Since becoming interested in nutrition and the overwhelming effect of politics upon it, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the only way to obtain nutritious food is to either (1) buy it from a small farm or (2) grow it yourself.
The first option is becoming more and more difficult. Large agribusiness and governments at all levels have colluded to ensure that operating a small farm is unnecessarily difficult by imposing across the board on all agricultural enterprises onerous fees, regulations, and prohibitions. Such measures are a minor cost of business for large corporations, however, they are often prohibitive for small farms or those just starting out in farming. While some small farms persevere and survive amid this unfavorable legal climate, more and more often they cannot.
Fortunately, there is the second option–grow the food yourself.
The practice of growing most or all of one’s food at home is known as “homesteading”. Surprisingly, this option is realistic for most people. All that’s needed is a little land, a few pieces of equipment, and the willingness to learn.
The biggest concern people seem to have is land. People believe that, unless one has at least several acres, one cannot begin to grow most of their own food. This belief isn’t true. Obviously, the more land one has, the more he can do with it. But even with just a little land, if the land is used wisely and is managed well, one can do A LOT. For example, on a plot of land the size of 1/20 of an acre, which is an average backyard, a small family can grow several kinds of crops and keep several chickens, a few rabbits, and a bee hive. This alone will provide the family with most or all of its vegetables, meat, and eggs, and will also provide honey and a means of pollination. With a little more room, that family can add a couple goats for milk and additional meat. With some more room, the chickens and goats can graze on grass rather than rely exclusively on store-bought feed. With even more room, you can do even more.
The point is to recognize that, certainly, one can do more with several acres than he can with a small backyard. But one should also recognize that, even with a small backyard, he can do a hell of lot! And so why not take advantage. Instead of wasting one’s land by growing useless grass that never gets eaten and has to be mowed every week, why not use that space to grow food.
Doing so in any degree will not only result in a healthier diet for you and your family, it will also substantially reduce your grocery store bill, it will provide meaningful exercise for your muscles and your immune system, it will get you out in the sun, and it will provide an extremely valuable educational activity for your children. It will also send a strong message to the agribusiness community that you opt out of their system of manufactured, nutrient-depleted, and chemicalized food. Maybe if the conventional system receives enough such messages, it will change.
Finally, having an independent source of food provides food security for yourself and the local community. The conventional system is not secure because it can easily collapse upon the occurrence of any number of catastrophes, including draught, rampant crop disease, oil price spikes, political revolution, etc. Local food systems are much less vulnerable to such crises because they are smaller and more spread out. Only a local source of food provides any measure of assurance that food will be available during a time of crisis. No source of food is more local than your backyard.
When assessing what one can do on a certain piece of land, it is necessary to be mindful of local laws and regulations that may prohibit raising certain animals in city limits or other locations. But don’t let that stop you entirely. The whole point is to do what you can.
And usually, you can do a lot more than you think.
Photo by Leah Zerbe, http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com
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