Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Food Security



Over the last 5 years, I've done some hard thinking about food.  Not so much about recipes and cooking; more about where it comes from and how it's produced.  No longer content with feeding my family conventionally raised food of questionable nutritive value flown in from the other side of the globe, I began to seek wholesome, organic, non-genetically modified, locally and sustainably produced, FRESH food bought from real people that I could actually look in the eye and shake hands with.  Wow.  What a journey that has been!  Procuring food now takes up a very large portion of my days and although that might seem unappealing to you, I would encourage you to make sourcing GREAT food a priority in your life.  May I be bold enough to say that your life will be richer for it.  Richer in health, richer in relationships, richer in community and richer in food security.

There are many, many resources to help you get in touch with your own sources of local food (from Farmer's Markets to online help via eatwild.com or the Slow Food Movement), BUT let us not forget a VERY important, HYPER local, INEXPENSIVE food source:

 Your own backyard.  



Back in the Depression era, my Great Grandfather, Arthur, kept his family alive (in addition to the deserted mother with 6 starving children next door) through the steady labour of tending a vegetable garden that was the entire size of his backyard.  No square foot was left unsown.  No blade of grass was left to rob nutrients from that richly diverse food garden that nourished 10 people through those VERY lean years.  There were no chaises, no hammock, no fire pit, no pool, no trampoline, no outdoor kitchen, no hot tub, no outdoor fireplace with a TV mounted above, no fountains, no sound systems, no battery operated cars for the children, no outdoor heaters, no play structures with slides or umbrellas to lounge under...  there was nothing but FOOD (and PLENTY of it).  Food to eat, food to share and food to put by.  Well nourished those 10 people were, while so many literally starved.  A true testament to the power of a well tended, home scale vegetable garden... 

Fast forward to today and look in any newspaper flyer to see what backyards have become - an oasis of plastic!  Gone are the Victory Gardens and here to stay is a lot of "stuff" to help us play and relax.  While relaxing is good for the mind and the body, I'm not so sure we should be doing so much of that if we haven't got a stable food supply.   Aaaaannnnd we don't.   If you think we do, think again.  HARD.   Nearly every conventionally produced food item has oil, bio-tech and politics involved.   Nations are no longer producing their own food (far from it).   Welcome to our monoculture society that receives it's daily sustenance largely via aircraft.  Not very sustainable and in my opinion, a recipe for a disaster of the very largest kind.  

The population that can't feed itself is very weak, indeed...  

That last statement might feel overwhelming to contemplate, but it is VITAL that we do just that.  My Great Grandpa didn't live in the country on a farm.  He lived in the city of Edmonton with a very short growing season and -40C winters on an average sized lot.  If he was able to feed 10 people from that modest piece of land, I'm betting that most of us could at the very least, feed our families HALF of what they need by way of a garden.

Are you up for the challenge?  













24 comments:

  1. I am moving soon and its my intention to try and grow as much of our food as possible. I eat very little meat and will continue to buy that as well as dairy but I will try to source it locally. We are lucky enough to be fulfilling my life long dream and I can't wait. Lily. xxx

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    1. That's wonderful to hear, Lily! I'm excited FOR you :)

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  2. Very inspirational and you bet! Half the front lawn is already garden and it goes from 25% veggies to 75% veggies next spring. Backyard is 50% garden and already 75% veggies. We're not quite at self-sufficiency (I'm still learning) but I think we could easily be.

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    1. Bob - I've been watching your yard progress on your blog - NICE work! It is YOU that is inspirational :) I love that your daughter is so involved in the process... we have a daughter about the same age.

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    2. Forgot to say that YES, my Great Grandpa's story is very inspirational to me, too. If I'm struggling with something, it all gets puts into perspective when I think about how hard he worked to feed everyone.

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  3. We are hoping to move soon and are counting on having a garden and a kitchen garden with herbs:)

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    1. Fantastic, Diane! I bet you are already planning that garden :)

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  4. That paragraph about what backyards didn't have in Arthur's time is a fine piece of writing Sherri, do make a note of it somewhere. This spring we plan to turn a lot more of our big deck over to vegies in pots.

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    1. Thanks, Rose XO Wonderful plans for your deck!

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  5. Fabulous post, and something I think many people don't think of anymore. I think that although hardship is just that, hardship, it also encourages us to develop practical skills. As soon as we start getting comfortable, we start to pay others to do the exhausting tasks we once did (growing food, cooking, sewing, making useful objects, and sometimes even cleaning); but we don't realize that in doing so, we are giving others power over our lives: we can only buy what they grow, cook, or make, and now we have to spend our time working for someone else so we can pay for all those convenient goods. Doesn't sound terribly convenient when we look at it that way, does it?! Plus, we soon lose those practical skills, which means that when life throws us a curveball (such as anything that disrupts our income) we don't know what to do: we drown because we no longer know how to swim.

    I will admit that my husband and I are both dependent on our jobs to live right now - we purchased a farm last summer and need our income so we can pay the mortgage and gather the necessary supplies and implements to start up our little farm. But our sights are set on one day producing our income solely from the farm, and paying off our mortgage as quickly as possible. And in the mean time, we are re-learning skills lost a generation or two ago: sewing, crochet and knitting, growing food, cooking, and making items that we need (such as a large shelf for our stockpiled canned goods, a bat house, shelves for our shop, etc.).

