In the mid-1940s the United States government asked the people to plant edible gardens to help support the downwardly spiraling economy and the war effort. During that time millions of people all over the country planted gardens called “Victory Gardens” and harvested nearly one-third of all the vegetables consumed in the country. That means 33% of all our vegetables came from small-scale gardens! Gardening became a popular family or community effort planting vegetables, herbs and fruit trees.
While we may not be sacrificing our own food to send fresh food to our troops, we are facing a potential threat to the security of our food and the health of our ecosystems.
By a threat to food security, I am referring to the way our food is produced and access to healthy food. Current agricultural practices involve many unsustainable and environmentally harmful practices, among concern of these, are:
- It’s contribution to climate change:
- Excessive tillage – increases loss of critical topsoil and sequestered carbon
- Exposed soil – loss of carbon in the soil and addition of carbon dioxide to atmosphere, increased water usage
- It’s contribution to ecosystem degradation:
- Application of soluble fertilizers – harms aquatic ecosystems through runoff
- Use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and GMOs – harmful to human and ecosystem health
- It’s contribution to the decline of human health :
- Lack of attention to quality – less nutritious food
So, why should you start a Victory Garden?
It is more important now than ever to know where your food comes from and how it was grown. In addition to this, locally produced food is critical for increasing food security and reducing consumption of fossil fuels. By increasing locally produced food, food accessibility also improves, as well as the health of the people in the community.
Here are my top 6 reasons in detail:
Number 1: Food Security
Community gardens improve food security and accessibility by localizing the source. As a result of increased access to affordable nutrient-dense foods, people develop better due to nutritional needs being met. People are healthier and both mentally and emotionally more stable.
Number 2: Food Deserts
Food deserts are geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance.
According to a report prepared for Congress by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture, about 2.3 million people (or 2.2 percent of all US households) live more than one mile away from a supermarket and do not own a car.
In urban areas, access to public transportation may help residents overcome the difficulties posed by distance, but economic forces have driven grocery stores out of many cities in recent years, making them so few and far between that an individual’s food shopping trip may require taking several buses or trains.
In suburban and rural areas, public transportation is either very limited or unavailable, with supermarkets often many miles away from people’s homes.
People’s choices about what to eat are severely limited by the options available to them and what they can afford—and many food deserts contain an overabundance of fast food chains and convenience stores selling highly processed, nutrient deficient “foods”.
Number 3: Nutrition
Community gardens supply a source of local and fresh, nutrient dense foods that may not otherwise be available within miles.
These projects can also provide affordable solutions to healthy food and serve as preventative health solutions to conditions that people may otherwise have suffered from. We see conditions that simultaneously involve excess and deficiency. Excessive consumption of empty calories creates a vicious cycle as our bodies crave the nutrition that prompts continuous eating in search of scarce supplies. It is difficult to overeat nutrient dense foods, as our systems are satisfied quickly with adequate amounts of nutrients in addition to energy provided by the calories.
Food quality has been decreasing over the last several decades, adding nutrient security threats to our food security threats. Nutrient levels have dropped to all time lows.
Since 1940, with the mechanization of farming, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, and GMO’s/glyphosate, mineral content of food has plummeted.
As a result, human health has suffered. We see so many degenerative diseases becoming more common in relation to the decrease in the mineral content of food. People are not getting the appropriate amounts of critical elements/minerals needed to build enzymes, which are needed to build healthy DNA, which causes gaps called genetic markers, which are the pre-disease states that set people up for poor health. This is why community based projects are so important to the overall health of the community. With proper soil care, plant care, ecosystem care, and people care, the quality of health is improved.
There is a direct connection between gut health, brain health, emotional health, and overall health, so improving access to fresh produce is extremely important in my opinion.
A 2011 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that not only did community gardeners consume more fruits and vegetables than either home gardeners or non-gardeners, but also that community gardens can improve neighborhood social capital, literally offering common ground to bridge across groups and generations.
When people begin to learn how to garden, this also creates an interest in preparing healthy food for a healthier life in the long run.
Number 4: Climate Change
A victory garden, front yard garden, backyard garden, or community garden also contributes to creating a resilient system – especially important with unpredictable weather extremes.
Growing gardens in a way to avoid excess tillage and encourage deep, living roots will allow greater and faster water infiltration during heavy rain.
Soil that remains covered in living or decaying mulch keeps the soil cool and moist during times of extreme heat and drought. By decreasing soil tillage and keeping the soil covered, we are also preventing the erosion of topsoil and oxidation of carbon into the atmosphere.
Growing healthy plants will also boost the amount of carbon your piece of land is sequestering from the air. This carbon acts as a filter for water that moves through your land, so that the water that runs off is cleaner than when it arrived.
Number 5: Building Community
As the community garden brings people together, it creates a support system. People come together over a shared interest and form relationships and increase their empathy for one another.
This support system allows people to act out of a more balanced state of mind as fear is reduced. When people build and create things together and get to experience the hard earned results, we are grateful and begin to realize that we are all on the same team.
It is also easier to be healthy when you are not doing it alone. Stemming from the garden as a source of high quality food and inspiration, people will begin sharing their healthy pursuits and encourage one another, as well as provide accountability.
Number 6: Nature Connection
The negative effects of a life removed from nature can be attributed to a condition called Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD).
The term was coined by author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child in the Woods” in order to explain how our societal disconnect with nature is affecting today’s children (and adults). Some of the symptoms he links to NDD include attention problems, obesity, anxiety, depression, fear of the natural world and disregard for life.
What causes NDD?
- Excessive TV, computers and video games
- Discomfort outdoors
- Disconnection from where food comes from
- Loss of access to nature (Habitat Destruction)
- No longer living off the land
- No unstructured playtime outdoors (I am sure many of you remember wandering through the woods as a kid)
- Entertainment comes from media, not imagination and outside play
According to US NDD Statistics & Effects:
- 88% of children use computers daily
- Youth avg 8 hours daily on electronic media, teens up to 12 hrs
- 9 million youth are overweight, and rising
- 70% of children are Vit D deficient from lack of sunlight
- 50% of preschoolers are never taken outside for play
Denied access to nature increases anxiety and behavior issues
So what ARE the possible benefits of spending time in nature?
- Stimulates creativity
- Test scores 50% higher
- Increased imagination, reasoning and observation
- Able to cope with stress
- Higher self esteem
- More adaptable
- Decreased anxiety and improved balance
- Healthy mind/body/spirit
- Increased awareness of surroundings
- Improved social skills
- Increased emotional and intellectual development
- Understanding of nature’s cycles
We see this disconnect as the root cause of human imbalance, as evidenced by the underlying anxiety and discord prevalent in many children, adults and in modern society as a whole.
With the loss of positive and direct interaction with the outdoors comes the loss of knowing who we are as one of Nature’s beings.
When we reconnect, we remember that we are completely reliant and dependent on Nature; we are a part of, not apart from it. This fosters a reverence for the beauty and wonder of Nature, and restores respect for life.
As caretakers, we live harmoniously within Nature’s systems. This fosters harmony in ourselves and creates balanced relationships within the system. It also brings back having fun outside!
Anyone ready to increase food security and ecosystem health for today and future generations? Let’s create a community-based, socially just, environmentally sustainable, nutritious food system for all!