Is it time to learn to grow our own?

Leslie Carlson

A depressing article about food banks overwhelmed by formerly middle-class families has me thinking. Is it time for Oregon to help families learn how to grow, harvest and preserve their own food? Should we distribute seeds in addition to already-processed foods in our food banks? And how much could kitchen gardens help reduce costs and increase our state's food security?

In the 1930s and 1940s, the kitchen garden was a common occurrence for householders with land enough to cultivate. Many of today's Americans, who have long insisted on large, ornamental yards, certainly have the space today in which to plant. Vacant lots--sometime paved, sometimes not--are waiting to be planted in our cities and suburbs. It's not land we lack, but knowledge about how to grow food.

While our grandparents may have known what to plant, where, and when, certainly by the 1950s the idea of the kitchen garden was lost in an increasingly industrialized food system. By the time Nixon stabilized food prices by incenting large agribusinesses to grow a single crop, our skills at growing our own food had pretty much withered away.

To me, it just makes sense to help people grow food as more and more people slide into poverty, needing government assistance and charity and with very little they can do to help themselves. Is it possible that people with more land could grow surplus produce, perhaps adding some extra income to stretched budgets?

Certainly Oregon has a robust group of farmers with excellent knowledge and skills, and these skills could easily be passed to us urban and suburban dwellers. Why not create teaching jobs for famers?  Vacant lots in cities around the state could be put into cultivation, creating jobs for people to tend them, and the fresh produce could be distributed to food banks or sold to help hungry Oregonians.

In addition, Oregon State University has extension offices around the state that could be put to use hosting and/or offering classes to would-be kitchen gardeners.

I know it seems old-fashioned, and quaint, to talk about reviving the kitchen garden. But as the economic news gets worse, it may be time to dust off some old traditions. It made sense then; is it possible it makes sense now?




Comments

  • (Show?)

    Yes, of course, all of the above, some of which is already happening. And don't forget the community gardens.

  • Steve (unverified)
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    Um, I thought listening to Mayor Adams we are going to have 2-bazillion people in the Portland area by 2050 and the only way to fight this was with high-density housing. Besides, people who live in the suburbs and actually have lots big enough to grow food on are wasting our precious land. So you tell me where we are supposed to grow our own?

  • Anitra Kitts (unverified)
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    there is a great project already in place in Portland that gets at this: Growing Gardens

    I'm certain they could use more support

  • (Show?)

    Steve, there are community gardens all over Portland proper (I live in NoPo and know of several) and I've seen some starting even rooftop growing, things like that. Growing our own could very well mean a neighborhood, or collective-not necessarily each individual person. There are ways to do it, or at least get a heck of a lot closer to it.

  • LT (unverified)
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    I read an article in the paper today about a soil thermometer--parsnips can be planted in colder soil than tomatoes, etc.

    Word of advice from long experience--buy tomato starts, plant them in a sunny spot easily accesible if in one's own yard. Be prepared to stake them up if they grow and bend over. And if we have an early frost, be prepared to put plastic sheeting over them every night to protect them from frost.

    Herbs are a good thing to grow (esp. if one has room just outside the kitchen or on a window sill. Have had great luck with sage, rosemary, and some luck with parsley. Mint is great!

    Herbs can be washed and frozen --I bought a huge quantity of fresh local basil last year, washed and froze it, and we just used up the last of it recently.

  • (Show?)

    Certainly Oregon has a robust group of farmers with excellent knowledge and skills, and these skills could easily be passed to us urban and suburban dwellers. Why not create teaching jobs for famers? Vacant lots in cities around the state could be put into cultivation, creating jobs for people to tend them, and the fresh produce could be distributed to food banks or sold to help hungry Oregonians.

    In addition, Oregon State University has extension offices around the state that could be put to use hosting and/or offering classes to would-be kitchen gardeners.

    Leslie, I really like that idea. I think the core here is that just because we haven't grown up used to the sight of produce being grown in our backyards like many of our parents did, doesn't mean it can't happen.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    I had my first garden last year. The first year is always the hardest to get going. All in all, it is pretty easy, even for a soon-to-be 40 single guy, to run a pretty successful garden.

    Saw a great article in my parents current issue of AARP Magazine here

    This is a must read for anyone considering starting a garden. Good growing....

