Having spent my whole life—all 29 years of it—in major cities around the world, I can’t say I grew up with a green thumb. I knew nothing about plants or how to grow them, nor was I particularly interested in learning. My eldest sister, who is 14 years my senior, began growing her own food at least 10 years ago and I thought it was uncool. Like, go to the grocery store like a normal person, weirdo.
As time went on, I matured and learned more about the environment; I realized how much I loved nature, how much I craved it despite (or maybe because of) not knowing much about it. I learned about urban gardening legends like the Gangsta Gardner. It looked like my sister had gotten it right, but logical, scientific me wanted some concrete reasons to try my hand at gardening. Here are the 5 key benefits of growing your own food that finally swayed me:
1. Be healthier: Surprisingly, Oreos and Doritos don’t grow when you plant them. Whenever you grow food, you’re automatically growing something nutritious, so eating your food will help you stay healthy. It’s also more likely that you’ll eat more servings of produce daily because, I mean, they’re right there. As someone who has struggled to eat enough fruits and veggies on the daily ever since I moved out on my own, this point was important for me. A convenient way to eat like a healthy human? Yes, please.
2. Save money: Why would you buy a cucumber at the store when you can get one in your backyard? Growing your own food means there’s no need to purchase your favourite fruits and veggies because—guess what—now they grow on your property (or nearby)!
Bonus: You won’t waste as much produce because you can appreciate it more since you’ve grown it yourself, so if you can’t eat it you’ll likely give it away, thus reducing food waste.
3. Be more eco-friendly: We all know about the giant monopoly monocultures that grocery store-bought food tends to come from. We know about the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides. Now, if you grow your own food, you’ll likely grow a variety of things, which can encourage biodiversity and better soil health. You’re in control of whether your food contains harmful pesticides and herbicides, so you don’t have to contribute to poisoning the Earth. Smaller-scale agriculture is much gentler on Mother Nature.
4. Connect to nature: Growing your own food will teach you about different plants’ needs and how they interact with each other. You’ll learn about pests, weeds, and natural allies against them. You’ll start noticing and appreciating how a small seed can grow into a whole fruit-bearing plant. You’ll learn not to take these little things for granted.
You’ll also be playing in the dirt, where you can appreciate feeling the sun on your skin or seeing the rain feeding your produce babies. Gardening is super therapeutic, as any seasoned gardener will tell you, and it’s partially because it gets you outside, which is especially important for us sun-deprived folks in the Northern Hemisphere.
5. Build community: I didn’t even see this benefit until I really started observing gardeners. People who grow their own food somehow find other people who do the same and they immediately have something in common; they exchange tips, stories, and even seeds. Growers get asked questions by curious neighbours and typically have loads of extra produce to share. You can’t help but build a little community around your garden because there is something instinctively soothing and attractive about a lush food garden.
I finally got my own little plot to grow food in this spring. I’m not the only one new to this; community gardens and edible landscaping have popped up all over the place in recent years. The urban gardening movement is expanding and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.
Do you grow your own food? If you do, what is your favourite thing to grow? If you don’t, would you like to?