I have to admit, like most Americans I have become enamored with the local food movement. I know exactly where food comes from and my job as an agricultural journalist puts me in contact with farmers almost every day. But the idea of growing my own food with my own two hands was a thrilling idea to me and still is.
With the idea in mind that I was going to grow my own vegetables, and with my husband’s assistance, five large boxes were built to house our garden. The majority of our suburban backyard is cement, so above-ground boxes were our only option. A nearby composting facility for the city let me fill the boxes with dirt for a fairly cheap rate. Then, vegetable plants were purchased at the local Junior College’s nursery.
After everything was planted, I was so proud of my little garden. In my mind, I was making grand plans of all the things I would can when the crop came in. Every day, I faithfully watered my garden; an automated sprinkler system wasn’t in the budget this year. As I watered, I’d look over the plants to check out their growth to see if I could tell any difference.
But then a funny thing happened: life got in the way. Somewhere along the way, I stopped paying as much attention to my garden. I still watered it, but it lost its novel appeal.
Now that the crop has come in, I’m looking at a whopping eight peppers, six tomatoes and five eggplant. I’ll probably get a few more of each, as there are several green tomatoes on the vine, but not the kind of crop I was fantasizing about in my head just a few short months ago. I don’t even think I have enough to can anything.
My little gardening project makes me think that perhaps the “local” food movement trend is the best thing that could happen to agriculture. How can anyone truly appreciate where their food comes from or the people behind it if they have never tried it themselves? Growing your own food sounds like an easy thing to do, but as I learned it’s not.
I don’t think trying to make something is necessary to appreciate where everything comes from. For example, I don’t need to go work at Apple to find out how my iPod works to appreciate it. As long as it works when I turn it on, that’s all I care about. But, for some reason, food is different. People have romanticized food.
I know many farmers, know where my food comes from, but I have an even bigger appreciation for farmers after my attempt at gardening. I’m sure others are better gardeners than me, but I can only believe that there are millions of people out there who ended up with eight peppers, six tomatoes and five eggplants and are now so much appreciative when they walk into the grocery store.
I’ve already started to think about what I can plant next year to improve my little garden, but trust me I’m not about to quit my day job.