Unless you live in a temperate climate like California, Arizona or Florida, you’re probably buying your fresh produce at the grocery store for a good part of the year. And when you do that, your fruit and vegetables have to be trucked to you from afar, so, they aren’t as fresh as they’d be if you bought food that grew locally. If you’re lucky enough to have access to farmer’s markets, then you may be able to buy seasonal produce when it’s available there.
There are many health, financial, and environmental reasons and benefits that you will derive from growing your vegetables. If you’re not convinced after reading this detailed explanation, you owe it to yourself to try it because the proof is indeed in the pudding.
On a post on the Harvard Health Blog entitled “Backyard gardening: grow your own food, improve your health, executive editor Heidi Godman mentioned Michelle Obama’s book about the White House Kitchen Garden, highlighting the joys and challenges that the then-first lady experienced from the famous White House Garden. The book sought to inspire everyone to consider starting their own school, community, or backyard gardens.
Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital internist, Dr. Helen Delichatsios suggests that backyard gardening encourages people to get interested in the origin and source of food they eat. She indicated that the act of growing one’s own food should inspire people to make wiser food choices. She also observed that people are more likely to enjoy food when they grow it because of the effort they put into planting it, growing it, and ultimately, bringing fresh food to the table.
What Are The Benefits of Growing Your Own Food Crops?
- Homegrown vegetables are fresher and more nutritious.
A lot of the produce you buy in the supermarket is picked before it’s fully ripe. Then it is packed into refrigerated trucks for a long trip of hundreds or thousands of miles. There is no way that it can be as fresh as something you pick just before you eat it, and the taste will reflect this. Moreover, veggies that ripen on the vine have more nutrients simply because they are fully ripe.
- Growing your own fruits and vegetables encourages you to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.
When you grow your own food, the realization that you put so much effort into planting, caring for, and harvesting crops are reason enough to want to eat it. But an added benefit is the fact that everyone in your home will be more likely to want to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. And that’s a win for everyone on the health front.
- Gardening (Growing Food) Encourages People to Be More Active
From the time you first plant the seeds or vegetable plants in your garden until you harvest the fruits of your labor, everything you do to take care of your food crops is making you more physically active, and that’s a step towards improving your health. And you're exercising without thinking about it.
- Gardening (Growing Food Crops) Connects People With Nature
The more often you get to spend time outside, the better your mental health will be. People feel better when they're surrounded by nature. It's an ideal antidote for the blahs. Spending a bit of time in the sun when you’re active and connecting with nature helps you get your daily dose of Vitamin D. And vitamin supplements aren’t a satisfactory substitute for getting nutrients from food and nature.
If you have an indoor growing whether soil-based or hydroponics, you still ripe the benefit of experiencing the growth cycle of your food from seedling to harvest. Connecting yourself with nature while creating a natural environment in your home.
- Growing Your Own Food Puts You In Control
People are justifiably concerned about the safety of the fresh vegetables they are buying. Between the recent FDA safety alerts regarding contaminated lettuce, and the debate over pesticides and insecticides, consumers want more control over the safety of their food and the things that touch it. When you grow fruits and vegetables, you control what pesticides and insecticides you use or don’t use.
You’ll never have to worry about the safety of your food. While much of the country is abstaining from questionable foods, you can harvest fresh, nutritious, pesticide-free and safe food from your garden - regardless of its size.
When you buy food at a grocery store or a farmer’s market, you’re dependent on market prices, what’s in season, and how good the growing conditions were. When you grow vegetables for yourself, you pay for the cost of starter plants and seeds. Even when you consider the cost of water, soil/hydroponic amendments, or containers (if you’re growing food in containers), you will still spend less than you pay when you buy it from someone else.
Plus, guaranteed you’ll be benefiting the environment, making it a priceless endeavor.
Besides, if you buy heirloom seeds, you can allow some of your crops to go to seed - either at the end of the season or at planned points during the season. You can then save those seeds to use when you’re ready for the next planting.
- Helps You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Trucks, planes, and refrigerated compartments that hold fresh produce when it travels from place to place are dependent on fossil fuels for power. The further these vehicles have to go, the more pollution they emit.
If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of food transportation, then you can do your part to reduce pollution by growing as many fruits and vegetables as it is possible to grow where you live.
If you are willing to eliminate harmful pesticides and insecticides, water your food crops effectively, and use companion plants and cover crops to slow the rate of soil erosion, you’ll be making a significant positive contribution to protecting the environment.
Additionally, if you have no yard to garden in, practicing hydroponics will open the possibility to still reduce your carbon footprint with no need of a yard, while giving water an even more optimized use.
- Reduce Food Waste Due to Spoilage
If you’ve ever bought fresh food with the intention of using it in the next few days, only to forget about it and not realize what’s happened until it’s wilted, rotted or moldy, you’re not alone. And this happens to most people who aren’t growing vegetables at home. The reason it doesn’t happen to people who grow crops in their front or backyards, on their patios, decks, porches, or elsewhere is that they pick things before they use them.
When you have more than you can use right away, you can always can, freeze, dehydrate or share what you’ve grown. And you don’t have to limit yourself to canning peas, tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables. You can always make sauces, condiments, and salsas to can.
And if you’re still overloaded with vegetables you can’t use, you can share your bounty with a food bank. The personal satisfaction you’ll get from knowing that you helped needy people get food for their families is a reward in and of itself.
Whether you have a roommate, a partner, a group of housemates, a spouse, or a family to feed, few things can compare to the bonding experience that people get from putting for the effort to grow their food. It’s also an excellent way to embark on the path to a healthier life – regardless of your age.