Food Inc. vs. gardening

I recently saw the film Food, Inc.
It was playing on our local PBS station here. I do recommend that you watch this film. I think every consumer needs to understand that things are going on related to their food. Without giving away too much about what’s in the movie, I was reassured by the fact that I have a renewed interest in gardening. For the food that I grow, I know where it’s been and what techniques have been used to grow it.

One of the things that struck me during the film is experience of a family with two young children. They were talking about how cheap meat has gotten. The family did not have a lot of money and it showed them shopping at the grocery store looking at vegetables, deciding it was too expensive, then opting for items in the dollar value menu at their local fast food places. They were able to feed their family cheaper with fast food than with higher-quality vegetables. The film noted that economic status is the leading indicator for obesity. If you don’t have a lot of money, you’d eat cheap low quality calories. You are at higher risk for becoming obese. His family was lamenting about how they didn’t know what to do because it is cheaper to eat fast food and since money was tight they ate junk food and worried about the risk.

What was upsetting about that is that the family never seem to think about where food comes from to begin with. Vegetables are plants and it’s very cheap to buy a packet of seeds and put them in the ground. If they don’t want to spend money on their water bill they can use a bucket to catch rain water to water their vegetables. (By the way if you choose to do this please put the screen over the top of the bucket to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water.)  They were stuck in the mindset of dependency. Somebody had to grow their food for them and deliver it to their grocery store or restaurant otherwise in their viewpoint it was impossible to choose what they wanted to eat. They didn’t think about going to a farmers market. They didn’t think about growing their own food. Even if they are apartment dwellers, there are some things that they can grow in 5 gallon buckets. Plants thrive in our environment.  Just look at how trees and plants will take over an area if it is undisturbed. With a little bit of effort they could have at least supplemented their diet with vegetables and at a cheaper cost than value menu items.

I have not always been a gardener. I started when my children were young because I didn’t want them to have bad eating habits. I wanted them to learn to like vegetables and I thought that if I grew my own, they would see the whole process and would be proud of the food we produced. Maybe they would be happy to eat them. This strategy has worked. Not all of my children will eat all vegetables. One doesn’t eat carrots, another doesn’t like green beens. But every night we eat salad with out dinner. I know that they are getting a well balanced meal.

When I started I was in a small house with a small garden, about 3′ x 10′. I worked compost into the soil, put up some chicken wire and wire fencing and planted peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. It was a very simple start. I got a great yield out of it, mostly because of the compost I think. It was close to the house and I could spend a little time when I got home from work. My kids would eat the vegetables right when I picked them. One of the benefits is that they tasted better because they were picked at the right time. In the store, they have been picked early so it won’t get overripe by the time you buy it and it loses flavor. This helped with getting my kids to like eating vegetables.

I wish that I had a way to get in touch with that family in the movie.  I would show them the small amount of things I have learned about gardening and how they can stand on their own feet a little bit and feed their family.    A small amount of information and a small amount of work can make a big difference in their lives.  At the very least I would hope this post can help someone else.  If you know someone in the same situation, please share the concept of gardening with them.  If they have access to the internet through the public library, please send them a link to this post.  I’d be happy to help point someone in the right direction to get them started in gardening.  I’m not an expert.  I’m still learning and improving my gardening skills but I know enough to get someone started.  The can contact me by the comments below or my contact form on this site.

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