One answer to this question, as an Alaskan, is pretty simple: food that has to get to Alaska is pretty icky by the time it gets here. I try to eat Alaska Grown as often as possible but there are just not a lot of options.
Another answer is that: it feels good. It feels good to have my hands in soil and to hand pollinate each zucchini. It feels good to know that I made this food grow. It feels good in the dead of winter, when the sun barely rises above the mountains, to open the freezer and pull out vegetables I started from seed and salmon that I caught myself. It feels good to take responsibility for myself.
I bet a lot of people have a similar emotional reaction. There is something direct and satisfying about digging in the soil, and I like how you articulated the self-reliance it offers!
Our garden was started a few years ago by a priest that wanted to use our land for something other than growing grass. In the last two years our community garden has grown in community and harvest. We grow food to share with our parish and our neighboring food pantry to provide fresh produce to community members in need. The Epiphany Community Garden is also used for education purposes. It is important to the garden members to spread the good news of Organic gardening to those willing to listen to why it is so important to grow food without chemicals. By planting a seed we put faith in the future.
For me, it's one part quality of the food, one part self-reliance, and one part that it just feels good to have my hands in the dirt. Last year was the first year I expanded to flowers, which is definitely just about the enjoyment, since there's no food value.
1) It tastes better (it really does)
2) There are things in/on grocery store food I do not want in my body
3) There are things my body needs that grocery store food is lacking
4) Living through the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, I realized our supply system can easily breakdown.
5) the realization that kitchen gardens kept a lot of people alive with the Soviet Union collapsed.
6) It is the opposite in every way to what I do for a living inside, under artificial light, sitting down, reading books, documents and things on the computer
7) I kill several birds with one stone: exercise, time with the kids, less grass to mow, put food on the table, forget about the pressures of my day job.
Here is an interview I did: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQzoP1BKucQ
You mentioned the supply chain, and I was recently talking with a criminal justice faculty at my university and that's the first thing she mentioned, that our supply chain is extremely vulnerable to all sorts of disasters. It's something I hadn't thought of before. How many of you have considered that?
I definitely thought about supply chain, but more when I moved here than now. I sold my house in downtown DC and bought this farm in rural Virginia in late 2008 as the market was tanking, partly because I wanted to start gardening. I was unsure of the wisdom of that move at the time, and asked people if I was doing the right thing. And some of the smartest people I know said, "If things go really wrong, you'll be in better shape than the rest of us. We'll come to you."
It's also starting to happen again, with all the news about drought in California. It's nice to know that we can do pretty well without all that long-distance food. Now if I can just find a way to preserve all this asparagus to enjoy all year long, we'll be set!
Kathryn, I know you posted the last bit as a joke, but how many of us do preserve our food, and with what methods? Is that an important consideration?
I love the comment "I kill several birds with one stone: exercise, time with the kids, less grass to mow, put food on the table, forget about the pressures of my day job." I can relate to this. Gardening is like meditation for me.
For me, gardening is a hobby and time outdoors, and it's also a commitment to a long-term project with delicious outcomes. I enjoy including my 3yo daughter in my love of gardening, and she was thrilled when she planted squash seeds and then they sprouted.
As far as food storage - we've had mix luck with it. The easiest and most efficient has been freezing extra veggies - chop and then toss in ziplock bags or jars in the freezer (i don't both blanching since they go into soups and sauces). I've done canning and enjoyed that process, but i was never one to churn out a winter's supply of tomato sauce or canned fruit, so i felt like the process was complicated for 7 jars of food. (we also joke that I pick the hottest day of year to can tomatoes or peaches) Since we are in the damp Pacific NW, we've had terrible luck with storing winter squash - they rot before i remember to use them, or i forget about them until it's too late.
Our 4 year old loves the garden too, and that makes me happy. I like the idea of the garden as a long term project - for me, unlike long term work projects because of those direct results!
Lee, I do a little canning, some dehydrating, and a good bit of freezing.
I've done some canning and freezing, mostly canning. I want to do some dehydrating, but have not gotten to that other than hanging up peppers. I would like to try to do better at eating in season as much as possible. I'm in a subtropical climate, so we have a longer growing season but things do not keep as well.
