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Urban Farming

Gardening: A fun hobby that’s good for your health

Gardening may be a fun and relaxing way to get in touch with nature, but did you know that it also has plenty of health benefits? Gardening is an activity that’s good for both the mind and body, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Plus, you get to eat the delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs that you grow. So, grab your tools and get in the dirt!

It only takes a little bit of gardening to work up a sweat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 2.5 hours of moderate activity each week can help reduce the risk of many health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.

You may not think of gardening as exercise, but all the lifting, shoveling and raking involved definitely counts, says Raychel Santo, MA, senior research program coordinator for the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Your brain also benefits from time spent in the garden. Being outside in the fresh air and sunshine is an effective way to boost your mood and de-stress. In fact, gardening has shown to be helpful in reducing the risk of depression. If something is weighing heavily on your mind, gardening can allow you to focus on an activity that will bring you joy.

Don’t forget the health benefits that come from the produce you grow. Gardening is a simple way to get more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, and you’re sure to appreciate them even more because you grew them.

When it comes to deciding what to plant, it may be hard to know where to begin. But if you’re new to gardening, keep it simple with produce that’s easy to grow. Santo recommends herbs and greens such as lettuce, kale and collards.

Santo says these foods are not only easy for first-time gardeners, they are also full of important nutrients.

Figure1

Photo by Michaeljung, courtesy iStockphoto

Gardening is also an excellent opportunity to try new healthy foods that will help you and your family become more adventurous eaters. Growing a variety of produce is as fun as it is healthy. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time. Gardening requires some patience, but it’s worth it when you get to dig into a plate of your own fresh produce.

Make sure that you have the proper tools and gear for a safe gardening experience. Santo recommends wearing light, long-sleeved shirts and pants and a hat for protection from the sun, as well as slathering on sunscreen. Wearing gardening gloves is a must to keep yourself safe when pulling weeds and carrying out other tasks that could hurt your hands. And don’t forget to wear mosquito repellent.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons encourages gardeners to take regular breaks and drink enough water. Remember, this is exercise. The organization also suggests making the physical activity in gardening as easy as possible, from sitting on a garden stool to getting close to the objects you want to lift to reduce strain. Using a wheelbarrow is helpful for these kinds of tasks. Ask for help if something is too big or heavy to move by yourself, or if you’re unfamiliar with certain tools.

Soil safety is another thing to keep in mind. Santo notes that especially in urban and suburban areas, soil may be contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants. Soil could also have tetanus bacteria, which is why it’s so important to wear gloves and stay up on vaccinations. That way, any cuts on your hands won’t get infected. It’s a good idea to get your soil tested before you start gardening.

Images courtesy iStockphoto: Woman by Michaelpuche; couple, Michaeljung; man and child, Rawpixel; illustrations, Colorcocktail

Gardening with children

Gardening becomes even more engaging when you bring kids into the picture. They may be focusing on the fun parts of gardening, but they’re really learning important lessons, both directly and indirectly related to health.

“For kids, it’s also a really hands-on nature activity,” Santo told The Nation’s Health. “They can see how science and the environment and healthy eating connect.”

Provide kids with age-appropriate tools and watch over them as they explore the garden. Also give them some way to take ownership and reap the rewards themselves. Santo recommends growing a “pizza garden” with easy-to-grow ingredients for a delicious savory pie, such as tomatoes, eggplant and herbs, all in the same area.

Once the vegetables and herbs have grown, putting together the ingredients for a real pizza is a snap.

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Urban Farming

Experts say there are benefits to gardening during the COVID-19 crisis

April is National Gardening Month, and with many people staying home during the COVID-19 crisis, experts say now is the perfect opportunity to get outside and start a garden.

While many businesses are struggling to stay open, it’s the opposite for garden centers. Every year around this time, garden centers start to see a boom in business, but this year, specifically, Earl May Garden Center in Lincoln is helping twice as many first-time gardeners.

Planting experts tell 10/11 vegetable gardens are a big thing right now. They say many plants can be easily transferred from pots inside your house to patches of dirt in your yard.

Earl May even has cheat sheets available that guide you in planting the right plants at the right time.

One of the most simple and plentiful foods you can grow right now happens to be lettuce. “Everybody buys the bags of the baby greens at the grocery store, but you can grow that so easily at home. It doesn’t take much room. It doesn’t take much work. It’s not much of a set up. You can do it inside in containers or [outside] in the ground,” says retail manager at Earl May Garden Center Jessica Jasnoch.

Garden experts tell 10/11 if you begin planting a vegetable garden right now, you’ll likely have produce throughout the summer going into the fall.

Professional gardeners say going outside, getting some vitamin D and using your hands can benefit your mental health. Not only that, but it can also make putting food on your table that much easier.

Some popular plants to grow here in Nebraska right now are vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash. These plants are easy starters for first-time gardeners and can provide your family with great nutrition when having access to fresh food isn’t the easiest.

Planters say starting a garden can be a personal escape from reality or can help draw your family members closer together. “[It’s] good bonding time. The things that you can learn from it [by] just slowing down, watching how nature grows and works and [learning] the responsibilities of being out there to tend to the garden,” says Jasnoch.

After you pick vegetables, many can be placed in your freezer or canned. Garden experts tell 10/11 those are easy ways to store your vegetables and can make them last throughout winter and into next spring when you can start planting again.

Expert gardeners say doing an activity, like gardening, where you actually see your work paying off can help you mentally and physically, and they tell 10/11 getting started isn’t as hard as you might think.

For both adults and kids, gardening can be a learning experience. Finding out how things in nature work and how to care for your new plants will keep you engaged.

According to the National Gardening Association, you can even burn between 200 and 300 calories while gardening. Not only may you see physical benefits from gardening, but it may help also help lift your spirits these days.

Jasnoch says, “One thing is the mental health of it [with] being outside [and] digging in the dirt. It’s just a great feeling. Then, you can eat what you grow. It’s just a great hobby.”

Gardeners at Earl May tell 10/11 there are different household items you can use when you first start gardening. Until you’ve gotten all of the gardening tools you’ll need, they say empty egg cartons and empty yogurt cups can serve as temporary pots for plants.

