Friday, March 27, 2009

Organic, Home-Grown Food on the Rise!

Organic, home-grown food on the rise!
The cost effective and wise alternative.
by Marc Cool

In looking at our seed sales and speaking with garden industry friends and colleagues, it is clear there is a renewed interest in gardening, especially in growing food crops. More people are buying garden seeds, and they are buying more vegetables (as compared to ornamentals) and larger volumes of seed (for instance bulk volumes from our garden catalog). There is clearly a trend towards more gardening, which for years has been on the decline. Since the early 1990's, the numbers of Americans who consider themselves gardeners has declined by about 20%. This decline in numbers was due to lack of time or space to garden, and resulted in (or maybe even resulted from?) a lack of gardening knowledge. Also, the need to garden was not as urgent, as the growth of health food stores, farmers’ markets, etc provided the high quality, organic, and often local food that people would otherwise grow themselves. I know for example that my family, from the Midwest, who
for generations had very large gardens that provided much of the food on their tables, in the last number of years has stopped gardening and buys similar quality produce from local farmers.

In recent times however, this dynamic seems to be changing. With an increasing cost of food and with all the issues and concerns surrounding the economy, more and more people are turning to gardening. They are looking for ways to reduce the expense of their food bills as well as regain confidence in the safety of their food. And of course one of the best ways to do this is to plant vegetable seeds and grow organic food in your back (or front!) yard. Consider the low cost of seed (our packs are mostly $3.29/pack, others are higher or lower), compared to the price of vegetables in the store. If you, for instance, plant 50 tomato seeds and harvest 20 pounds of organic tomatoes off of at least 40 plants, this is 800 pounds of tomatoes, which might cost you $2,500 at the store. The cost of seed (the lowest input cost), plus soil amendments, plant protection, tools, your time etc, is much lower than this. Furthermore, by growing your own garden, you know
exactly what went into your food and can have full confidence in safely feeding your family.

With increasing numbers of people living in urban areas with smaller yards, many people are also finding ways to plant gardens in smaller spaces. We are seeing an increased interest in seed varieties that do well in containers, windowsills, roof top gardens, and small kitchen gardens where it is perfectly possible to produce substantial amounts of food. Our website has a special urban gardening section dedicated to such growing conditions. By growing your own food, you can re-connect with nature and take an important step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. In addition, growing your own vegetables is fun, and it allows your kids to understand that not all food comes wrapped in plastic from a store shelf!

Several people have also asked us about the benefit of using organic seeds. Most people seem to be well-versed on the advantages of organic growing and organic food, but less so on the advantages of organic seed. In fact, the same advantages exist in using organic seed, plus one additional important one. Conventional seed production is an inherently chemical-intensive operation. Because the plants must survive for much longer in the field than a food crop, large amounts of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are often used to keep them alive. In organic seed production, alternative techniques reduce the impact of chemicals on the environment as well as on the health of the seed growers and their families. By using organic seed, you can substantially help decrease the overall use of toxic chemicals in the environment. The other significant advantage in using organic seed is that plants have a strong interaction with their growing conditions.
If you select and grow a seed variety in organic conditions, especially for several generations as we do, then the seed from this plant will be better adapted to growing under similar organic conditions, so will perform better for you in your farm or garden. It seems clear that the most conscious way to start an organic garden is by using organic seeds!
We wish you Happy Gardening this season, and invite you to join us in working toward a more healthy and organic farming and gardening!

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