Thursday, October 27, 2011

Grow a revolution

I once heard someone say that an apartment-dweller with a balcony tomato plant is participating in a revolution.  I think of that quote often.  Sometimes it gets so overwhelming when we think about how dependent we are upon the utility company, the oil industry, the industrial food supply, the government, the grocery store, the medical community, foreign factories and their cheap imports, etc.  It's often easier to decide that there is too much to worry about, and I'd rather not live a life of fear and think about these things.  Unfortunately, if we don't think about these things, we'll never have the chance to change them.  We'll never realize the wealth of things we can do.  We'll continue to make choices that handicap us and limit our freedoms.  And we're likely to venture further down this path of world-dependent, unsustainable living most Americans find themselves in today.  Aren't you tired of having no knowledge and no control over so many things we are exposed to every day?  What right does a corporation have to test out chemical fertilizers, pesticide residues, and genetically-modified crops on my body?  On the bodies of our families and of our children?

Let me guess - you can't possibly grow all of your own food.  You are in excellent company.  I can't either - yet.  I can't even come close - yet.  But, remember the apartment-dweller with the tomato plant?  We can start somewhere.  Every tomato we grow ourselves or buy from a local farmer is a tomato we don't have to buy from the industrial food system.  The beauty of opening our eyes and learning about what's at stake is motivating - the health (not to mention environmental) dangers of our cumulative, long-term exposure to pesticide residues, the lack of nutritional value (and flavor) in a hybrid-variety, ethylene-ripened tomato trucked in hundreds of miles from a farm in South America in January, the terrifying unknown of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the state of our depleted and abused, chemically fertilized mono-crop soils.  If we start by learning about these things, that education will lead to motivation.  That motivation translates into action in different ways for everyone depending on their own set of circumstances, constraints, and passions.  That action, no matter how small it is, is empowering and will birth more action if we want it to, because if our education leads us to believe that something is important, we will make taking action a priority.  When we understand the reasons why we are doing things, we can start small, and soon we can look back and realize just how much more we are capable of doing than we thought in the beginning.

I have lost count of how many house plants I've killed.  I used to say it was because I inherited a brown thumb from my mother (she can kill a cactus like no other).  But that's an excuse.  Keeping my house plants alive was never important to me, so I neglected them, and they died.  Why wasn't it important to me?  I guess because I didn't appreciate them much.  I didn't buy most of them - most of them were given away to me or given as gifts.  Once I started learning about the issues with our industrial food system and resolved to buy as much produce as I could locally from my farmer's market, I had the education and motivation to want to start a garden.  My whole life, I never understood people who grew vegetable gardens.  I thought it was the boring person's idea of fun.  I was too busy and important to be bothered with that.  I go to a fancy desk job so I can afford to buy my vegetables at the store and be done with it.  Besides, we all know growing your own veggies doesn't save money.

Can we put a price tag on the self-sufficiency and independence that comes from knowing how to grow our own food?  From the security that comes from knowing exactly where that food comes from and how it was grown?  And do we recognize the true ecological, social, cultural, economical, environmental costs of that pesticide-coated, mushy tomato from hundreds of miles away beyond the price indicated on the grocery-store shelf?

Here's my baby-step garden revolution.  I took the challenging route and started everything you see here from seeds.  There are few things that fill you with the awe of our Creator more than seeing a green sprout of life push up through soil from a seed you planted with little confidence in its ability to grow under your care:



Self-watering containers on my balcony.  Even though I have a house with land that can be (and one day most definitely will be) used to grow, I wanted to start small and manageable until our yard is ready for that.  I found these food-grade plastic buckets for $1 each from a woman in my neighborhood on Craigslist.

Bush beans, spaghetti squash, lettuce.

Tomato and spaghetti squash.

My ten buckets of freedom.

I am growing my own revolution.  These are my baby steps.  I hope I can challenge you to take some baby steps of your own.  Do you know when and where the farmer's market is in your community?  Do you know how exciting it is to find purple potatoes and yellow tomatoes?  To taste freshly sliced apples grown close to home before you buy?  To shake the hand of the person who grew the food that is going to become bone of your bones and flesh of your flesh?  Can you imagine shopping somewhere where the variety of the offerings clue you in to the seasons in your area?  Going to the farmer's market is a great way to get motivated and inspired to grow something.  It's a great way to vote your dollar away from the industrial food system that is destroying God's creation and making us sick.  It is a great way to eat nutritionally-sound, healthy, tasty, naturally-grown local food until you can get your garden off the ground!


  1. Love that you've done this blog and I love the pix of your baby stes I hope you keep up the postings because I enjoy reading your thoughts on the subject and knowing your heart.

  2. This is really great! I think I'd like to try growing roma tomatoes.

    On another note, I'm under the impression that human lifespans have increased significantly and the reason that's given is our progress with food sanitation and medical advances.

    Granted, diabetes is an epidemic right now that other, less "advanced" countries have no trace of.

    Do you think there's legitimacy to the claim that our advances with food engineering are partly responsible for prolonging our lives, or do you think that it's something else (or possibly that the numbers are baked)?

  3. I suggest trying those tomatoes in the spring - I had 3 seedlings indoors and they completely died once I transplanted them outside.

    Life expectancy is a subject I would really like to spend some more time researching. This article on wikipedia is interesting:

    It does appear that life expectancy has increased dramatically in recent years. I think it's a complex issue. There is certainly a place for modern medicine and modern sanitation and hygiene. These things have done a lot of good and are not inherently wrong by any means. My concern is that like anything else, it can be distorted and perverted and used in applications where another solution might be better. It has a lot to do with being a damage-control society instead of a preventative society. How many times have you gone to the doctor with a particular ailment and you leave with a prescription and nothing else? No order for lab work. No questions or suggestions about your lifestyle or diet habits that could be triggering the problem. No investigation into the cause. We have this mentality of give me my drugs and send me on my way. Don't ask me to change anything I'm doing. Don't tell me I have any kind of personal responsibility over my health. It didn't take me long to learn that when I discuss things with doctors, I have to preface the conversation by saying that I am not opposed to making a lifestyle change before treating something with drugs or surgery first. I am not sure that eating healthy will help me live longer, but it has certainly helped me begin living a healthier, higher-quality life. That coupled with good hygiene and judicious use of medical care when it's needed ought to help me live beyond the potential our ancestors ever could have imagined. Sadly, most people I know who are in their fifties are dependent on at least 1-3 prescription drugs every day of their life, with new ones added as they age. A lot of people who live into their 80s and 90s spend upwards of $50,000 a year on health expenses and spend the majority of their time popping pills and going to doctor's appointments (I've done enough tax returns for older wealthy people to know this for a fact). How many of these issues could have been resolved through proper diet and healthy lifestyle choices throughout our lives before turning to medication first? I think most Americans would eat healthier if they knew how and if it were easier to do so. Unfortunately, there is so much confusion over which diet is the right diet, and then when you do figure out what you should be eating, that food tends to be hard to find. It takes a lot of persistence. I am hoping that by spending the time learning about these things and living them out in my own life, I can somehow start turning the tide in some small way, and maybe that will help others to begin doing the same.