Experts say having patience should be the base for anyone starting their garden for the first time. They tell 10/11 in the beginning, gardening will be trial and error, and you just have to learn what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re gardening for the first time, they say be sure to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts every day. You’ll need to know what to do in order to protect your plants and keep them alive as the weather changes.

With seeds for different vegetables in high-demand right now, many garden centers may be out of stock on certain vegetables for the rest of spring. Earl May says it’s taking a bit longer to get seed shipments in, but so far, they’re keeping plenty of options left in stock.

As of now, the Earl May Garden Center is still open and is helping customers, but they’re answering more questions and can help get what you need in the store through email and by phone.

For more information about gardening, you can visit the Earl May Garden Center’s website by clickinghere

Categories
Urban Farming

Ten Steps to a Successful Garden

egetables from the home garden are fresher, may have better nutrient values, and are often less costly than those sold in stores. In addition to providing wholesome, low-cost food, vegetable gardening is an interesting hobby, one in which the whole family can take part. Other advantages of gardening are that it provides healthful outdoor exercise, offers productive activity for retired, handicapped, or disabled persons, and is an excellent teaching tool for children.

To get the most out of your garden you should make plans early in the year and follow proper steps during the gardening season. The purpose of this guide is to help you plan and maintain a garden under Illinois growing conditions so that you will have an abundant supply of high-quality vegetables at harvest and (if you freeze, can, or store your vegetables) throughout the year.

Choose a Step

Categories
Urban Farming

What Are the Environmental Benefits of Growing Your Own Food?

Each year when Earth Day and Arbor Day come around, going green in our everyday lives suddenly becomes the hot topic, especially in Charlotte, NC, where we’re constantly surrounded by beautiful nature. One impactful and fun way that you can reduce your carbon footprint is by growing your own food. As a pest control company in Charlotte, we are proud to provide healthy and safe alternatives for treating pests and bugs without using harmful chemicals on your plants so that growing your own vegetable garden can be done worry-free. Check out these environmental benefits of growing your own food right from your own backyard and how you can “Go Green” by avoiding conventional methods of consuming food!

Reducing Carbon Emissions and Waste

Growing your own food allows you to stop relying solely on traditional methods of purchasing your produce from a grocery store. When you buy foods from these shops, you should take into consideration the sad, but true, fact that these foods travel an average of 1,500+ miles before ever being consumed. Not only does this impact the freshness and flavor of the food, but more importantly, this emits dangerous amounts of carbon emissions and waste associated with air freight and other transportation methods into the atmosphere.

By growing your own food, you are helping to reduce the high amounts of burning fossil fuels that fill our environment as a direct result of importing foods from commercial farmers. You also are reducing waste from food packaging materials such as man-made plastics and cardboard, that also travel hundreds and thousands of miles.

Avoid Carcinogenic Pesticides and Fertilizers

By growing your own food, you’ll get peace of mind knowing what you are eating and what has gone into producing that item. Not only does commercial farming emit harmful chemicals into the air as mentioned above, but it also pours harmful chemicals into our soil and water. Conventional farming utilizes an extreme amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to grow their commercialized crops, filling our earth and the foods that we are consuming with harmful chemicals, some that have even been proven to cause cancer and other diseases.

By growing your own garden, you are the one to decide what goes on your plants and into your soil, allowing you to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals polluting our environment and waterways. Organically growing your own food is sustainable and nourishes your soil by using safe and natural fertilizers and products.

Other Benefits

Growing your own food, especially for the first time, opens up a great learning opportunity. In order to help your crops flourish, you have the chance to learn about the weather and other environmental factors that may not have been relevant for you to be aware of before. This can also be a fun, family task to take on to make an environmental impact together and to teach your children the importance of going green.

Show Your Environment Some Love

This Earth Day, take a step towards “Going Green” in your home and give growing some of your own food a try. Keep our air, water, and soil clean by helping to reduce the demands put on our land every day by commercial agriculture. Make a positive impact on our environment today!

Categories
Urban Farming

Grow your own: Urban farming flourishes in coronavirus lockdowns

BANGKOK, April 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Coronavirus lockdowns are pushing more city dwellers to grow fruit and vegetables in their homes, providing a potentially lasting boost to urban farming, architects and food experts said on Tuesday.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, total more than 1.3 million, with about 74,000 deaths worldwide, according to a Reuters tally.

Coronavirus: our latest stories

Panic buying in some countries during the crisis has led to empty supermarket shelves and an uptick in the purchase of seeds, according to media reports.

“More people are thinking about where their food comes from, how easily it can be disrupted, and how to reduce disruptions,” said landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom, who designed Asia’s largest urban rooftop farm in Bangkok.

“People, planners and governments should all be rethinking how land is used in cities. Urban farming can improve food security and nutrition, reduce climate change impacts, and lower stress,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

More than two-thirds of the world’s population is forecast to live in cities by 2050, according to the United Nations.

Urban agriculture can be crucial to feeding them, potentially producing as much as 180 million tonnes of food a year – or about 10% of the global output of pulses and vegetables, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Earth’s Future.

The coronavirus outbreak is not be the first time that concerns about food security have led to more kitchen gardens.

During World War One, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson asked Americans to plant “Victory Gardens” to prevent food shortages.

The effort continued during World War Two, with vegetable gardens in backyards and schoolyards, on unused land, and even the front lawn of the White House.

In recent decades, the fast pace of urbanisation in developing countries is causing urban malnutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization said, calling on planners to become “nutrition partners” and pay attention to food security.

Despite pressure on land to build homes and roads, there is more than enough urban land available within UK cities to meet the fruit and vegetable requirements of its population, researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Food at Britain’s University of Sheffield said in a study last month.

In tiny Singapore, one of the wealthiest nations in Asia that imports more than 90% of its food, urban farming including vertical and rooftop farms, is fast becoming popular.

The city-state, which ranks on top of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global food security index for 2019, aims to produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030, by increasing the local supply of fruits, vegetables and protein from meat and fish.

On Monday, Singapore lawmaker Ang Wei Neng said that during the coronavirus outbreak, “it would be wise for us to think of how to invest in homegrown food”.

