1 – NO HORMONES
Home grown food is superior in quality to what can be bought at the store for a lot of reasons.
One reason is because a lot of produce is harvested off the farm prematurely when the flesh of the fruit or vegetable is still very firm in order to prevent bruising from the bumps that inevitably come from transportation. Once the immature produce reaches the store it is hosed with plant hormones to artificially accelerate the ripening process so the produce can be sold ripe. The nutrient quality of the produce is reduced because of the early harvest, and it really doesn’t seem like a good idea to be eating all those extra hormones.
These two bunches of grapes are the same type of grape but the grapes on the left are oblong in shape while the grapes on the right are spherical. What caused the difference? The grapes on the left were treated with gibberellin, a plant hormone that stimulates fruit development, in order to force the grapes to grow larger very quickly, right before being marketed to consumers. The grapes on the right are still on the vine and haven’t been treated with gibberellin so they still have their natural spherical shape. This is only one example of many hormonal manipulations common to the food industry.
Farmers are often forced into using excessive amounts of pesticide to eradicate all pests from their fields. This is known as “purchaser pleasing” within the industry and the name says it all: An agent, the purchaser, will visit a grower and randomly sample his produce in the field. If there are insect infestations the purchaser will likely condemn the whole field and the farmer will be stuck with produce he cannot sell except for drastically reduced pricing or to secondary markets such as animal feed. No farmer wants this to happen to him. So how is this avoided? By pouring on the pesticides in order to eradicate all pests.
But if you think about it, it all comes down to the consumer. It’s the demands of the consumer that has caused this to happen. When we go to a large grocery store we expect that the produce will be flawless – precise, predictable, and exactly the same. So after decades of consumers picking through produce and only choosing apples that are the same shape, size, and unblemished, the purchasing agent has to view the farmer’s fields through the eyes of the consumer. In a home garden situation where you don’t have to satisfy the stiff standards of a purchaser, you can get away with using a lot less pesticide if any at all. (Photo above by Deb Dramby)
3 – MORE NUTRIENTS AND FLAVOR
Fresh, homegrown produce is almost always more nutritious than store-bought produce. When crops are harvested when they’re fully ripe, the plants have had more time to invest more minerals, phytochemicals, carbohydrates, and other nutrients into your fruits and vegetables. Also keep in mind that crops are living plant tissues: the longer they sit in transport or on the shelf at the store, the more the produce has time to metabolize its energy stores and thus become less nutritious with time.
And let’s not forget that, for the same reasons listed above, fresh, right-off-the-vine produce ALWAYS tastes way better than anything you could find at the store. (Photo credit: christgr)
4 – GREATER VARIETY
Through seed catalogs, seed exchanges, and home garden traditional plant breeding, gardeners have access to thousands of crop varieties that are not grown commercially. Many different seed or nursery companies publish their catalogs online and ship hardcopies for free.
- www.willisorchards.com (does not send a hard copy… you can view their products online)
Variety not only gives you a lot more food choices to pick from, it is also an excellent check against disease and pests. If a disease devastates one crop variety it is not likely to be able to do the same to a different crop variety because of the different set of genetic resistance adaptations it possess.
If these two blocks’ widths represent the amount of variety in your garden (at left), which do you think would better withstand a negative environmental or biological impact; in other words, which of these two blocks is more likely to remain standing after getting pushed on?
Clearly, the wider box – the greater genetic diversity – has a greater variety of different adaptations for different situations like the ones listed in the red arrow above. It’s a lot harder for a disturbance, whatever it is, to throw off a solid genetic foundation.
If there really is that much variety available, why are there comparatively so few varieties to choose from at the store?
Well, farmers increase their profits by selling crops in greater quantities, so farmers consistently select the most productive one or two varieties of each crop. This may increase farmer profits but it comes at the expense of genetic diversity.
- Heat tolerance
- Natural insect repellents
- Natural weed-seed killing chemistry
- Stronger stalks, sturdier plants
- Chill/freeze tolerance
- Bacterial resistance
- Drought tolerance
- Fungal resistance
- Quicker seed germination
- Weed suppression chemistry
- Adaptations to poor soil fertility . . .