I grew up gardening with my mother, first in western New York state, then on a farm in Maryland. But when my husband and I moved to Alabama, I faced a steep learning curve. Though we have a long growing season, the climate is still quite a challenge, from late freezes to damaging storms to wilting heat and humidity. Each year, hope springs eternal for me as a gardener...
When we moved into our current house 23 years ago, we inherited a garden plan laid out in 1947 by William Kessler, the plantsman from an Augusta, GA plant nursery that later became the Augusta National Golf Course. Kessler designed a terraced quadrant garden at the back of our property with curved beds for "Berries, Flowers and Vegetables." Unfortunately, when we moved in, it was mostly poison ivy and kudzu! We have restored the garden beds back to their original use, despite the fact that the area is no longer quite sunny enough to be an optimal vegetable garden (nor is any part of our property...the neighbors' trees cast long shade). I love the order and discipline, as well as the serendipity, of gardening.
We do harvest enough herbs and vegetables so that each night I can "shop" in the garden for dinner. We have learned what will produce well, what is worthwhile to grow, and every year try something new! I have never worked as hard physically as I do to prepare and care for my gardens. Even so, we never really have enough extra to "put up," as they say in the south. But to wander up, in the cool of the morning, or at the end of the day, recalling family memories and connecting with the history of this place, is just priceless...
Gardeners on the whole are the most optimistic people I've ever met. It is something of a leap of faith each year - the labor, the discipline and as you said, the serendipity. Great story about the origins of your garden. Did you know all that when you bought the property, and if so was it part of the appeal of the place? Does anyone else have a feeling of connection with previous caretakers/designers of their gardens?
I posted on the Garden Project Facebook page the 1947 garden plan drawn by William Kessler, the plantsman and landscape designer who worked with Warren Manning of the Frederick Law Olmsted office in Boston. The original owners of our house, Charles and Bernadine Zukowski, commissioned the plans for their 1938 house in Mountain Brook, Alabama. Our vegetable and flower gardens are in the upper left hand corner of the plans. The Zukowskis lived in the house until about 1987, when my parents-in-law bought the house. My husband and I bought it from his parents in 1992. About 5 years later, I discovered these plans in the archives of the Birmingham Public Library and we decided to try to restore the gardens as best we could!
I have a connection to our garden - we live in my grandparents house, the house my dad grew up in for half of his childhood into adulthood. Dave and I bought the small house from my grandma when she moved into assisted living. I have good memories of this house, especially the garden that my grandma kept in the back yard. It was pretty simple - rhubarb, marionberry plants (a NW blackberry variety), herbs, and a couple of tomato plants. But she was a faithful gardener, and she made the best marionberry/mixed berry jam that she put away in jars - it was soooo good! I still keep up that same garden plot in the back, with the same rhubarb plant, although the berries were taken out a one point. Now i have blueberry bushes there instead. While i don't recall gardening with her (except for picking berries), I have very good memories of Sunday dinner with fresh tomato slices, cooked spinach (still like it), and that delicious jam!
Quite simply, I eat what I grow. I don't let it go to waste and therefore, in the summer, we eat a ton of fruits and veggies. I plan my meals around my garden and it makes my family and I have more interesting and healthy meals. We have an orchard of fruit trees and a small garden of vegetables that are a joy in the summer. There is nothing more exciting than picking your own food. We also have wild fruits on our farm such as cherries, mulberries, and raspberries. My kids and I adore going into the woods and picking those yummy treats. The work makes the food taste better!
I grow out of family tradition. My earliest memories are in my grandparents' and father's gardens. We ate what we grew and canned what we couldn't keep up with come summer. But it was more than that. We spent time together. We sat in the gardens and enjoyed each other. I learned about plants, flowers, insects, soil. Then we took the food inside and I learned to cook -- and always, to share. Now I watch my daughter do it. Yesterday we picked 4 early snap peas and see ran to the fence to pass one to a neighbor. A tiny, simple gift, filled with love and connection.
Besides, anything from the garden tastes better and anything a child makes from the garden has a better chance of being eaten and appreciated. And so the cycle continues....