For Allan Lim, chief executive of ComCrop, a commercial urban farm in Singapore, the pandemic is a reminder that disruptions to food supplies can take place at any time.

“It has definitely sparked more interest in local produce. Urban farms can be a shock absorber during disruptions such as this,” he said.

Categories
Urban Farming

7 Amazing Benefits Of Urban Farming

Vegetable plantation in urban garden | Amazing Benefits Of Urban Farming | urban gardening | featured

The benefits of urban farming don’t stop at providing a steady supply of food to people and their neighborhoods. In fact, urban agriculture contributes to the overall economic growth of communities all over the world.

Read on to know why many urban dwellers are switching to urban farming nowadays. I have here 7 notable benefits of urban farming. You’ll be surprised by all the things it can offer!

Benefits of Urban Farming to the World You Need to Know

1. Provides a Steady Supply of Healthy & Locally-Grown Food

Fresh and nutritious food are now more accessible to people in cities through urban farming. Many families in urban areas are now able to enjoy unlimited varieties of healthy food without splurging on export taxes.

Through local markets, fresh produce, such as green leafy vegetables, mushrooms, sweet fruits, fresh herbs, and poultry meats are sold to residents at more affordable prices.

Most urban gardens produce everyday vegetables such as lettuce, green pepper, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, kale, spinach, among others!

This means more healthy home-cooked meals for the family since everything you need is within reach.

2. Decreases Unemployment Rate

Urban farming provides more job opportunities for many people. Like the corporate world, urban agriculture requires skilled individuals to achieve maximum productivity.

Job opportunities are awarded to people with the right skills and interests. This is a win-win situation for the community and its residents.

Urban farming works its magic of changing people’s lives. It creates jobs for a big chunk of their population. In most cases, jobs are given to less fortunate families in the community and its neighboring cities.

Furthermore, people make profitable businesses to help them sustain their lifestyles.

3. Conserves & Maximizes Space

Urban farming amplifies limited spaces by using incredible methods like vertical farming. These innovative systems use every available space, whether it be public or private.

Moreover, urban farming involves anything from balcony gardening to rooftop greenhouses. You can also farm in the garage and in any extra room in the house.

Even if your place is quite small, you’ll soon realize its potential food production capacity can be as massive as traditional farming.

One good example is Vertical Harvest. They’re one of the world’s first and largest commercial vertical farms. The whole operation sits on 1/10 of an acre and grows the amount of produce that traditional farming raises in a 5 acre ground.

4. Improves the Local Economy


Economic transactions are also starting to take place more often. These create more work for people and more income for local businesses.

For example, many food establishments are embracing the idea of purchasing locally-sourced products. For one, it provides them with fresher and healthier food. They also gain direct contact with urban farmers and producers for better deals and business transactions.

Demand for local food will also increase – creating more opportunities within the community. And more local economic activities will keep profit circulating within the community.

5. Builds a More Sustainable World

Many people are moving from rural areas to the cities. With this trend, more foods from farms also have to travel far before they get into people’s plates.

Besides, traditional farms need more energy and money. And this is where urban gardening extends its help.

Locally-grown food requires less transportation which reduces our ecological footprint. And by localizing produce, we are reducing carbon emission and fossil fuel consumption.

Urban farming is revitalizing the economic growth of a community. At the same time, it also builds a greener future for everyone.

In a nutshell, urban agriculture is helping not only the community, but also the entire world to reduce their “foodprint.”

6. Introduces Innovation

Save28 Most Inspiring Urban Agriculture Projects Around the WorldEcoWatch28 Most Inspiring Urban Agriculture Projects Around the World The Green Machine Mobile Food Market uses a bus to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to almost 400 customers in the food deserts of South Memphis. Photo credit: Green Machine Mobile Food Market

Urban farming teaches people to be more creative. It helps them unleash their critical thinking skills and find better ways of producing more food in limited gardening space.

It’s a fact that cities are not designed for traditional farming.  And now urban farmers are pioneering new ways to deal with limited space. Ultimately, urban farming is transforming the food system around the globe.

One example is The Green Machine Mobile Food Market. It’s a mobile fruit and vegetable market for neighborhoods with limited access in Memphis, TN.

In a similar case, The Growing Underground sustainably grows fresh microgreens. The amazing part is they do it 33 meters below the busy streets of Clapham in London.

They use the latest hydroponic systems and LED technology to transform dormant tunnels into a pesticide-free environment for their crops.

These two examples use different methods, but both are inspiring urban agriculture projects. They innovate to make food more accessible to people in their community.

7. Builds a Solid Community

Lastly, urban agriculture brings together a diverse community through a common interest. Not only does urban farming make food accessible to people, it also gets them engaged in growing their own food.

This way, they develop a deeper connection to agriculture. In addition, most urban agriculture projects need social organizations for many individuals to meet people with the same interest.

It creates real connections between citizens, children and adults alike.

It is important to let people know about the benefits of urban farming in our lives. It is a relevant movement that enlightens us on the true meaning of the city ecosystem.

Imagine a garden of fresh leafy vegetables and herbs instead of grass. Add that to an aquarium of edible fishes instead of goldfish and guppies. That is urban farming!

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Urban Farming

29 Surprising Benefits of Urban Farming

Did you know that over 20% of the food in the world is produced by urban farms?

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If this number sounds INSANELY high. That’s because well … it is.

How did urban farming pick up so much steam, so fast?

How is it possible the commercial vertical farming market is expected to grow over 380% by 2022?

29 Surprising Benefits of Urban Farming

If these stats convince you urban farming is a good idea, great.

If you’re not convinced…If you’re still asking yourself: Why should I learn more about urban farming??

The answer is simple.

There are an incredible amount of advantages urban farmers have over conventional agriculture.

Curious to know about the many benefits of urban farming?

Read on…

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1. Learn a very rare skill … the ability to farm

According to the United States Farm Bureau, only 1 in 50 American citizens have any farming experience (2%).

That means the average person on the street is far more likely to have other interesting skills like speaking a foreign language (over 15% of Americans are bilingual, and over 50% of Europeans are).

By learning urban farming you are developing a very unique skill.

