Our world and society are changing at what can sometimes be an overwhelming rate. Digitization, connectivity and a fast-as-possible approach to industry have been wearing down people in the corporate world for decades. Is it any surprise that the next generation is embracing older, simpler ways of doing things? The change in focus from instant gratification to DIY and huge houses with complex lifestyles to tiny houses and minimalist approaches to life are a sign of the times and a shift in our society as a whole.
Urban gardening has become a huge hit over the past few years, with the number of millennial gardeners growing significantly compared to prior generations. This hobby can also provide a great way to make a simple living, a strong impact on your own health, others in your community and the world as a whole. Here’s a quick look at why gardening has become so popular over the past decade.
I’ve always been a little ahead of my time, and I specifically remember when my dad noticed it for the first time. He’d come down for a visit just before my daughter was born. He’d grown up on a dairy farm in South Dakota during the 1940s and 1950s and had gone into the military to get away from that lifestyle, eventually becoming a successful contractor in northern Minnesota. He was talking with a friend of ours and grinned as he mentioned, “These crazy kids! I worked like crazy to get off of the farm, and they’re right back on it and think it’s fun!” Our friend, an older gentleman approaching his 60s who had a similar upbringing, wholeheartedly agreed. However, both of these gentlemen still raised gardens and orchard trees to supplement their food supply, decades after leaving the farms they grew up on.
Though this was almost 15 years ago now, my husband and I weren’t alone. A recent article in GenFKD noticed this very same trend, that farming is becoming one of the fastest-growing careers for Millennials. After generations of people leaving the farm in droves for the city, the internet and commonly-available network connectivity has made it possible for that pattern to reverse without the significant losses of a modern lifestyle that have happened in the past. However, unlike their aging contemporaries, millennial farmers have a different focus. They want the food they produce to be of higher quality and containing fewer additives such as pesticides. This has also changed how they’re marketing the food they produce.
Farmers markets are booming, with everyone from families on welfare who can use their food stamps benefits at the market to rich celebrities getting in on the act. Community supported agriculture cooperatives allow the farmer to sell shares in the season’s production directly to a group of interested consumers. Opportunities to sell directly to consumers over the internet abound, making it easier to avoid the middleman and enjoy a profit that helps keep these farms operating. Beyond these benefits, at least on our own farm, there’s also the sweet sound of baby lambs on pasture, the smell of rain on our fields and the peace of a simple life well-lived.
As the detrimental effects of processed foods are becoming more commonly known, many people are turning away from the standard American diet that has prevailed over the past several decades. Turning to foods that are fresher, healthier and less processed, they’re also embracing social responsibility, making sure that their food is being sourced from farms that are taking care of the earth and the farmers who are producing that food. The focus on food miles has also had an effect on the move towards more locally-sourced foods, as the effect of fossil fuels on the environment raises concerns.
The leaders of this movement have been strongly from the millennial generation. With the effects of the recession in 2008 still fresh in many peoples’ minds, the focus on producing our own food has become a strong driving factor in many millennials’ lives. As families began gardening out of necessity, they also began to realize that they could produce their own healthy, wholesome food. They had direct control over whether they chose to use pesticides or other agricultural additives to produce better crops. They could select their own seed varieties to meet their specific needs, whether it was higher nutrition, longer storage or unique varieties of produce that were difficult to find.
This movement also allowed them the opportunity to help out those in need in their communities, whether by directly donating to the homeless man down the street or to needy families through local food banks. They had the option to raise a little more money during difficult times by selling at the local farmers market, on Facebook or through other online options. They could trade their amazing carrots for some of their neighbor’s burgeoning spinach. Growing their own produce provided them with options that extended far beyond their experience as supermarket customers. Communities began to strengthen their bonds as neighbors bonded over pest issues, flourishing crops and government restrictions.
One option that many millennials have embraced is using hydroponic systems to grow their own food year-round. Hydroponics is an ideal option for urban areas. Because these self-enclosed systems recycle the water in the nutritional solution, they use far less water than conventional means of production. They can be used indoors, allowing for year-round production of fresh, healthy produce. Their lack of contact with the soil means that there are far fewer issues with pests than you’d find in a traditional garden, reducing or eliminating the need for traditional pesticides. The recycling of the nutrient solution means there is virtually no concern about fertilizer or pesticide runoff into the environment as a whole. These benefits make hydroponics an ideal option for many urban gardeners.
If you’re considering taking up a new hobby or even an entire new lifestyle, gardening and farming provide a wonderful way to make a real difference in both your own health and the world as a whole. You’ll be able to reduce food miles, control your own food supply and help make a positive impact for others in your community. You can even grow your own food year-round with a self-contained hydroponics system. If you’re ready to get started, Fitleaf can help. Take a few minutes to look at some of our other resources for your gardening needs.
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