Maybe you’ve recently had kids and realize you want some better quality edibles for them. You’ve decided to make your own baby food and organic sounds like something you’d want to try. Or, you’re interested in changing your diet, maybe lose some weight, but definitely get healthier. You’ve decided to eat real, whole, foods.
And you discover that the proponents of lifestyles like Paleo, Primal, or Whole30 make a big deal about eating organic, or pasture raised, or humanely raised. So you do your research and you discover that “Certified Organic” is a tiny section in the grocery store that is slightly over your budget.
Next you check out the local farmer’s market and you’re not impressed with that produce selection either. And, the farmer’s market is all the way across town and you work and the kids have to get to bed at a decent hour and there’s just no time for figuring out that day of the week when your schedule is already full.
Then you want to figure out how you can reduce your drive time and you look into joining a CSA and getting a box of produce each week, or so, picked up near your work. But when you get down to the nitty gritty you find that either the cost is way out of your budget or you really don’t like any of the foods.
And you throw up your hands and say “F this!”
And then you discover my little blog, and you think to yourself, “Maybe I could do this, grow some of my own food, and offset the budget a little? Offset the traditionally grown food in my kitchen right now and add some healthy choices?”
Hello. Nice to meet you!
This was/is my origin story before I decided to aim for a goal to provide 25% of our family’s food by growing and raising it ourselves by the end of 2018. It’s my “Eat the Backyard in 2018” plan.
You can eat organically, too, at your little suburban postage stamp in the world. Your mini livestock on your mini homestead can have a good life. You don’t have to use synthetic pesticides and you can lower your waste by composting. Teach your kids some cool shit with worm raising, and maybe enjoy some meat and eggs with your own fowl flock. And then, if you’re really adventurous, become a beekeeper.
Before I go on, let’s evaluate some things. Because, maybe eating “organic” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
What is “Certified Organic”?
It’s a long bunch of text in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). There’s a lot of definitions and descriptions and a person has to read through all of that bullshit to get to the meat of what exactly is required to be “Certified Organic”. Let’s take a look at the some of the good, the bad and the ugly.
The CFR requires the use of crop rotations, cover crops, and an “application of plant and animal materials” 205.23 (b). It lays out exactly how hot manure needs to be before it can be applied to food crops. The CFR also states that no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers may be used, nor plastic pellets fed to poultry. The pellets are for roughage, if you’re curious.
Did you know that the eCFR states that one of the requirements for livestock to be labeled organic in the U.S. is that the producer of organic livestock must not “Feed mammalian or poultry slaughter by-products to mammals or poultry”? Now, I don’t know if this belongs under the good or bad category. I mean, yay! Thanks for putting that in there so organic producers know not to turn our food into cannibals! But then, seriously? This had to be put in writing because some jackass(es) were turning our food into cannibals. I don’t want to eat a cannibal if that’s not a regularly occurring thing for that species. eCFR 205.237 (b)(5)
I encourage you to follow the source link I’ve added above, read the code, get informed, make your choices, whatever they might be, based on your own research and not necessarily what the media or other special interests want you to know.
Many times I’ve seen text in the code that if an organic producer has a “need” that they can then just go against the code and basically do whatever. Here is one example:
“(e) When the practices provided for in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section are insufficient to prevent or control crop pests, weeds, and diseases, a biological or botanical substance or a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production may be applied to prevent, suppress, or control pests, weeds, or diseases: Provided, That, the conditions for using the substance are documented in the organic system plan.”
So, there. They *can* still use synthetic pesticides.
And organic and natural pesticides are still pesticides. They still linger on the food we eat.
Basically, what I’m saying is, just because something is “certified organic” doesn’t mean you’re safe. You still don’t know whether your food has been F’ed with and how it’s been F’ed with.
Locally grown food is best. Slow grown food is best. But like I wrote above, that shit can get expensive.
And, I won’t even get into it here how Big Ag is using non-sustainable growing tactics that have left our grocery store food with very little nutrients; and THEN the food is picked before it’s ripe, so it doesn’t have the full nutrients in it; and THEN it still has to travel to the store and loses even more nutrients along the way. Food picked at the peak of ripeness and locally grown gives you the best nutrients, and taste, you can ask for. (There are exceptions to food that is freeze dried and frozen at ripeness.)
First things, first:
So have I convinced you to grow your groceries? To give the big middle finger to “certified organic”?
If so, here’s the first five things you can do, today, to start you off on eating your backyard.
- Start small. If you’re a busy person and you have trouble implementing new habits, you really should start with a small patch. If you’re an apartment dweller or somewhere with zero lot lines, then small is all you’ve got. Be strategic with your containers and really get intense with planting and crop rotations. If you are on something larger, a suburban lot at .10 acres and up, I’d start with just a couple of 4×8 garden beds. That’s 64 sq feet. Do you know how much food you can get out of 64 sq feet? A lot. Plant your favorites, see how they do, write it down, and see how you can improve next year. If you’re doing livestock, start small, start with one. Chickens, quail, or ducks are a common first for mini and urban homesteaders. Others go for goats, honeybees, or rabbits. But start with just one. Learn all you can, make it a habit of taking care of them, then introduce something new.
- Start composting your plant scraps.
- Find a spot that’s easy for you to get to so you’ll actually throw your plant waste in there. Something that you can access for turning, if you want to be a turner.
- You don’t need a fancy, expensive composter. Find four free pallets (they do not need to be pressure treated), screw them together to form a box, (don’t worry about the top or bottom) wrap some chicken wire around the inside of the pallet. You might want to zip tie or staple the wire to the wood. Use a carpenter’s staple gun, not the office stapler.
- Start throwing your produce scraps, lawn clippings and leaf litter in there. If you’ve got pet rabbits, throw their entire bedding in there when you change it out. (Although, rabbit manure can be used at the base of plants without needing to be composted first)
- Plan your site and observe where the sun hits your property. If it’s summer solstice when you read this, are all of the leaves on that big tree shading out where you’d like your garden? That’s probably not a great spot for growing produce. But it might be a good spot for the chickens and worms, to keep them shaded at the worse part of the summer. Take measurements, map it out on graph paper, plan your site. Make cute circles to represent plants and their sizes. Or look to square foot gardening. One zucchini in a square. Nine beets in another.
- Watch Craigslist for freebies and deals on garden supplies. Look for things for making your raised beds or irrigation supplies. There’s lots of discussion on using pressure treated wood or not. Some say it leaches into your soil and edibles. Others say it’s a tiny amount and the long lasting wood is nice to have. My preference is not using pressure treated wood. I’m not an expert in the area of science and chemistry so I proceed with a cautious outlook and if the wood breaks down/rots, well that’s just more material for the soil.
- Plant something, your favorite something, water it, watch it grow.
Your needs shouldn’t be ignored. Shelter, food, water, security, and community are basic needs we all share. I welcome you to share this journey with me and learn something about yourself, bond as a family, and get to know each other in this virtual homesteading world. And if you’re in Eastern Washington, drop me a line on my Facebook Page, let’s meet and chat all things food.
In another post I’ll discuss biodiversity and biointensive food production on a small scale.
Now tell me, down below in the comments, what will you do TODAY to get your grow on?