  • (Show?)

    Classes and such are good - but why not a program at the Food Bank where every box of food comes with some soil, some seeds, and an instruction booklet? This ain't rocket science.

  • Jamie (unverified)
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    As much as all of this sounds cool, I suspect the problem is more that many people have lost the ability to prepare or enjoy meals made from whole foods.

    If I wasn't such a slacker I would have saved the link to a study I read that showed that lots of people experiencing food insecurity don't eat fresh produce at all -- in part due to cost, although there are several other factors -- and rely on high salt, high fat, low vitamin, low fiber prepared/boxed foods. A common "meal" was reported to be boxed hamburger helper with the addition of 30% fat ground beef, and soda. Others relied on a lot of boxes of mac & cheese-colored-product, without any fresh produce added; or ramen-based meals. That much fat and simple carbohydrates and salt briefly satisfies hunger but is far from balanced nutrition.

    Others aspired to eat lots of meat (regardless of fat content) as that was perceived to be moving up in social status. Few aspired to have much more fresh produce (although many wanted OJ).

    In this study that I can't cite it said that when given fresh carrots, celery, beets, asparagus, squash, spinach, and so on, many of the low income recipients did not incorporate these into their meals because they did not know how, nor did the produce seem appealing, and the produce largely spoiled.

    Although having low cost fresh produce would be a dream for me, I know many people who simply would not know how to use it and have little taste for it. No judgment here, but there are more issues than cost and availability.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    @Jamie Jessica Seinfield's book "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food" would be the perfect starting place for people unaccustomed to eating/cooking fresh produce.

    @Kari:"...but why not a program at the Food Bank where every box of food comes with some soil, some seeds, and an instruction booklet? This ain't rocket science."

    But you do need some available land and the willingness to put in a little hard work. Oh, and of course, an ability to give up "American Idol" on occasion to tend to the garden.

  • Matt Pettinicchi (unverified)
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    You grow your own if you want to really affect fossil fuel consumption! Growing your own will reduce your energy footprint far, far more than insulating your solar powered house.

    My small village has passed a tax waiver for people that pay property taxes on vacant lots, if they allow community gardens. If Portland were progressive that way, they would be exploiting those kind of strategies.

    It also makes you an infinitely more informed consumer. You know what the trade-offs are, you see things from the commercial point of view and aren't as swayed by inflammatory rhetoric, you know which veggies are more likely to get sprayed and you know what is in season. You also get to grow varieties that don't ship or display well.

    The greenest question you can ask, is, "are you a producer or a consumer"?

  • WunderBlunder (unverified)
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    Yes, of course it is time to grow our own. In both the Ukraine and Kampuchea we required the proletariet to grow their own! And with fantastic results!

    Another great blog entry by one of us in "the know." Keep up the pressure on the corporate fascists! We're winning comerades!

  • Steve (unverified)
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    "Steve, there are community gardens"

    Believe or not, I grow food also. My point is in the high density neighborhods like the Pearl or SoWa (If if ever fills), there isn't a lot of dirt and certainly not enough to feed everyone.

    Why not focus on dveloping farms where they grow food in your style? Again, I am not discouraging anyone from trying, but in the city you couldn't grow 10% of your yearly needs.

  • (Show?)

    There was a good resource article in the Oregonian last spring aobut this topic....

    http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2008/06/portlanders_revive_victory_gar.html

  • SCB (unverified)
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    This last year, I got serious about a garden. It isn't as easy as the Portland area, as Central Oregon tends to only have 90 frost free days per year, unfortunately not in a row.

    While we in Central Oregon have higher expenses for things such as fences to keep deer out, even at that, there are further expenses. Seed, tools, and hoses are basic. But beyond that there are other concerns. I ended up with a timer system for watering, and soaker hoses - as it is common for us to be gone a couple of days or a week at a time during the summer. I suppose you could miss a day or two in Portland (perhaps not during 100 degree weather) but over here in Central Oregon, a day without water is a garden without plants.

    So, bottom line, Leslie, I agree it is time to "grow our own", but it isn't free, and it is harder than it sounds. If someone really wanted to take this on, then finding a way to get seed, tools, and water to those who could really use this would be indicated.

