as asthma and arthritis are far more common where people are removed from the land. This is all old news. What new research is showing is that contact with living organic soil positively affects brain chemistry, leading to lower incidences of depression.

4. There is a spiritual reward to closing the nutrient cycle and living closer to the cyle of life, death, and rebirth.
I have posted before about why I am not a vegetarian (part 1, part 2) Here’s my view in a nutshell:

As modern humans, I think it is too easy to become unbalanced and misled by the rational mind.  One of the big lies we tell ourselves is that we stand above Nature and are immune to its laws. We can overlay our own thoroughly reasoned false reality over the true reality of Nature and lose touch with the truth– that we, too are bound up in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

At every level, life is a never-ending process of creation and destruction.  From the chemical level, the cellular level, from micro-organisms to tissues to ecosystems to galaxies, things are torn apart so that new things can be created and established systems can be sustained.  No one entity lives forever, but all are linked in the give-and-take cycle of life, death, and rebirth.   I think that trying to distance one’s self from that cycle leads to frustration and anger.

We are not better than other animals. We do not trancend natural law. In order for something to live, something else will die. Unnecessary slaughter (such as factory farming techniques) is almost purely a human thing, is wasteful and destructive to the overall cycle of life. However, there is nothing wrong with killing without waste.

I believe that the imposition of simple, linear, human rules over a complex universe leads to frustration, anger, and needless violence.

Here is an interesting local blog Front Yard Farmer that was recently featured in The Gambit Weekly‘s new green living section. It recounts a New Orleans woman’s home vegetable garden and her locally raised honeybees, ducks and meat rabbits.


~ by nolashaolin on February 26, 2009.

One Response to “Front Yard Farmers”

  1. I really enjoy your posts along these lines. Pollan’s In Defense of Food and your blog have helped me change the way I’ve been eating (and living), especially in the new year. Mostly it’s just the choices I make in the grocery store, but we also started an herb garden at my apartment and there’s a small vegetable garden at the school where I work. You’re right, it is nicer to get a snack from the playground than out of a plastic bag.

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