I’d like to go over my five reasons I try to grow my own food, or at least as much food as I am able to squeeze into my already hectic life.
It all started when one of my daughters was 5 years old, we noticed she was developing girly parts significantly faster than we thought she should be. No 5-year old should need a bra! Our pediatrician tested her and found nothing abnormal, and suggested we go see a doctor specializing in pediatric endocrinology. The one we ended up seeing was further specialized in research regarding “precocious puberty“. After two visits, six weeks apart (he was ALWAYS over booked), we were told our child is fine, and that her issues were more than likely caused by the growth hormones in our food. He went on to tell us that in his opinion, in order to halt the problems, we should all go to an all organic diet if at all possible. If not, as a bare minimum, we should stick to organic dairy and eggs.
This was all before the big stink about recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in our milk. Publix, our local grocery store, had not yet gone to non-rBGH sources for their milk, so we were buying organic milk at $6/gallon. Thankfully, public pressure has since changed the view of Franken-milk, and we can now find more affordable options.
This whole incident started out feet down a path of caring more about what we eat. Having a paranoid nature, I quickly determined I cannot trust anyone other than myself to feed my family SAFELY. (This doesn’t only apply to food, I’ve found…)
Therefore, reason number 1 –
The economy has its ups and downs, and nothing will change that. If you can get by comfortably in the bad times, it just makes the good times that much better, and we quickly found that raising our own food was a less expensive option. When we first started, we opted to go with chickens for our egg production. We eventually stuck with quail as an egg source, for requiring less space, and fewer inputs, yet yielding more than chickens. Quail are also a more stealthy option for an urban environment.
Our four chickens produced about 1200 free-range eggs per year. Food costs about $10 per month. That makes our free-range eggs about $1.20 per dozen. Egg production drops off in the winter due to shorter days, so we do end up buying eggs occasionally, but for 10+ months a year, we never buy eggs!
Now with our quail, food still costs roughly $10 per month, but we are getting more eggs by weight. This means we are around $1 per the quail equivalent of a dozen chicken eggs. (For those that wonder, about 4 quail eggs equals one extra large chicken egg)
We raise rabbits for meat as well. The cost varies, running between $4 and $8 per pound, mostly determined by the breeding pace I set. Ever priced out rabbit meat at a store? Here is a picture from our local grocery store:
We also grow our own tomatoes, and by using cutting propagation and saving seeds, virtually growing them for free at this point. Sweet potatoes are also fit under the “grow it for free” category, and continue to produce year-round. A pound of salad greens costs us pennies to grow vs. $3 per pound at the store.
Most of the plants we grow for our own consumption costs us very little now that we have established. Add in our fruit trees – mango yielding hundreds of pounds of fruit per year, a lemon tree that gives us dozens of lemons, more papayas from our trees than we know what to do with, as well as loquats, Acerola cherries, sugarcane, elderberries, figs, pomegranates, and plantains. Each tree/shrub requires very little input, yet provides us with a bounty of flavors and nutrition…..effectively for free.
So, reason number 2 –
Less expensive, higher quality food
Have you ever tried a watermelon radish? Go here for a GREAT mock-up of a tiny watermelon:
Most folks have never even heard of them, let alone tasted one. We grow them. And love them. Raw, pickled, or roasted. They are a new addition, but are now on the permanent list of things we will grow. And NOT available at any fruit stand or grocery store we’ve been to on this area. If we didn’t have a garden, we would never have had the chance to try one. The same goes for Thai yard-long green beans, luffa gourds, sunfruit, ground cherries, lemon basil, lime basil, amaranth, Mexican oregano, or red orach. Or the color variants of purple carrots and purple tomatillos, black tomatoes, or golden beets.
Thus, reason number 3 –
Variety not available commercially
We are in the extreme southern end of planting zone 9b/northern end of 10a and on the coast. We rarely get frost, sometimes going several years without one. These two factors have allowed us to be picking fresh salad greens and garlic chives since last November, tomatoes and hot peppers non-stop since late last summer, and a continual rotating radish crop since last October. Our weather issue come in the summer, when it is too hot to grow conventional veggies. It’s also the time when the rest of the country north of us has an overabundance of produce. If we cannot grow it, we can buy it when the supply is at its highest, so we pay less (again!).
We have also started to grow plants more suited to tropical environments, plants that thrive in the oppressive heat. Things like Thai yard-long green beans absolutely LOVE the heat. The hotter it is, the faster the beans seem to grow, going from a pair of blossoms on Monday to a pair of beans on Thursday…that are literally three feet long. Four of these beans are plenty as a side dish for a family of four.
With 12 months of available growing seasons, there is never a moment we cannot grow something edible.
And while some of you may not have 12 months of growing outside, setting up a indoor window garden is NOT hard to accomplish…and a little goes a long way. Having something growing all the time right at your fingertips is a fantastic convenience.
So, reason number 4 –
Life is stressful. Money, time, politics, kids. These things can wear you out. Having to take the time to go check on your garden, to interact with your animals, to see the fruits of your labor are good for the soul. Burying your arm into soil you’ve created, nurtured, and guarded, and smelling the raw healthiness in it empowers you. With our Florida soil being 99% sand, I’m as proud of the soil in my raised beds as I am of the food those beds produce.
Working with my hands is therapy for me. Crushing snails, staking tomatoes, feeding treats to my rabbits are all good for my emotional stability. And honestly, have you ever watched a flock of chickens? I’m surprised there isn’t a 24/7 chicken watching channel….
Finally, reason number 5 –
Growing my own food is therapeutic
So, even if its only a small pot with a single basil or oregano plant, go out and get started growing your own food. If you choose an unusual variety, you will cover all five of MY reasons, and probably come up with a few of your own.
Get some mammoth basil seeds. You can see the enormous size of these exceedingly simply-to-grow plants. Basil is one of the first things I tell everyone to try growing. Sun, water, and soil is all that it takes. It grows quickly, and is very aromatic. And a single packet of seeds goes a VERY long way…
And having fresh herbs on hand is a good idea…..just in case.
What are YOUR reasons to grow your own food? And if you don’t grow any of your own food, why mot? Let me know in the comments below…
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