  • Sherry Fishman (unverified)
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    Leslie, I love the idea. Victory gardens during WWII made it possible for people to help themselves and others, along with fostering the concept: All of us are in this together.

    Given that fresh fruits and vegetables are almost prohibitively expensive for people on food stamps; that fresh produce is the best choice and source for vitamins and minerals; and that people can benefit most by "learning to fish"; this makes perfect sense.

    I see the Abernathy & Sunnyside kids growing gardens and know this is essential education. Being participants in how we eat is beneficial for health, individual fulfillment, alleviating hunger and for the environment.

    Bravo!

  • mac mccown (unverified)
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    while growing up i learned quite a bit about gardening from my meemaw and parents. truthfully, i hated working in the garden and i quit growing my own in my young adult years. somewhere along middle age i was living in a house that had an extremely large back yard and also had berry bushes and volunteer aspargus growing along the back and side fences. yep, you guessed it ... this was enough to get me started again. i cant say enough about the benefits of gardening ... grom planting to tending and finally consuming ... every stage can be healtful and good for the karma.

    one thing i would like to point out ... dont make the mistake of thinking you need a large yard and/or space. heck with the right trellising and pole growing you would be surprised just how much food you can grow. as an example, i saw one enterprising gardener who was planting pole beans on the strip of land between the curb and the sidewalk ... the beans climbed the poles which were formed to arch over the sidewalk and come to rest next to his/her house. it was a wonderful sight that showed great creativity. i have also seen cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and even watermelon grown in the air in portland. i dont know how the people were doing it ... but i bet anyone who knows how would share how it is done. happy gardening folks!

  • (Show?)

    WB clearly hates America and would have preferred us to lose WWII since back then American households grew 50 percent of the produce consumed in the United States.

    He would have really hated the fact that 70 percent of Americans voted in favor of a national sales tax to fund the war effort.

    Obviously, anyone who voted to pay for the cost of the war rather than passing that cost on to future generations, or who engaged in conservation of materials needed for the war effort, or who planted a victory garden was a Communist-sympathizer.

    Nice to see that caricature-conservatives like WB still believe in shared sacrifice and national unity.

  • LeLo (unverified)
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    From where I sit, there is a large movement of people who believe exactly this and are doing it. It's not that rare here in Portland to see front yards filled with edibles...I know 6 years or so ago when we turned our front grass into raised beds, many of our neighbors thought we were crazy. But now, we've met so many of them, thanks to being out in our garden, and so many neighbors are doing the exact same thing. In fact, last year we traded homegrown produce all season for a neighbor's chicken's fresh eggs: the perfect barter.

    As to the Oregon State extension offices....this is the first year in many, that Master Gardener classes are being held in Multnomah County. The county extension offices suffered from budget cuts, but you should know there are 55 of us taking the OSU Extension Master Gardener program just here in Multnomah, with more in Washington and Clackamas counties as well as all over the state. Half of the program is class-based, but the other half is providing 66 hours of volunteer time in the community, sharing our knowledge. If you're needing help figuring out your garden, talk to a master gardener at the many tables at your local farmer's markets and other community events. Come spring and summer, you can also call the master gardener hotline and get help over the phone.

    I know I get excited every time I see a new raised bed go up in a front yard in my neighborhood. Maybe someday the sound of spring won't be the edgers and mowers but instead the turning of soil for another season of tomatoes.

    In the meantime, there are so many people doing this. For example, be inspired and watch this.

  • (Show?)

    Lelo - I think you have it right. It's a wonder that it has taken so long for us to catch up. My wife and I got married in Switzerland in 2001, and there virtually every house has an over-sized vegetable garden.

    We moved to Oregon shortly after we were married, and met several friends with in-town "victory gardens" in McMinnville.

    Last year, we bought a house on a half acre that is walking distance from downtown, and are in the process of planting a 500 sqft vegetable garden on a terraced hill in our back yard. If things go well, we will double it next year.