… just to name a few. It’s quite a bit harder for a disturbance to throw off this kind of genetic foundation and entirely destroy the whole population of plants. So even if something happens, portions of the crop are still likely to survive (and produce an even stronger genetic ability to withstand those conditions the next time!)
The narrower box only has a few genes. Since the plant only has a few genetic traits, the plant really excels in those traits:
- Huge yields
- Carb dense
- Tons of vigor (as long as everything remains stable and nothing extreme happens…)
- 1846: Late-blight fungus devastated the Irish potato crop. Interestingly enough, the exact same fungus exists in the Andes mountains of South America but the potatoes grown there survive. Why do you think that is? The answer is there is a lot of variety in the potatoes grown in the South American Andes and thus a greater variety in the potato genetics that has helped create resistance to the disease.
Nearly all life on earth is sustained by plants (and we, as humans, certainly are). Good gardening knowledge and skill is a wonderful way to independently take care of oneself and one’s family. There is a great sense of satisfaction and security that comes from being able to grow the food you need without relying on others to do it for you.
If the food supply were to become limiting, or even dry up completely for whatever reason, you can expect that no one will spend their energy trying to find food for you when their own stomach is empty. In the event of a crisis it won’t matter how rich you are if you can’t access food. Cash, precious metals, stocks, bonds, cars, houses, boats, life insurance policies . . . none of these assets can be eaten. In a crisis, food will not only feed you, it will be the ultimate bartering item (and seeds are likely to become very precious if something like that ever happened).
A crisis situation is obviously not your typical everyday occurrence, and we prefer to look on the brighter side of life. Nevertheless, it is always good to be prepared. Growing your own is a sure way to always have what you need.
Increasing energy costs have wide reaching economic effects: fuel required to run farm equipment, fuel required to transport farm supplies to farmers and produce to grocery stores, the utility costs of massive supermarkets . . . who ends up paying for all these energy costs? You and I, the consumer. But homegrown food can be produced at a fraction of the cost of food sold at the grocery store simply because it naturally avoids the enormous industrial complex that runs our modern food system today.
Homegrown produce naturally avoids being taxed, because you’re not purchasing it… you’ve grown it yourself. You’ve probably never thought of saving money through gardening that way but it’s true. Businesses, farmers and grocers who either grow, buy and sell, transfer, and/or process produce pay taxes along the way. These taxes include:
- federal and state income taxes
- property taxes
- sales taxes from farmers’ and grocers’ purchases of supplies/equipment necessary to operate
- payroll taxes . . . and the list goes on.
But who really pays all these taxes? You and I, as consumers. Buying food from the store not only buys the item you want to purchase, but a lot of that money goes towards all the extra costs associated with all these taxes. Growing your own food allows you to legally and lawfully avoid a lot of these tax burdens.-
Have you ever heard people say this: “Food is so cheap at the grocery store that I would easily spend a lot more money trying to grow my own food than if I simply bought it from the store.” This statement is wrong. Food at the grocery store has the appearance of being “cheap” because modern agriculture is an enormously subsidized industry. In the United States, the federal government shells out 20 billion dollars every year to subsidize agriculture. In Europe, the European Union spends more than double that in agricultural subsidies. But where do governments get the money to pay for these huge subsidies? From you and I through taxation. Put simply, you are buying food through taxation without even going to the grocery store. When you purchase food at the grocery store, you’re paying for food a second time!
7 – GARDENING IS PHYSICALLY AND SPIRITUALLY UPLIFTING
Working in the garden and creating life sustaing produce in combination with Mother Nature and your handiwork is good for both body and soul. If you’ve done any gardening before, you’ll know exactly what I mean. There’s nothing like getting your hands in some dirt, picking up a shovel, sticking a plant in the ground and firmly pushing soil in and around the roots, scattering seed around or distributing seed evenly in rows, etc. Whether you’re working up a sweat or not, gardening is good for you and your family in so many ways.