Curious to go in depth-beyond this article?

Check out The Urban Farmer, below!

Urban Farm Example

Source: kbcc.cuny.edu

2. Conserve Space

Urban farming utilizes space incredibly efficiently. This is especially true in the case of vertical farming.

For example, Vertical Harvest, one of the largest commercial vertical farms in the US, grows the same amount of produce on 1/10 of an acre that traditional agriculture would need 5 acres to produce.

Vertical Farm Example

3. Extremely healthy food source

The output of most urban farms are vegetables, typically loose leaf lettuces, herbs, or brassicas.

According to Choosemyplate.gov, health benefits of produce are almost unbeatable, including:

1) vegetables do not have cholesterol

2) vegetables are high in fiber

3) vegetables are sources of many nutrients including: potassium, folate, Vitamin A & Vitamin C.

Brassicas

Source: Fifth Season Gardening

4. Helps Prevent Food Insecurity

Food Insecurity: an economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. (Source)

According to the USDA, 1 in 7 Americans suffers from food insecurity, and this figure includes over 6 million children.

Urban farming can help alleviate some of the pressures of food insecurity. For example, urban farms set up in food deserts can be a source of nutritious food for nearby urban residents.

5. Easier to eat organic produce

According to helpguide.org, organic produce:

– contains less pesticides than conventional
– contain less fertilizer than conventional
– are more fresh than conventional

Growing in your own home in some ways is the most organic way to grow – in some urban farming set ups you may need almost no pesticides or fertilizer, and the produce could not be more fresh.

Organic vs Non-Organic Produce

source: helpguide.org

6. No Need To Worry About Seasonality

If you are growing indoors in a controlled environment, your growing season is not restricted by unpredictable weather conditions.

Weather conditions like unexpected cold temperature or drought cost traditional agriculture billions of dollars per year in lost yield.

7. Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to ACS.org, “Some analyses have suggested that bringing agriculture into cities has lowered food-related greenhouse gas emissions”.

That being said, the same study linked above *does* emphasize that the greenhouse gas emission savings provided by urban farming are often overestimated, especially in high density urban farming areas in the Northeastern United States (New York, Boston, etc).

8. Cheaper Than Buying Produce From Normal Supply Chain

On a common sense level, putting in the time to grow your own fresh fruits and vegetables is going to have a cheaper unit cost than going to buy at the grocery store.

The reason for this is simple:

Grocery store produce is heavily marked up. According to this article from Chron, grocery stores mark up the cost of their produce by up to 75%, that’s almost a 2x increase that you pay.

Beyond that, a lot of the original cost of the produce comes from transportation. The result? Growing yourself is way cheaper on average.

9. Increases  Property Value

In a UC-Davis report on the benefits of urban agriculture, it was stated,

“studies correlate urban farms and community gardens to increasing home values and household income…The presence of gardens raised property values as much as 9.4% within five years of establishment”

10. Correlates with Socioeconomic Diversity

Because of the overlapping social, economic, and ecological aspects that urban farming relates to (see figure), there is a correlation between areas with urban farming projects and socioeconomic diversity, according to this study from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Policy dimensions and types of urban farming

Source

11. Decreases “Food Miles” (Even compared to “local produce”).

Food miles are defined as the distance from where your food is grown or produced to where you eat it.

Food miles for local produce that is produced from an urban garden or farm can be less than .001% the distance that grocery store (and even restaurant) produce travels from “farm to fork”.

Think about it this way, if you’re growing in your own home, we’re not even talking about food “miles” anymore, we’re talking about food “feet”!

Curious to go in depth-beyond this section?

Check out The Market Gardener, below!

Conventional vs Local Growing of Produce

12. Small Business Growth Engine

Urban and vertical farming are experiencing triple digit year over year growth, and it isn’t slowing down soon.

According to AgHires, the vertical urban farming market is expected to grow by over 384% in the next 5 years. That’s over 30.8% year over year growth!

13. Less Infrastructure Investment Required

While some vertical farming operations require tons of investment into infrastructure, the majority of urban farming production comes from small CSA-size or smaller growers, according to this article from Ensia.com, the amount of infrastructure cost needed for a basic urban garden set up with a greenhouse or indoor growing is less than conventional agriculture.

14. Expanding Grant Funding Opportunities

Commercial urban farms received more funding in 2016 than any previous year in history in the United States.

If you are searching for grant funding as an urban farmer, your odds of success will only increase in the future, at this rate.

More info on USDA grant funding for urban agriculture

15. Improves State of Mind

According to a Psychology Today article titled “Plants Make You Feel Better”, presence of plants indoors or in your garden:

– Lowers systolic blood pressure
– Lowers levels of anxiety
– Increases job satisfaction

So…if you hate your job…you need to start urban farming!

16. Less Packaging Required

If you are harvesting your food from an urban farm, you may be able to completely do away with packaging.

Why is this a HUGE benefit?

Packaging is one of the most harmful environmental pollutants that exist in the planet. According to this article on Livestrong, titled “The Advantages and Disadvantages of Food Packaging“, while packaging has benefits like increasing shelf-life, there are also huge disadvantages:

“According to Duke University researchers Patrick Reaves and Michael Nolan, consumer packaging accounts for the largest amount of plastic and paper waste, which forms 20 % of all landfills”

Urban Farming = packaging not necessary = benefit.

17. High Food Safety

Large scale outbreaks of salmonella or other contaminants is largely a bi-product of the overwhelming distance and processing food undergoes.

According to the (WHO) world health organization, “Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water”

With increasing supply chain length comes higher risk of contamination.

18. Higher Food Quality

When urban farming, you have ultimate control over things like:

– growing conditions
– harvesting time
– light exposure

When you go to the grocery store, it’s a “take it or leave it” situation that you have very little control over. If you really want a carrot but all the carrots are heavily bruised, you either buy a bruised carrot or don’t get any carrot.

19. Less Food Waste

Because you can “harvest and eat” with urban farming, there is no disconnect between your produce supply and the amount you eat.

The majority of food waste at the consumer level occurs because produce that is already purchased goes bad. If you only harvest what you are about to eat, you will waste far less.

