By Larraine Roulston:
Most children love digging their hands into soil and picking nutritious foods grown in backyard gardens – all the while learning
about earth’s natural cycles. As well, part of a wholesome gardening experience is composting, a natural biological process in which worms and microorganisms convert organic material into dark nutrient-rich soil. Our ancestors knew this and for generations farmers passed on heritage seeds. Before tailored lawns became common, many homeowners utilized both their back and front yards to grow food – a practice that is beginning to take root again.
Parents who embrace the love of vegetables and fruits in the early years of child rearing establish a powerful tool for good eating habits. Canada’s Food Guide reports these requirements of veggies per day: ages 2-3, four servings and ages 4-8, five servings. Vegetables are filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support growing bodies. The natural enzymes in vegetables benefit the gastrointestinal and nervous systems that help aid digestion. A high vegetable diet keeps the liver functioning, and rids the body of waste and toxins. Vegetables also protect against heart disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases later in life. Knowing the origin of your food and what it contains enables you to take a proactive step in providing homegrown solutions and in determining your family’s well-being.
With increasing urbanization, we started losing many small farms and began relying on supermarket produce and processed foods, thus becoming disconnected from how our food is grown. Luckily, the adventuresome efforts of J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, authors of The 100 Mile Diet, helped prevent us from possibly becoming a pathetic population unable to feed ourselves. Their bestseller fueled our need to start choosing in-season local produce. Not only are these foods more nutritious, but the book also came at a time of growing climate change and concern regarding food insecurity.
“We’ve got to start making farmers our heroes,” says Earthwise Society’s Patricia Fleming, who believes that one of the biggest crises in agricultural sustainability will be a lack of farmers in 20 years. In Canada’s Vancouver area, Earthwise offers hands-on farming education, organic gardening courses and networking programs for senior students. In addition to working in the fields, classmates discuss the pitfalls of monocultures, food imports and the heavy industrialization of modern farming.
When another British Columbian, Dave Friend, received organic certification, he automatically became a promoter for and provider of local, healthy, organic food. Friend began visiting nearby elementary schools and in 2009 formed the Growing Young Farmers School Society. In the U.S., new organic agricultural courses are being offered at several state universities.
Growing food can be accomplished in small spaces, too. If an area includes drainage holes and can hold soil, it’s a garden! Shallow-rooted plants such as lettuce and herbs can be grown in containers six inches (15 cm) or more in diameter with an eight-inch (20 cm) soil depth. Most other plants will thrive in barrels or wooden tubs. Raising a container slightly above a solid surface will solve the problem of proper drainage.
Reasons for eating local organic food:
* Freshness and Nutrition
* No preservatives, pesticides or GMOs
* Support for your farmers and strengthening of local economy
* Sustainability and Independence
Enjoy eating edible weeds, then relax with a cup of your own mint tea. You can’t get easier or more local than returning to your roots.
Larraine Roulston writes the Pee Wee at Castle Compost adventure series. Visit www.castlecompost.com