Why Grow Food?
There are so many reasons to grow your own food!
Whether you are growing in your own garden, a community garden, or purchasing from an urban farm, being an active participant in your local food system has incredible benefits, including the following:
Combating Food Insecurity
Local sources of food can augment diets based on mass-produced food and produce grown for transportability, not necessarily nutritional value or taste. Since food now travels up to 2,500 miles – 25 percent more than it did in 1980 – the food transportation network is a fragile system that does not always keep the needs of local consumers in mind. Gardens are a stable resource to have in times of economic insecurity. With the fall of communism in Russia, food prices spiked and many urban dwellers responded by using vacant land for food production. This land now produces 30 percent of all food grown in the country and 80 percent of the vegetables.
Helping the Environment
From an environmental perspective, urban gardens and farms do much more than beautify vacant land. They help to attract and repair habitats for pollinator species such as bees to urban areas, in a time when the bee population is in crisis. They provide stormwater capture through the installation of rainbarrel systems. Finally the addition of plants to an urban environment provides necessary cooling effects to an area often surrounded by pavement and concrete.
Eliminating Food Deserts
Areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food affect 2.3 million Americans who live more than a mile away from a supermarket without having access to a vehicle. Urban gardens and farms can be valuable resources in such areas, especially if the only food options are higher priced convenience store foods and overly processed fast food.
Tackling Poor Nutrition Habits
Poor eating impacts people throughout their lives, from fatigue and concentration problems at school and work to behavioral and medical problems in both children and adults. Improving basic nutrition is an immediate impact of community gardening. Active gardeners have reported increased consumption of vegetables and decreased consumption of less nutritious sweet foods and drinks as a result of growing their own food.
Helping Families Save Money
Families in cities across the country have been able to stretch their food dollars through urban farms and gardens. Food savings from amateur gardeners varied from $100-$300 annually in Milwaukee to $700 annually per family in Philadelphia. The average profit of a New York City community garden is $5-10/sq ft, but well-managed gardens can produce up to $40/sq ft. Thus a 10×20 foot lot could produce up to $700 annually!
Creating a Sense of Place
Community gardens in particular have long been considered an ideal venue for neighborhood gathering space, a place for people of diverse backgrounds and interests to come together around a shared interest in beautifying their community and growing their own food. In many of the neighborhoods we have worked in, there are few parks, or the parks are not safe, and urban gardens or farms have become a de facto location for meet-ups and discussions. We have found the creation of this type of space to be one of the most rewarding elements of our work.