20. Correlates with Neighborhood Safety

According to a 2013 study from UC Davis (also cited above), “Community gardens and urban farms create safe spaces to recreate and improve the … general concern for others in the neighborhood”.

Essentially, urban farms are basically the opposite of the Broken Window Theory, defined as,  

“a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior”.

For all the broken windows in cities, we need more urban farms!

21. Aesthetically Pleasing

The majority of humans, across all cultures and backgrounds, find the sight of plants to be aesthetically pleasing.

This data from Format magazine suggests that plants are one of the most popular subjects of artwork of all time.

No wonder so many urban faming companies take such amazing high resolution photos of their systems!

22. Able to integrate into architecture

There are entire websites, like Inhabitat, which are devoted to urban farming themed agriculture.

If you are an architect, you have endless opportunities and examples for integrating urban farming into your designs.

One of the defining features of any city is it’s architecture, so all of the integration possibilities are a huge plus for city planners and designers.

23. Large Innovative Communities Across The Globe

As you can see by this Pinterest Board on urban farming projects across the world, urban farming is gaining steam in areas all across the world.

Areas like:
– Japan
– France
– Netherlands
– Kenya

Just to name a few!

What does this mean?

No matter where you are, you can likely find other people in your city who are into urban farming!

24. Water Conservation

Many styles of growing that are popular in urban agriculture are far more efficient with water than general agriculture.

For example, according to Lucky Roots, hydroponic systems can use 2/3 less water than what would normally be needed for the same amount of output.

25. Air Purification and Breathing Benefits

Based off data from this article on Bayeradvanced.com, titled “The 5 Benefits of House Plants”, having any type of plant in your house will aid in air purification.

In fact, this phenomenon has been studied so deeply that we know certain types of plants purify air better than others. For more information on specific plant types check this link.

26. May Increase Your Focus

According to an article from Scientific American titled “Houseplants Make You Smarter“, large sets of data show that plants increase focus and attention span.

The reasoning?

Humans evolved in settings with far more plants than the computer screens most people are glued to in today’s day and age.

While too much screen exposure is typically harmful for attention span and focus capacity over, presence of plants results in the opposite effects.

Listen up kids, if you didn’t do so well on that last test, you may need to do a little urban farming!

27. Prevent Illness

According to a recent article from Treehugger, the presence of plants in your house or garden does play a role in preventing onset of illness.

This does not take into account the fact that simply eating more produce is proven to prevent illness in multiple studies.

Not convinced? Check this study from Harvard.

28. Learn more about your food

Have you ever heard of brassica?

According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most common types of vegetables by humans, including things like:

– broccoli
– cauliflower
– kale
– cabbage
– and brussel sprouts

hell, even mustard seeds come from brassica, so without brassica there’s no mustard.

What’s the point?

The fact that a plant is a brassica has implications for how it is grown. You learn this type of information if you try urban farming, and as a result, you have a better knowledge of what you eat.

Types of Brassica

Types of Brassica: Source

29. Freedom To Grow What You Want To Grow

After all this data….

You’re probably wondering: what other benefits could there be?

The biggest benefit is this: with urban farming, you can grow:

– what you want to grow
– how you want to grow it
– where you want to grow

Ultimately, this is a very powerful freedom of expression.Download A Copy of This Post

Conclusion

If you got to the end of this article, you probably liked something about it (besides our bad jokes, which no one could possibly like).

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Also, if you haven’t gotten enough benefits of urban farming, check out more helpful resources in the section below.

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Urban Farming

The Business of Mini-Farming

  • A flourishing backyard farm may not make you rich, but it will help your finances and improve your quality of life.

Many homeowners undertake the task of gardening or small-scale farming as a hobby to get fresh produce and possibly save money over buying food at the supermarket. Unfortunately, the most common gardening methods end up being so expensive that even some enthusiastic garden authors state outright that gardening should be considered, at best, a break-even affair.

Looking at the most common gardening methods, these authors are absolutely correct. Common gardening methods are considerably more expensive than necessary because they were originally designed to benefit from the economies of scale of corporate agribusiness. When home gardeners try to use these methods on a smaller scale, it’s a miracle if they break even over a several-year period, and it is more likely they will lose money.

The Economics of a Mini-Farm

The cost of tillers, watering equipment, large quantities of water, transplants, seeds, fertilizers and insecticides adds up quickly. Balanced against the fact that most home gardeners grow only vegetables, and vegetables make up less than 10 percent of the calories an average person consumes, it quickly becomes apparent that even if the cost of a vegetable garden were zero, the amount of actual money saved in the food bill would be negligible.

For example, if the total economic value of the vegetables collected from the garden in a single season amounted to about $350, even if the vegetables could be produced for free, the economic benefit would amount to only $7 a week when divided over the year.
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The solution to this problem is to both cut costs and increase the value of the end product. Using this combination, the economic equation balances in favor of the gardener instead of the garden supply store, and it becomes quite possible to supply all of a family’s food except meat (if you eat it) from a relatively small garden. According to the USDA, the average yearly cost to feed a family of three is $8,140.92—on a low-cost plan. Increase that to a liberal plan and we’re looking at an average cost of more than $12,000 a year. Understanding that food is purchased with after-tax dollars, it becomes clear that home agricultural methods that take a significant chunk out of that figure can make a difference.

The key to making a garden work to your economic benefit is to approach mini-farming as a business. No, it is not a business in the sense of incorporation and taxes, unless some of its production is sold. But think of it as a business in that, by reducing your food expenditures, it can have the same net effect on finances as income from a small business. Like any small business, it could earn money or lose money depending on how it is managed.

Seeds and Seedlings

Garden centers are flooded every spring with gardeners buying seedlings. For hobbyist gardeners, this may work well because it allows a quick start with minimal planning. But for the mini-farmer who approaches gardening as a small business, it’s a bad idea.

In my garden this year, I plan to grow 48 broccoli plants. Seedlings from the garden center would cost $18 if discounted, possibly more than $30. Even the most expensive organic broccoli seeds on the market cost less than a dollar for 48 seeds. Growing transplants at home drops their effective cost from $18 to $30 down to $1.

