Garden Food for Thought

When our nation faces a recession, it becomes receptive to the notion of gardening for both economic benefit and pleasure.  Imagine new vegetable gardens across the countrysides, in the suburbs and patched throughout the cities.  As we face food price hikes—despite relief in gas prices—and cancel big-ticket purchases and investments, we turn to our gardens for comfort and sustenance.  I mentioned in “Square Feet“, that small houses, such as bungalows, are popular again.  So, too, extended garden seasons are back, along with cold frames and staggered sowings.  Frugality and sober-mindedness are again in fashion. Thrift is a growing trend and health is huge.  However, I, for one, still have a long way to go.

For example, I’m at two servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, rather than the five recommended by the USDA—less than half.  Yet the USDA just reported that consumers spend 8 1/2 cents of every food dollar on fresh fruits and vegetables. What do the other 91 1/2 cents buy?  Here’s a clue:  chicken and turkey get 2 1/3 cents.  In other words, processed food eats probably 80% of the US consumer food dollars.  No wonder there’s a sharp rise in diet-related disease.  Over-consumption of processed food results in obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.  The USDA is right to be concerned—these figures are stunning.  According to a Harvard study conducted back in the 1960s, caloric intake is the second greatest cause of death, after the passage of time.  The point is to maintain a balance.  Just as one eats in order to live, overeating is fatal.

I cannot think of a better time than today to be a gardener.  Health, exercise (stretching like a flower), taste (no question), savings and—last but not least—inspiration to the next generation. Kids eat the vegetables their parents or grandparents grow, first out of respect, then out of pleasure and in their adult years out of habit and, ultimately, out of gratitude.

Thus, we shall snap a 75 year record of consuming too much refined and processed food.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 3rd, 2008 at 10:17 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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36 Responses to “Garden Food for Thought”

  1. Kathy said:

    I really enjoy reading your posts. Thanks.

  2. Nancy said:

    I am in total agreement. Those of us who get dirty can eat well, pass it on to our children just as you said, smell fresh flowers, save money, try unusual seasonings and best of all do not have to drive to the grocery store all of the time. Just browsing for dinner is a lot of fun and healthy too. Sometimes bad economic times find us having a different more wholesome kind of work/fun!

  3. Charles Racine Jr. said:

    My dear Grand Daddy, 1899-1965, always said “what this country needs is another good depression”.

  4. Rev. Rolland French said:

    BRAVO! RIGHT ON THE MONEY! (But why the limit on recommended veggies? Surely a garden(s) like yours can live up to the demands!
    Rev. Rolland French

  5. Tierney G. said:

    How true. I am a firm believer in eating as close to the ground as I call it as possible. I also think going Vegan is the best way to keep health in check. There are so many good vegan dishes out there. The only obstacle is the price. It is hard to believe that in a country of such abundance we still are paying more for fresh fruit and veggies! No wonder so many are obese.

    Teaching kids to grow their own food is probably the best way to change a generation of people. There is no comparison in the taste and crispness of fresh out of the garden or tree and grocery store produce.

  6. Tami said:

    George- a great way to bring those fruits and veggies in to your life is by making a “green” smoothie every day. This is how I begin each and every day and it has done wonders to support my good health and immune system. Here’s an easy blender recipe. (Always use organic and out of the garden when possible.)
    1 banana
    2/3 c. frozen blueberries
    2/3 c. frozen strawberries or mango slices, or…?
    1 T. cold pressed flax seed oil
    1 T. fiber blend of your choice
    1 heaping T. of a “green” powder (Barley Green, Kyo Green, Mega Green, etc.)
    1.5-2 c. baby spinach leaves
    juice to the halfway mark of your blender.

    This is the order I add everything to my blender pitcher. For the added health of your blender motor I recommend putting the banana in the pitcher before the frozen fruit so the motor is in full force when the frozen stuff hits. Sub in other fruits and other dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard and even carrot tops! The greens with courser stems will liquefy better in a Veggie-Mix type blender.

    Your body will come to crave this. This is all I need or desire until noon. At 44 I look younger now than I did 5 years ago.

