In 1943 there was a nationwide coordinated system to grow food at homes and schools; community gardens were created and three-fifths of the US was growing food to help ease the burden on the war. Victory Gardens, as they were called, were encouraged by the government for the people of the nation to do their part in producing food for themselves. Eventually, victory gardens were seen as low-class and they fell out of popularity once the war was over.
Today, the average american home has it’s very own postage stamp of lawn. And the greener the better. Lawn owners spray chemicals and fertilizers on their grass to get just that right shade of green and growth, to kill the weeds, and make the grass look as much like a living carpet as possible. And then they cut it all back. And fertilize it again.
Meanwhile, one-third of the nations food is thrown away every year. Tons and tons of food that could have gone to feed hungry people, wasted. The problem is a distribution issue, “we” can’t figure out a way to get the food to the hungry people in the most efficient way possible. Many food goes uneaten because it’s blemished and it’ll go bad before it’s sold. If you’ve ever grown a tomato that grew too fast for its britches and split, then healed, leaving a bruise, you didn’t care and ate it anyway. But we know where that tomato came from, right? That’s why we still ate it. We know why the food is blemished, we know it’s still fresh and good to eat and has a low chance of giving us e-coli because we’ve washed our hands before picking our own food.
So why not grow our own gardens and let our kids help?
Oh! You have a lawn and you want to keep it. Oh, I see.
Did you know lawns are the biggest agricultural crop in the US. Like, 30 + billion (billion) acres of front yard and backyard (and maybe side yard) grass. Lawns use more pesticides, more fertilizers, and a lot more water than crops. Because of their shallow roots, turfgrass requires more frequent waterings to stay supple and lush.
You want your kids to play on the lawn? I get it. Throw the ball around. Watch the clouds go by while lying on a blanket. Pitch a tent and camp in the backyard. Wouldn’t it be just as fun if there was a tunnel maze of sunflowers? Or a nook underneath some fruit trees with a mint carpet that they can tuck themselves into and draw or read? Or a vining arbor of sweet peas that your little royal princess has declared to be her throne room? I mean, you don’t need just grass for kids to play in the backyard. You can still install a rope swing on the strongest branch of a support tree that’s in your garden already. Or build a secret tree house covered in grapevines.
But you get enough food at the grocery store?
Oh, I see.
How does that cardboard tomato taste from the store? Or, better yet, those fresh goji berries?
I bet if you did a taste comparison between a store bought large tomato and an heirloom large tomato grown from a home garden, that the homegrown tomato will not taste like cardboard. And that goji berry? You might be able to find those fresh at a specialty store, or a farmers market. For a jacked up price. What about paw-paws (the custard apple), or jujubes? Gooseberries, currants, fennel. (You’ve probably seen fennel in a grocery store. I can find it, but it’s rare and it’s not cheap. I’m building my fennel crop now because it’s my favorite root vegetable). There’s so many choices of fruits and vegetables you can grow. So many new foods your kids might try because they grew it themselves (or, maybe, they also think produce from the grocery store tastes like cardboard).
And then there’s magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient for a human, especially a growing child. A magnesium deficiency can cause a number of problems and has even been linked to colon cancer. But the one symptom I care most about is how a deficiency in magnesium can lead to symptoms that mimic ADHD.
In a January 2016 study, 50 kids were studied for the effects of magnesium on ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity, impulsivity, and oppositional behaviors. 25 kids had ADHD and the other 25 were in the control group. The study “showed that there was a highly significant improvement in hyperactivity and impulsivity, and also a significant improvement in inattention, opposition and conceptual level” when the group with ADHD were given 200 mg of magnesium supplements a day(read more here).
So what does that have to do with growing your own food?
Well, practically everything.
Getting an actual dose of magnesium from growing your own food should be the number one reason you DO grow your own food. Why? Because the food that shows up in the grocery store is lacking sufficient amounts of magnesium.
See, it’s no secret that the crops grown by Big Ag farms, the food delivered to groceries stores, is depleted in magnesium. It’s a mixture of factors but this article from Science Direct explains part of it is unbalanced fertilization of the soil and drought conditions. California, one of our big powerhouse states that supplies food all over the US, has frequent drought conditions. And fertilization is a standard growing practice.
We can avoid drought conditions and over fertilization issues in our own backyards. One, we’re not trying to feed a nation from our backyard, so if one tomato plant fails, we can grow something else in its place almost immediately. And two, is we should practice biointensive farming in our own yards and use water conservation efforts like building swales or a rain garden, or using wicking beds, or catching rainwater from our roofs. And all of those projects can include our children so they learn life skills, hard work, and the pride of building something that can benefit their family.