Interest in home gardening is on the rise and has been for several years. What is driving this interest? I think it is about control.
Did you know that during World War II, individual gardens(called victory gardens) produced as much food as commercial agriculture produced? That is staggering. This production increase occurred in a very short time, as well. At the beginning of the war, commercial food production was at an all-time low in the US. Realizing that with the rest of the world engaged in war, the US would eventually be the prime source of food for the Allied countries, the US Government instituted the National War Garden Commission. The launch of the war garden campaign, eventually dubbed Victory Gardens, brought a rapid increase in family gardens. The campaign was based on a theme of patriotism and support, but studies have shown that most families started gardens because of the scarcity of fresh vegetables and out of economic necessity.
The New Millenium
Fast forward to the new millennium. We see a resurgence of interest in home gardening. Some of the driving reasons are the same. Economics is always a consideration but, in my opinion, the real driving force is control.
There are several driving forces behind this renewed interest. Economics always has to be on this list. People are still interested in saving money. However, there are new and divergent forces at work. Many people are concerned about the health issues associated with industrial farming and the quality of the food that is being produced. Recently, study after study has shown that the nutritional value of the food produced by commodity farming has been on the decline for decades. The food we are getting out of our agriculture systems is just not as nutritious as it used to be.
Many people are also concerned with the hidden costs of the food on the supermarket produce shelf. New terms such as food-miles and long term societal costs aren’t reflected in the price tag on the shelf. The whole concept of the local food network seeks to remove some of these costs. Growing your own vegetables removes most of those costs completely.
The rising alarm over chemical residues in and on our food is growing every day. A more health-conscious segment of our society has begun to change the way retailers and producers operate. Twenty years ago, it was almost impossible to buy “organic” products in a neighborhood grocery store. If you wanted “organic” produce you had to visit a specialty store if one was even available where you lived. Now “Organic” is a trademarked label, and those who use that identifier on their products must meet standards set out by the US Government. Now you can find such products on almost every shelf in your neighborhood grocery.
The growing number of farmers markets, cooperatives, and community-supported agriculture organizations testify to this expanding health-conscious market. It is these kinds of issues that are behind the rising interest in home gardening.
People want to be back in control of what they eat. They want the satisfaction of growing their own food. They want the security of a source of supply that is not subject to interruption due to some catastrophic event half a continent away. But the main reason for this resurgence in home gardens is health and the desire to have nutrient-dense, fresh, clean food. It is about control.
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