Adding the cost of soil and containers, the cost is still only about $2 for 48 broccoli seedlings. Considering that a mini-farm would require transplants for dozens of crops, from onion sets to tomatoes and lettuce, it quickly becomes apparent that growing from seed saves hundreds of dollars a year. (To learn more about choosing seeds or seedlings read, Should You Plant Seeds or Seedlings?)

The two basic types of seed/plant varieties available are hybrid and open-pollinated. Open-pollinated varieties produce seeds that duplicate the plants that produced them. Hybrid plant varieties produce seeds that are at best unreliable and sometimes sterile and therefore often unusable.

Although hybrids have the disadvantage of not producing good seed, they often have advantages that make them worthwhile, including aspects of “hybrid vigor,” a poorly understood phenomenon in plants where a cross between two varieties can yield far more vigorous and productive offspring than either parent. Using hybridization, then, seed companies are able to deliver varieties that incorporate disease resistance into a particularly good-tasting variety. So why not just use hybrid seeds? Because there’s no such thing as a free lunch. For plants that normally self-pollinate, such as peppers and tomatoes, there’s no measurable increase in vigor in hybrids. The hybrids are just a marketing avenue—buying hybrids raises costs and forces you to buy seeds again next year.

Another reason to save seeds from open-pollinated plant varieties is that, if each year you save seeds from the best-performing plants, you will eventually create varieties with genetic characteristics that work best in your particular soil and climate. That’s a degree of specialization money can’t buy.

Of course, there are cases where hybrid seeds outperform open-pollinated varieties. Hybrid seeds that manifest pest- or disease-resistant traits can be a good choice when those pests or diseases cause ongoing problems. When using hybrid seeds eliminates the need for synthetic pesticides, they’re a good choice. (Learn more in Heirloom Plants vs. New Plant Varieties.)

Garden Intensively

A number of intensive gardening methods have been well-documented over the past century. What all of these have in common is growing plants much more closely than traditional row methods. This closer spacing significantly decreases the amount of land required to grow a given quantity of food, which in turn reduces requirements for water, fertilizer and mechanization. Because plants are grown close enough together to form a sort of “living mulch,” the plants shade out weeds and retain moisture better, thus decreasing the amount of work required to raise the same amount of food. Intensive gardening techniques make a big difference in the amount of space required to provide a person’s food. Current agribusiness practices require 30,000 square feet (or 3⁄4 acre) per person. Intensive gardening practices can reduce the amount of space required for the same nutritional content to 700 square feet, plus another 700 square feet for crops grown specifically for composting. That’s only 1,400 square feet per person, so a family of three can be supplied in just 4,200 square feet. That’s less than 1⁄10 of an acre. Using traditional farming practices, it isn’t even possible to raise food for a single person in a half-acre lot, but using intensive techniques allows only half of that lot—1⁄4 acre—to provide nearly all the food for a family of four; generate thousands of dollars in income; allow raising small livestock; plus leave space for recreation. Intensive gardening techniques are the key to self-sufficiency on a small lot.
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Compost

Because growing so many plants in such little space puts heavy demands on the soil, all intensive agriculture methodologies pay particular attention to maintaining soil fertility. Standard agribusiness practices would suggest buying commercial fertilizers from outside the farm. While there are other highly worthwhile reasons for avoiding the use of nonorganic fertilizers (including human health and environmental damage), economics alone make a good case for avoiding synthetic fertilizers. A mini-farm with a properly managed soil-fertility plan can drastically reduce the need to purchase fertilizer, thereby reducing one of the biggest costs associated with farming. A certain amount of fertilizer may always be required, especially at the beginning, but using organic fertilizers and creating compost can ultimately reduce fertilizer requirements to a bare minimum.

The practice of preserving soil fertility consists of growing crops specifically for compost value, growing crops to fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, and composting all crop residues possible (along with the specific compost crops) and practically anything else that isn’t nailed down.

Calorie-Dense Plants: As already noted, vegetables provide only about 10 percent of the average American’s calories. Because of this, a standard vegetable garden may supply excellent produce and rich vitamin content, but the economic value of the vegetables won’t significantly reduce your food bill. The solution is to also grow crops that provide a higher proportion of caloric needs such as fruits, dried beans, grains, and root crops such as potatoes and onions.

Meat: Most Americans obtain at least a portion of their protein from eggs and meat. Agribusiness meats are often produced using practices and substances (such as growth hormones and antibiotics) that worry a lot of people. Certainly, factory-farmed meat is very high in the least healthy fats compared with free-range, grass-fed animals. The problem with meat, in an economic sense, is that each calorie of meat generally requires two to four calories of feed. This sounds, at first, like an inefficient use of resources, but it isn’t as bad as it seems. Most livestock, including poultry, gets a substantial portion of its diet from foraging. Poultry will eat all of the ticks, fleas, spiders, beetles and grasshoppers that can be found, plus dispose of the farmer’s table scraps. If meat is raised on premises, the mini-farmer just has to raise enough food to make up the difference between feed needs and what’s obtained through scraps and foraging.

Fruit: A number of fruits can be grown in most parts of the country: apples, grapes, blackberries, pears and cherries, to name few. Dwarf fruit tree varieties often produce substantial amounts of fruit in only three years, and they take up comparatively little space. Grapes native to North America, such as the Concord grape, are hardy throughout the continental United States, and some varieties, such as muscadine grapes, grow prolifically in the South and offer unique health benefits. Strawberries are easy to grow and attractive to youngsters. Fruits can easily be preserved, and many can also be stored whole for a few months using root cellaring.

Market Crops: Especially if you adopt organic growing methods, you can get top wholesale-dollar for crops delivered to restaurants, food cooperatives, farmers markets and so forth. According to John Jeavon’s research described in The Complete Biointensive Mini-Farm, a U.S. mini-farmer could expect to earn $2,079 in income from the space required to feed one person, in addition to actually feeding the person. Assuming a family of three and correcting for USDA reported rises in the value of food, that amounts to about $10,000 a year, using a six-month growing season.

