We all know that there are issues with the food system. Monsanto and co control farmers, US farm subsidies are perpetuating a system of monocultures, there is high fructose corn syrup in everything, poor conditions in factory farms and abattoirs result in meat recalls and obesity is rampant. The list goes on. So what can we do to change the system, or even circumnavigate it?
Combatting Monsanto and other large agribusiness companies from an individual’s perspective is difficult. The scale of their monetary powers and political sway is inconceivable. One way that individuals can take action in a direct way is grow their own food. This is positive action for various reasons, including:
- This is a way to be sure of where at least some of your food comes from.
- This is a direct way of boycotting mass-produced food.
- You will learn more about how food is grown and (hopefully!) enjoy reaping what you have sown.
- You can make use of space and water that is currently going to maintaining a lawn.
- Gardening can be a great family activity or simply a way to relax on your own in your own little patch of nature.
- You’ll never have fresher produce.
- You will feel more connected to the seasonality of different foods.
- Reduce your need for food to be transported innumerable miles across the country and world.
- You can grow foods that aren’t grown commercially because of their short self-life.
- You will have access to more veggies and feel compelled to learn how to cook with them.
- You can save money, especially if you are sure to grow for your climate.
- If/when the food system collapses you will have the skills to feed yourself!
Once you are sure your seeds don’t come from a Monsanto affiliated company you can get to work building a garden that will supplement your family’s need for vegetables. Depending on space and enthusiasm you may even fill your household quota for veggies! Since the garden is within your sight it is a sure way of shunning commercially grown food. Organic is fabulous, but you can never be truly sure of how your food has been grown unless you do it yourself. You will also cut the number of miles your food has travelled to nothing. Sure, you may not have tomatoes in the dead of winter but when they come in summer you can pickle and preserve and have relish all year long!
Growing your own veggie garden is different to other actions against the current food system. For one, it is a growing advertisement, surrounding your house, for how we might eat better. You can give vegetables to neighbours and friends to incite a sense of community. Excluding yourself from the barrage of ethical and logistical qualms that come with buying food from mass distributors is simpler than trying to fight it head on. You are reducing their sales of processed, unhealthy food products in a wholesome and caring way. This is different to protesting or writing to politicians or obsessively reading labels to find out what is in everything. These are necessary too, but getting our hands dirty and doing things differently is way of showing leadership rather than mere criticism. If you don’t like how something is done, do it yourself!
As more people begin to find a way to grow some of their own food, things may change. If we can grow anything, from a few simple herbs to a complete organic farm in the backyard, we will be less reliant on large agribusinesses. We will also be more educated, healthier and even happier because we have spent some time outside!
Hayley Schultz is a nature and vegetarian cuisine lover. When she’s not exploring the Northwest and its scenic wonders, she writes for Vooluu.com, a start up website focused on sustainable and local living. Photo by James Mann