It’s finally that time of year that the buds are waking up and starting to pop with the heat of the spring sun, rainwater and longer days.
We are fortunate to live on such a fertile-soil island with excellent growing conditions. In fact, just six months ago, you could walk around and see fruit trees and bushes just busting with ripe, untouched wholesome fruit.
In the past, there have been programs, such as ‘Fruit Save’ which enlists volunteers to pick fruit from private property’s trees, and offer a third to the homeowner, a third for themselves and a third to the food bank.
This helps to utilize some of the wonderful bounty of food growing right in our backyard in the Alberni Valley instead of letting the fruit drop and be wasted, while we spend our hard-earned money at the store to buy imported produce.
With increasing fuel costs worldwide, food prices will also start to rise because of the cost of shipping and importing goods to the island. Backyard gardening may be a necessity that can offer many future benefits.
This can open up new opportunities to reconnect with the earth and your community.
Vancouver Island residents have become so dependent on imported food, that some estimates have been formulated which suggests that if a major disaster, such as the recent devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami occurred here and transport trucks were not able to bring supplies to the Island, there would only be a three-day food supply. Ninety per cent of the food we eat is shipped over.
Hence, we rely on a mere 10 per cent of our food to be grown locally.
More and more people are becoming interested in the ‘locavore’ movement, which means to primarily eat food that is grown and harvested locally.
The 100-mile diet is one example of an ‘eating local’ movement. It means to try to purchase and consume foods that are grown within a 100-mile radius of where you live.
Zero mile diet is relying on growing your own food to further reduce the carbon footprint of far-away growing, shipping, and packaging of food.
Programs such as community gardens, Field to Table, and Grow a Row all have been initiated by groups to help address food security issues and support our local food producers, farmers, and fishers.
Growing your own garden has the hidden benefit of offering diversity in seed species and mixes up the soil and produce to promote new species of plants and reduce the monoculture of big industrial-based farms.
If you are interested in learning more about how to start gardening and/or growing your own food, there are various local programs available, in addition to touring Vancouver Island farms and meeting people at the weekly Farmer’s Market at the Harbour Quay who have a similar interest.
In some cities around Canada, there are guerilla gardeners, who are so passionate about utilizing good land for food growing, that they are digging up public and government lawns and other grassy areas to plant food, instead of watering thirsty lawns. As they say, lawn is a four-letter word, since much grassy land area could be better utilized for growing food.
Good outdoor physical activity, along with bringing the community together and therefore offering some more human connectedness are just a few of the personal benefits that can be reaped with sowing seeds. Gardening is becoming a lost art and if more people started churning up the soil, kids can watch and start digging in the dirt to plant fast-growing seeds.
Peas, beans and other rapid growers can offer a quick return for the child’s investment of planting that ‘jack and the beanstalk’ seed. This positive direct connection for the kids can help stimulate interest in this environmentally healthy activity and plant the skill and enthusiasm for the future.
If we can grow it and eat it, it’s typically much healthier for us and the environment, than primarily relying on package/processed foods that are shipped from all over the world.
It’s time to dig out your green thumb!
Sandra Gentleman is a registered dietitian and has worked in a variety of settings on Vancouver Island. She is passionate about healthy, active living.