Mel Bartholomew, in his 1985 book, Ca$h from Square Foot Gardening, estimated $5,000 a year income during a six-month growing season from a mere 1,500 square feet of properly managed garden. This equates to $8,064 in today’s market. A mini-farm that sets aside only 2,100 square feet for market crops could gross an average of $11,289 per year. (It’s worth noticing that two authorities arrived at very similar numbers for expected income from vegetable sales—about $5 a square foot.)

Extend the Season

Many people don’t realize that most of Europe, where greenhouses, cold frames and other season extenders have been used for generations, lies north of most of the United States. Maine, for example, is at the same latitude as southern France. The difference in climate has to do with ocean currents, not latitude, and latitude is the biggest factor in determining the success of growing protected plants because it determines the amount of sunlight available. In essence, anything that can be done in southern France can be done throughout the continental United States.

Extending the season allows for earlier starts and later endings to the growing season, netting more food. The secret lies in working with nature, not against it. Any attempt to build a superinsulated, heated tropical environment suitable for growing bananas in Minnesota in January is going to be prohibitively expensive. A simple unheated hoop house covered with plastic is fairly inexpensive and will work extremely well with crops selected for the climate.


The Economic Equation

This information is based on math presented in Mini Farmingby Brett L. Markham, from which this article is adapted, but has been updated with more recent figures. It’s only an example, but shows the economic impact mini-farming can make on a household’s bottom line.  —Editors

According to the Social Security Administration, as of 2014, the median U.S. nonfarm wage earner makes $28,851. Assuming a roughly 25 percent tax rate, this person takes home around $21,638. Nationwide, the cost of childcare is $300 to $1,564 a month—on average, $11,666 a year. Assuming a school-age child, this means the average worker has $9,972.46 post-tax income.

Though there are other justifications for adopting mini-farming, it may make economic sense for one member of a working couple to become a mini-farmer if the net economic impact of the mini-farm can replace the income from the job. Obviously, for those in highly paid careers, mini-farming may not be a good economic decision. But mini-farming can have a sufficient net economic impact that most standard occupations can be replaced. Mini-farming is also sufficiently time-efficient that it could be used to remove the need for a second job.

According to Census Bureau statistics from 2014, the average household size in the United States is 2.54 people. Let’s round that up to three for ease. According to statistics from the USDA, the cost of feeding a family of three with two adults and one child with a low-cost plan amounts to $8,140.92 per year (this cost would likely go up if the family were committed to eating organic). A mini-farm that supplied 85 percent of those needs would produce a yearly economic benefit of roughly $7,000 per year.

This means the mini-farmer has produced about 70 percent of the take-home pay she would have earned at a job, in much less time, without commuting and without paying for childcare. If the farm also dedicated 2,100 square feet and five hours a week to market crops, it could earn an additional $10,000 during a standard growing season. The mini-farmer also gains back more than 1,500 hours a year that can be used to improve quality of life in many ways; gains a much healthier diet; gets regular exercise; and gains a measure of independence from the normal employment system. It’s impossible to attach a dollar value to that.

For families who want to have a parent stay at home with a child, mini-farming may make it possible—and make money in the process, by having whichever parent who earns the least money from regular employment go into mini-farming. For healthy people on a fixed income, it’s a no-brainer.

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Urban Farming

How a Garden Became a Philippines Coronavirus Response

When the president of the Philippines declared a coronavirus lockdown for metro Manila on March 16, 2020, it panicked many families Food for the Hungry (FH) works with. But an urban garden became a weapon against lost income and despair for one group of mothers, who call themselves the Rainbow Savings Group.

FH began work in Navotas, part of Manila’s urban sprawl, in 2017. Housing is substandard and even dangerous. Fires frequently burn down entire blocks (many of them caused by faulty electrical wiring). Parents work in day labor, many not knowing from one day to the next how much income they’ll bring in. It’s a bad place to be a child. And with the lockdown, families couldn’t earn money to feed their children.

The Rainbow Savings Group started meeting in 2017, aided by FH livelihoods officer Geraldine Mabaet. In the savings group, they learned about budgeting and saving, and could take out small loans. They also learn about health, hygiene, and nutrition so that their children grow up stronger and healthier.

A Recycled, Repurposed Coronavirus Response

The Rainbow women live in government housing on a reclaimed mangrove swamp. They had little room for planting, but they wanted to grow nutritious vegetables for their families. So FH helped them attend an urban gardening seminar and provided them with the soil to create planters. The woman created a community garden on a small square of ground, and on the walls of their housing unit. They continue the story in their own words below:

Lilibeth Dela Rosa, Rainbow Savings Group Treasurer

woman in green shirt showing off vegetable garden

“We planted vegetables in our residence in a small vacant lot. We used old pots, tin cans boxes, and any recyclable materials that we could find for our plants. Even though the space we have is limited, we continue to take care of it and use it for planting.”

“We have something to get food from, even if it is just camote [sweet potato] tops and plant sprouts. I have also seen the importance of backyard gardening, especially since the government announced a community quarantine.”
 
 

Savings Group Member Beverly Sasabo

“Having plants lessens our expenses. We can put food on the table and feed our family with the vegetables that we planted. And we are sure that these are nutritious and safe. We also share some with our neighbors to help them with their expenses.

During this time of COVID-19, because we have plants in our backyard, we no longer go out to the market, to keep safe from the virus and to follow the quarantine protocol.

We have grown eggplant, bitter gourd, Chinese cabbage, mustard, and bottle gourd. It gives me joy seeing the fruit of our labor!”
 
 
 

Savings Group Member Carmen Alcazar

“Currently, we have plants like string beans and hyacinth beans, and we recently planted new vegetables. Backyard gardening is a big help to us, especially now that there is COVID-19. Whoever has something to harvest, we share it with one another, especially the plant sprouts because they grow easily. We don’t buy those foods from the market anymore.”
 
 

Philippines Coronavirus Response Spells Opportunities

FH staff like Geraldine are finding new ways to interact with the people they worked with every day before the lockdown. Modern technology is helping immensely. For example, Geraldine obtained the quotes and photos for this story by talking with the savings group via cellphone. All over the world, FH staff are similarly helping community leaders solve problems by phone. No water in the community for handwashing? Let’s see what we can do by calling the municipal government to get some water trucked in. Rumors flying around the community about coronavirus symptoms? Let’s spread accurate health and hygiene information using WHO and UNICEF graphics by cellphone.