    Bon Appetite- Tami


    Sounds good George. However I read that McDonald’s is doing just fine, thank you, with their dollar meal. So are the chains that specialize in bar food…all kinds of cheese and sauces that add cheap calories. Look at the TV ads and you’ll even see chocolate dips that come with your pizza. They show lots of bacon, cheese, and creamy sauces with their inexpensive meals. How do you fight these ad budgets? Bob

  8. Tony York said:

    Hey George-
    It must be working, we’re both ‘not dead yet’!
    Cheers, TY in Petaluma, Ca.

    PS to R. Demarest: The internet is probably our best bet to get the word around without a big marketing budget. Put those electrons to good use………

  9. Mary Rowlands said:

    No we do not need another depression! Wasn’t that where the babies were drinking gypsum water from their bottles? I don’t know how any one could be so gross or cavalier as to say this.
    Insofar as the good old days my mother in law has this to say…God gave you a brain, use it. Back then the doctors hadn’t a clue as to what may be wrong with you. Now they know and have some effective treatments.
    Trust me, you want to be in the here and now, but the resurrection of some the values of the past wouldn’t be a bad idea!

  10. Ellen Kayner said:

    Terrific blog- enjoy it every time. Learn a lot too. Keep up the great work. – ellen

  11. Amira said:

    I completely agree. I have a small 11X12 ft vegetable garden in my front lawn. At first my neighbors thought I was a little crazy. I have had a lot of success. Now my neighbors are slowly joining me. The garden is well kept and fruitful. I encourage everyone to at least grow the one vegetable. I understand that not everyone has the patience to grow seven different types of tomatoes. One plant can feed a family of four.

  12. Patty said:

    I couldn’t agree more. Homegrown produce is worth the time and effort. Gardening give such rich rewards in our strength and flexibility, it’s a tremendous stress relief to be out working in your yard.

  13. Tami said:

    Amen !

  14. Stacy Tully said:

    I would never be able to eat a “baby” potato without thinking of my Great Aunt Bea.
    Thanks for the thought!

  15. Erica said:

    I just planted our lettuces today. Yes, we can grow lettuce in the winter here in Zone 7. My seven year old daughter likes to know “Did this come from our garden?” I believe that once you taste real fresh food it’s hard to enjoy fast food. Even with limited space there are many vegetables and herbs that will grow happily in pots.

  16. BECKY DUTHIE said:


  17. Mercer Ervin said:

    THANK YOU1 THANK YOU! It’s too bad more people don’t realize this. Love your article, keep the faith.

  18. Joanne Roth said:

    I am teaching a class at Univ. of Georgia’s Learning in Retirement and my next class will be dealing with exactly what you are talking about here. I am approaching it through the techniques of “Forest Gardening” coined by Robert Hart, United Kingdom. Most in my classes are either Master Gardeners or long time gardeners, and have existing gardens to work with, thus do not have to deal, necessarily, with establishing new beds. I have always mixed my perennial boarders, no matter where I have lived, with all manner of species and the symbiosis of the mixed species is a huge benefit to all the plants.
    I feel that more people would benefit from this technique in gardening.

  19. v silas said:

    here-here and very well stated

  20. Bob Souvestre said:

    I wholeheartedly support both container and in-ground production of vegetables and flowers. Anyone can enjoy the beauty and quality of homegrown produce regardless of their living accommodations. Increased awareness is good for the industry and the consumer — a win-win situation all around. Let’s educate ourselves and our youth about the benefits of eating fresh.

  21. Susan said:

    I look forward to your writing. My grandmother’s wisdom is with me when I read your articles. Thanks.

  22. Raun Norquist said:

    Dear sir,

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. It was a 1950’s advertising campaign that began to tell us preparing our own food was a waste of time. That was such a slippery slope to the place we are now where our “food” dollars are spent on advertising, fuel and packaging.

    I’m with you. I even wrote a little cook book called, “Maybe You Can’t Fix The World But You Can Fix dinner”, all recipes that take less time than take-out and are better for you and more gratifying in that you have done this for yourself, and cost less. EAT HERE! Most tomatoes travel 2,500 miles before they hit a store shelf.

    Raun Norquist

  23. Mark Pauly said:

    Where I live, the possibility of a garden to raise vegetables is virtually nil because of the overwhelming deer population. Local and state government seem unwilling to confront this problem, which poses severe public health issues as well.

  24. arielle malek said:

    Thank you for your fabulous and amazing comments. So very thoughtful, helpful, simple and right.