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)
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    I just wrote a story yesterday about how the mayor of Cave Junction wants to partner with the Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance to create a series of community gardens. Everybody should be on board with this kind of concept, because the days are long past where we should depend on the federal or state governments to meet those basic needs. Communities should try to be as self-sufficient as possible, and it's about time we started looking out for each other on the local level. Otherwise, we're all screwed.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    If you have other neighbors who garden, work with them on a sharing plan. My nextdoor neighbor and I are dividing up on the veggies and the lady down the street has fruit growing responsibilities. As a result, I will have to buy ZERO produce this summer.

  • (Show?)

    Here's another hat tip to Jessica Seinfeld's book. Our 15-month-old, who is basically a cheeseatarian, is now consuming lots of veggies...

  • (Show?)

    I didn't realize that there was another food group for kids under 4 besides cheese and pasta. Major thanks for the book tip.

  • StacySix (unverified)
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    Food gardening is awesome - delicious food and a sense of accomplishment. However, something to consider when gardening is minimizing the associated costs - like water! It's not going to help people if they lower their food bills only to see their water/sewer bill through the roof. The key is to be creative about water conservation. During gardening season, we keep a couple of plastic jugs in the bathroom and catch water from the shower to use in the garden. With a couple of raised beds, we generally don't have to use the hose, just the reclaimed water from the shower and sink. One of these years, we'll get a water barrel too, which will be an enormous help.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Do others of you find that growing your own saves money? My wife and I (and now two kids) do a lot of gardening, both fruits and veggies. But I have to be honest, I haven't ever found the veggie side to be a cost-saving hobby, with the exception of certain things like squash. With the cost of the seeds/starts, soil amendments, fertilizer (yes, we compost, but usually have to supplement), and water, I'm just not convinced we save all that much. There's an economy of scale issue for household gardens that drives the per unit cost up.

    Fruit is a different story, as we harvest the equivalent of hundreds of dollars worth of berries every year and pack them in the freezer.

  • Jiang (unverified)
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    I haven't eaten a vegetable since Reed College bulldozed our wwi-wwii victory garden. that was my first beef with sam. at the end of the day, real estate concerns will always trump, well, anything. That is why a steadily increasing population is essential.

    If you're going to allow wb to make the same comment on every thread, at least I can make the same, relevant comment on every thread about gardening.

  • BloggerColonic (unverified)
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    comerades

    Do you realize you all are arguing with someone that thinks 'comerades' is a word? That's doesn't look like a typo. They think that's the word. Not very sporting to contest with an unarmed babe. Your mayor can tell you what to do with them.

  • (Show?)

    Part of the problem is that in areas like Portland and Gresham you often times have 40%+ people in apartments. Which means no room for growing much of anything. I grow as much as I can in the small amount of space I have to hold containers. But I am quite limited in what I can do.

    I'd love to have a plot right here where I live to grow items. Having it elsewhere really keeps me from being able to do much with it since getting there would be more difficult without a car. Having it here means I'd be able to spend more time with it, raising the chances I'd actually have something to eat from it.

    Inner Portland may have quite a bit of community gardens, but as you go east the availability drops off dramatically. There was a story not too long ago in the paper about the waiting list for community garden plots.

    I do like the idea of tax breaks for vacant pieces of property if they allow it to be used for community gardens. We really need to do what we can to get more plots open for people.

    Besides not knowing what you need to know about gardening, another issue is time. Many lower income families have adults that work multiple jobs, not leaving much time for gardening.

    I do have to say that Abby loves veggies. She has for years. Waitresses were always surprised when she'd pick broccoli over french fries. She will happily eat most fruits and veggies. It had a lot to do with making her eat them when she was really little and eating them with her. She probably eats a lot of things most six year-old kids wouldn't.

  • Frank (unverified)
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    Realistically, home preserving is now only for the gourmet market. The jars and lids for home canning cost more than the food costs at the store.

  • dartagnan (unverified)
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    "A common "meal" was reported to be boxed hamburger helper with the addition of 30% fat ground beef, and soda. Others relied on a lot of boxes of mac & cheese-colored-product, without any fresh produce added; or ramen-based meals. That much fat and simple carbohydrates and salt briefly satisfies hunger but is far from balanced nutrition."

    That's why obesity has become almost exclusively a problem of the lower economic strata in our society. Bad food is cheaper than good food.

    I think partly it's lack of knowledge about how to prepare nutritious food, including lack of a family tradition of cooking. (If your mother raised you on macaroni out of a box, you'll probably raise your kids on it.) Education can help remedy this, but only to a point. It's to some extent a cultural thing.