Both FH staff and the people they work with daily are finding ways to tear down coronavirus barriers.

Rainbow Savings Group treasurer Lilibeth Dela Rosa is a mother of two, and earns money as a manicurist and dressmaker. Her husband is a freelance mechanic. Lilibeth wanted money to buy a gas stove, but work is hard to come by when everyone is locked down. So she began sewing face masks with leftover cloth scraps from previous dressmaking jobs. She averages seven masks with four hours of sewing. “The 175 pesos (about US $3.50) that I’m earning every day is already a big help for my family, especially since my husband has no work because of COVID-19,” says Lilibeth.three fabric face masks

Some of Lilibeth’s face masks.

When you give to FH’s COVID-19 efforts, you’ll be helping many communities like the one in Navotas, Philippines where mothers are doing their very best to help their families. Please continue to help FH bring hope to parents worldwide in these difficult times.

We also wish to thank FH Philippines livelihood officer Juliet Polvorosa for helping translate the quotes in this story. Coronavirus is bringing out new talents in so many these days.

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Urban Farming

Can a Vegetable Garden Save You Money?

With today’s tight economy, everyone is looking for ways to cut expenses. Growing a garden has the potential to reduce the amount of money spent on groceries. But this “potential” depends on the costs involved in growing the crops, types and amounts of vegetables grown, yields that are derived from the garden, and other factors. So, the answer to the above question is “yes” – if done correctly.

It’s possible to spend a small fortune on a garden. The humorous book, “The $64 Tomato” by William Alexander, discusses one man’s quest for the perfect garden and how it ended up costing him $64 per tomato (among other things). This astonishing figure is the result of all of the input costs (tools and equipment, fertilizers, pesticides, water, etc.) associated with gardening. These costs can add up quickly, even for a small vegetable garden. The trick to saving money with a vegetable garden is limiting the costs while maximizing yield.

While saving money may be one of the benefits to growing a vegetable garden – let’s not forget that there are others as well. Gardens are a potential means to increase our confidence in food safety and security. We know where the food is coming from and all the history of plants grown in our own gardens. We know what chemicals were used, we know what pests were problems and we essentially eliminated the whole resource-gobbling transportation chain to get the food to your plate. And all that gardening is good for you. It is a great form of physical exercise, and I haven’t met a nutritionist yet who didn’t think that fresh produce was “good for you” too!

So, growing your own vegetables can be rewarding, regardless of the potential savings. But with a few tips, it can save you some money on a grocery bill or two. First – you have to know a couple of basics of growing vegetables.

Vegetable Growing Basics

There are a wide variety of vegetables that can be successfully grown in Iowa. As I walk through the produce section of my grocery store, there are only a few things I see that are difficult to grow in Iowa. The location of the vegetable garden is crucial. Nearly all vegetables need full-sun and a well-drained soil. The vegetable garden also should be located near a source of water. 
Iowa’s climate allows production of both cool and warm season vegetables.

Cool season vegetables (carrots, beets, lettuce, cauliflower, etc.) are planted in early spring and harvested by mid-summer. Warm season vegetables (tomatoes, pepper, eggplant, squash, etc.) are planted after the danger of frost has passed and harvested by early fall. With proper planning, it’s possible to grow two or three crops in a given area during the growing season. Using the same space for two or more crops is called succession planting. Other techniques, such as interplanting and companion planting, are other ways to make efficient use of garden space. The more efficiently you use garden space and resources the larger the potential savings.

Below are several other important factors to consider when growing a vegetable garden to save you money.

Select vegetables that you like. This is simple – you’re not likely to take care of …or eat things you don’t like. So don’t waste your time or money planting them in the garden.

Select vegetables that can be easily stored or preserved.Selecting vegetables that have a long storage life or that can easily be canned or frozen is a great way to stretch your grocery dollar. Potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, and winter squash can be stored for several months when stored at the appropriate temperature. Other vegetables, like beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and sweet corn, can be preserved by canning or freezing. Preserving vegetables is a great way to enjoy the “extra” produce later in the year.

Select vegetables that are expensive to buy in the grocery store. To save money, grow more expensive items, like tomatoes and melons, or large quantities of vegetables that you purchase regularly. Consider vegetables like beans, beets, onions, spinach, broccoli, peppers, carrots, summer squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, peas, and Swiss chard. These vegetables provide the biggest returns on your investment of space and time in the garden.

Do some research and start with a plan. Decide what you want to grow and determine what will be necessary to be successful. Plan the garden on paper first. Establish a network of family members, neighbors, or friends that can help you answer your questions. Don’t forget about your local county extension office. There are more than 20 vegetable gardening publications from Iowa State University Extension that can help you (see table below). Each of these can be picked up at your county extension office. They can also be ordered or downloaded online at https://store.extension.iastate.edu. County extension offices are also the meeting centers for Master Gardeners – many of whom have the knowledge and experience to keep your garden growing successfully.

Research and consider ways to reduce your inputs. Collect rainwater for irrigation. Add compost and well-rotted manure to the garden to improve the soil and reduce the use of fertilizers. Practice the principles of Integrated Pest Management to control insects and diseases, reducing your reliance on pesticides. Start with high quality seeds – most are relatively inexpensive, and most can be stored for at least one or two years. Find ways to reuse containers, flats, stakes, ties, etc. Remember that saving money with vegetables usually means keeping the costs as low as possible while still growing productive plants.

Start small. Like many things, gardening takes practice. Plants will require regular watering, maintenance and harvesting. Growing many different vegetables in a large garden can be overwhelming for new gardeners and can ultimately lead to failure. Limit yourself to just a few types of vegetables the first year. When you become more confident in your abilities and resources, you can increase the size of your vegetable garden and grow a wider variety of crops.

Finally, have fun growing your own vegetables. Encourage your neighbors to grow a few vegetables as well. Visit each other’s gardens and trade “extra produce” regularly. It’s surprising how something as simple as a vegetable garden can impact your life…and hopefully your pocketbook as well!