Posts Tagged ‘homegrown food’

Tom and Nancy Need Our Help!

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Three cheers for Nancy Small and her husband, Tom! When they retired in 1996, the two indefatigable former English professors began turning their half-acre yard in Michigan into better habitat for wildlife. Three years later, they founded a chapter of Wild Ones, the organization that promotes native plants and natural landscaping, and a couple of years ago, they established the Michigan Climate Action Network. But now, says Nancy, who emailed me the other day, they’re stumped and hoping we can help them out:

“Neither Wild Ones nor the environmental movement as a whole,” she writes, “have had much success in getting people to tear out their lawns in order to put in native plants for wildlife (or to reduce carbon emissions), but it’s beginning to sound as if people can hardly wait to get rid of their lawns in order to grow their own food” (which, as she points out, is a lot more work, and harder work, than growing native plants!). So Nancy and Tom are trying to build on the work of Michigan State University researchers who have demonstrated how native wildflowers, by providing pollen, nectar, and shelter to the pollinators and other beneficial insects that are critical for healthy agricultural systems, can help farmers increase crop yields. They’re asking us to put on our thinking caps and help them come up with ways to use the current interest in organic, local, and homegrown food to promote the notion that food plants and native plants are essential partners in a healthy landscape.

I told Nancy that one way might be to use the growing number of farmers markets to spread the word through a “love local food?/ help a pollinator/ grow native plants” campaign. Heck, we might even be able to get Whole Foods, Wild Oats, and other natural foods markets to promote and sell native wildflowers instead of just the usual decapitated roses or tulips. So whaddaya think? Email me, and I’ll send your ideas (or even your words of encouragement) along to Tom and Nancy. 

Veggie Trader

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Yeah, I realize that social networking is the great revolution of Web 2.0 (coming on the heels of Web 1.0, which brought us online commerce). And yeah, I realize that some web networks can be professionally useful. But, please, the competition to accumulate the most “friends” is something I thought I’d left behind with high school.

Veggie Trader, on the other hand, is an online community I can believe in. When you get to that point in summer when the thought of eating another zucchini quiche whipped up from your backyard squash patch makes you nauseous, you just post a listing on your excess produce and note what you’d like in return, then wait for a response. You can also browse by zip code to see what’s available in your area.

Of course you can also donate the extra harvest to local food banks through programs like Plant a Row for the Hungry.

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Growing

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

Whaddaya do when the economy is sinking like a stone, and you can’t even fall back on peanut butter sandwiches as a cheap culinary staple without fearing for your family’s safety? According to a new National Gardening Association survey, you grow your own groceries. Among the findings:

• 43 million U.S. households plan to grow their own vegetables, herbs, and fruits in 2009, up 19 percent from last year.

• 21 percent of households said they plan to start a food garden this year.

Among the reasons cited were that home-grown food tastes better (58 percent of those surveyed), it saves money (54 percent), and it’s safer (48 percent).

The NGA announced the findings at the 5th annual Garden Writers Association teleconference last week. A white paper with the details will be available on its website soon.

Growing Greener: The Carbon Footprint of Food

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

The following was published as part of my regular “Growing Greener” column in Public Garden magazine, Vol. 23 No. 2 (2008). Public Garden is the flagship publication of the American Public Gardens Association. In “Growing Greener” I answer sustainability-related questions from public garden staff.

Q: How does the carbon footprint of homegrown fruits and vegetables compare with that of imported produce?

A: In the past few years the carbon footprint of food has become one of the hottest issues in the western world. A number of luminaries have weighed in on the subject in the U.S. alone, from best-selling novelist Barbara Kingsolver (in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) to ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan (in Coming Home to Eat). All this discussion has generated its own jargon, including such terms as “food miles” (the distance any item of produce travels from farm to table) and “locavore” (a person who makes a point of eating food grown within 100 miles, give or take).

At first glance comparing, say, a tomato grown 30 feet from your back door with one cultivated half a continent away would seem to be a no-brainer. (more…)