    Thank you for sharing your Great-Grandfather's story, it is very inspirational! And thanks for starting this conversation and prompting us to think a little about our personal food security.

    Best,
    Mandi

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    1. Mandi, you really hit the nail on the head. Once we give tasks over to others, we lose that connection and intimacy. Food is so vitally important to us all so I believe that we should be fully engaged in the process of mindfully obtaining it be it from our own garden or from a local producer.

      Best of luck on your farm - what a future ahead of you!

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  6. Yes sirree...I'm up for the challenge!

    I grow as much as I can in a not so huge space! Our entire piece of land is only 3/4 acre and that has our house & many sheds on it! But I grow much of our food with plans for more. We bought an old rainwater tank at an auction recently and hubby is going to cut it down to 2 growing spaces. I already have 2 tank halves I am growing in. I have turned our old swimming pool yard into a big vegie garden, I have an old bath I grow in, I plant veggies all through the various rockeries & bushes right through the garden!

    What I am not growing much of I purchase at our local farmers market so that I am buying as locally as I can. When I do buy in supermarkets or shops I try to purchase only South Australian grown, then opt for only Australian grown after that. I NEVER buy any imported fresh fruit or veggies!

    I agree that we all need to buy locally and grow as much as we can fit in to whatever space we have. It doesn't matter if it is salad greens grown in tubs on a balcony...it all helps our food security in the long term.

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    1. Absolutely, Sandra - every small effort that we can put out will come back many fold in rewards...

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  7. I am so up for the challenge, I'm still very much in my learning phase, but I so want to learn.
    I've had some successes and some failures, but I love it all.

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    1. Good for you, Busy mum... I am still learning too - in fact will be till the day I die :) Let's learn together!

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  8. Totally agree with everything your wrote Sherri. When I was 16, we lived in a house that should a been condemned, and we lived there for free. My father was an alcoholic and my mother was addicted to playing bingo 6 nights a week. We didn't have much food to feed 5 kids and 2 adults. At the the age of 16 I knew that I would own the roof over my head, and there would be enough food in my cupboards to feed my children.
    Fast forward.
    I have been growing, canning food for almost 25 years. I learnt to crochet when I was 16. I took a sewing course when I was 30. Also at the age 30 I bought my first milk cow. For the past 22 years we have had chickens. We have a commercial beef herd, and one yearling is always chosen to go into the deep freeze.
    The older I got the more I wanted to learn to be self sufficient. I rather have that dollar in my pocket than give to somebody else for something that I could easily learn to do.
    At the age of 50, I am still learning new skills. I want to always to be learning how to do things for myself, and for my family. I am hoping that one day, that I can pass on to my grand children what I have learned.

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    1. Misty, I'm sorry that you had such a difficult childhood. Addictions cause so much pain...

      As an adult, you have definitely succeeded in providing a wonderful, loving home full of wholesome food for your family :) That must feel so good! I love reading your blog to see what you've been up to. You ARE always learning new things and I thank you for sharing them because I'm learning from you...

      I applaud you for not letting your past shape your future. You are an inspiration!

      ((((((Cheryl))))))

      *I think your name is Cheryl... is that correct?

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    2. Yes it is Cheryl. I was very fortunate. Throughout my teenage years and early adulthood, I met people who 'fueled' my appetite for growing a garden and who were willing to teach me. I have to give credit to my dad-he was the one that gave me the money to purchase my first milk cow-Taffy. I believe that we all should share our knowledge-that is how we grow as individuals and as a community/society.

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    3. ABSOLUTELY! It is essential that we share skills. You're right about growing community that way :)

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  9. I couldn't agree with you more. As an adult, I have always had a garden. And, it was always enough to share with others. You are doing the right thing for your family. Keep spreading the word !!

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    1. Thanks, Meggie :) There's a revolution going on, I think!

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  10. I added 5 chickens last week to my veggie patch, compost and worm farm. All of which didnt exist this time last year. I am amazed how our life has changed. It really does bring us together as a family. Since i work outside the house, my 16 year old boy has been tending the girls and he calls and give me a report on who pecked who as they sort themselves out. They put themselves to bed and he closes the door and put the cover down to keep them warm (its a cold winter this year). This is the child with Aspergers who fought so hard not to have chickens six months ago but when it came time he just accepted them. He even named one and said it was his. They are know collectively as "the girls" and when my hubby came home tonight, before he could say hello to me he said, "how are the girls". Its truly amazing (he's Aspie as well and they dont like change). In less than a year our lives have changed and their world hasnt fallen apart. LOL I pick lettuce and herbs for his salad lunch by torch at 5am in the morning (with a big smile on my face, because i can). I've made my own cheese!!!! Im actually a bit overwhelmed at the moment by all my new skills and not having the time to put them all into practise. I've actually got a little seed growing in my mind that says "part-time work".

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    1. Congratulations, Lynda on finally getting those hens!!! How thrilling for you :) You worked hard to get set up for that - WELL DONE! I love that you pick from your garden by torch at 5am! Talk about FRESH, girl!!!! Fabulous.

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  11. Lovely story. I love the idea of living off the land and not having to get my food shipped to me. It's blogs like these that inspire me to learn everything I can!

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