  25. christopher said:

    George- worked on a photographic project titled “Harvest” for 20 years and felt you would appreciate the nature of the work. The young girl in the beginning of the presentation is the young woman near the end. Just submitted the body of work to the Honnickman Foundation for it’s First Book Prize and will find out if I’m a finalist Nov. 15. Really appreciate your web log!


  26. Gordon Hale said:

    The trouble with eating fresh fruit is in the finding. Most of the fruit in the grocery stores is picked green or just barely ripening. The taste just isn’t the same as tree ripened and some of it never ripens. Fruit trees are a tremendous problem here in North Texas because of the diseases and pests. If the borers don’t get the trees. anthraxnose or cotten root rot, or all of the various pests will. I am in agreement with your statements but it is difficult.

  27. victoria green said:

    Fabulous! I grew up in a gardening family and on my own I have always had a garden or at least a pot full of tomato plants wherever I have lived. Fresh and live are great for the soul.

  28. john acuff said:

    I have an old apple tree here on the farm and I just finished two baked apples with cinnamon and splenda. Awesome. I was so appreciative of your words. the crash may be really good for us. I have not had a garden in years except flowers, bulbs and shrubs. This next season I will have one again. Thanks for what is a really Christian message.
    john acuff
    country lawyer

  29. George said:

    I want to thank everyone for your nice comments.   A few of you inquired about starting your own vegetable garden, please take a look at our sister company "Burpee Seeds" they have a large variety of seeds/plants to choose from.

  30. Terry K said:

    The benefit of connection cannot be overlooked. My nephews love eating figs from our “fig newton bush” and feeding corn to our few laying hens. So many kids are out of touch with the reality of food production. Gardening teaches them.

    Waste is a huge problem as well. We buy and grow foods with good intents, but often let good things go to waste. Try eating what needs to be eaten (rather than eating what you want to eat). You’ll find a whole new way of planning meals and saving money.

  31. I have to confess that one of the reasons I decided to learn about gardening is the improvement of health into old age.

    People who garden are healthy longer into old age and those who grow fruits and vegetables for their own consumption are less likely to be sick.

    The learning curve has been steep since I didn’t begin taking classes and then garden writing until retirement.

    It’s been worth all the financial costs, exhaustion at the end of the work days and frustration.

  32. Jen said:

    Paolo Cohelo in “The Alchemist” suggests that when you want something the universe will conspire to help you achieve it. It seems the universe is conspiring with a consistent message for my health. I’m in the processing of reading Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” as well as “Super Baby Food” on preparing food for my six month old. Now your message echoes what I’m already realizing to be true. So thank you! I started a small garden this past summer that I plan to triple, if not quadruple, next year. I would greatly appreciate any advice/suggestions you provide in your blog. Thank you for contributing to my universe! 🙂

  33. lynn in nc said:

    it’s a beautiful fall day and i am headed for the garden as i have no work today. i have just recently planted garlic and broccoli alongside a path. the forest garden idea is calling me. i agree wholeheartedly that the recession is a good thing for bringing us back to simplicity and health.

  34. Helen Nicolelis said:

    Since we have a major deer problem on Long Island, I grow tomatoes and herbs on my deck. It is so rewarding to harvest and use them the same day.

  35. ariel malek said:

    This is so great! Thanks for inspiring me anew! We can all eat from our gardens… For years I had only a balcony but grew basil, tomatoes, etc. Now I have a bigger garden in my neighbor’s yard…

    My only memory of my grandfather, Constantin Dobrowski, is of him hoeing in his garden in Connecticut, but stopping to look at me and take me in. Today a new baby, Eli Manheimer was born in Ridgefield, Ct. Eli, may you grow up to garden like our forefather and foremothers. It’s one of the purest forms of love. Born to Gloria and Isaac after one/half hour of labor! Wow.

  36. Mary said:

    I am a diabetic so we have really enjoyed our garden of fresh vegetables. We are just finishing up on our carrots and have two spaghetti squash left. My husband also has dried fruits and veges for us to use in soups (a good winter dish). We live in Bend, Oregon so our growing season is very short. I have a greenhouse and plan to put extra heat in it for next year. Also we are attempting to come up with an idea for covers on the garden raised beds. It frosts in May/June and Sept/Oct. Mary and Ed

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