    And then there's the constant barrage of advertising. (Lower-income people tend to be bigger TV-watchers.) How many commercials for fresh fruits and vegetables do you see compared with commercials for Domino's Pizza and Taco Bell?

    Another major problem is simply cost. Fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, especially in Oregon in the winter; quality lean meat and fish are expensive year-round.

    And then there's the issue of time. Somebody working two or three jobs to keep a roof over her/his family's head doesn't have a hell of a lot of time to plan, shop for and prepare good, nutritionally balanced meals. (Much less grow their own food.)

  • (Show?)

    We look forward to planting time in our home. At least I do because it's the hubby who takes out the huge tiller and breaks up the soil each year. It's a wonderful opportunity to be with the grandchildren as we plant everything from tomatoes, raspberries, pumpkins, carrots, lettuce, corn, artichokes, potatoes, cukes, and squash. And, it's all done in a 375 square foot area. We share with our neighbors who plant other things. And, the grandkids get a kick out of knowing they helped.

  • (Show?)

    I'm a burb dweller and avid edibles gardener. I have nine raised beds in which I grow vegetables, except for one bed, which currently houses blueberries. I have a smattering of dahlias in my beds too.

    I've also learned make jam and to preserve certain fruits and vegetables through hot water bath canning. It's a wonderful and creative way to eat.

  • Richard (unverified)
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    SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Salem man has called off a yearlong attempt to eat only foods grown locally because he says he was adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by driving around the state to shop.

    http://www.pottsmerc.com/articles/2009/02/09/news/green/doc4990514b9ca1f598646776.txt

  • Chris at Lost Arts Kitchen (unverified)
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    Leslie seems a bit uninformed. Oregon State does offer classes to would-be kitchen gardeners...unfortunately, the budget for the Oregon Master Gardeners program was slashed in 2002...for several years there was no training of new MGs in Multnomah County (I was in the last class before that budget cut). Growing Gardens already helps low income folks start gardens and its off-shoot, the Fruit Tree Project, helps people find free fruit around the city. Join Kitchen Gardens International (see today's post at KGI...the Brits are encouraging individuals and businesses to start growing food) and support their campaign to persuade the Obamas to start a kitchen garden on the White House lawn. Many are arguing that what people need is leadership and a model--the National Kitchen Garden could be that.

    Have some land, but not the time or skills to grow your own? Contact Your Backyard Farmer or other similar businesses. They'll set up a garden for you and help you keep it going. There are CSAs like Sunroot Gardens and City Garden Farms in Portland, growing food in backyards and sidelots around the city. Then, there's Zenger Farm, Try/On Life Farm, Portland Permaculture Guild, TrackersNW, Toby Hemmenway and others that are already teaching people to grow food sustainably. There's City Repair and its DePave project, removing pavement around the city and hosting the Village Building Convergence, which creates community spaces around the city, using community energy and ideas.

    While I think there's a place for government involvement in encouraging people to garden, I'd rather see support for existing programs, that are doing a fine job but need a little help to grow, and tax breaks for those of us who use our property to grow food (not my original idea, by the way, The Slow Cook does a great job explicating).

    There's nothing old-fashioned or quaint about kitchen gardens!

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    @Miles:Do others of you find that growing your own saves money?

    The blog "Get Rich Slowly" is doing a multi-year garden project tracking all expenses and yields from their family garden. You can see the results and spreadsheets here

  • Michael M. (unverified)
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    Victory gardens during WWII made it possible for people to help themselves and others, along with fostering the concept: All of us are in this together.

    Michael Pollan (any of whose books I would highly recommend) was on NPR's Fresh Air last week, though it was a rebroadcast. He & Teri Gross were discussing an article he had written published in The New York Times Magazine. I think it was written before the election, but I may have misunderstood. Anyway, he called for an Agriculture Secretary and, intriguingly, said Obama should rip out part of the ginormous and environmentally suspect White House lawn and grow food. Eleanor Roosevelt grew a Victory Garden at the White House and that helped spur the popularity of Victory Gardens across the country.

    It would be nice to see leadership like that, but I won't hold my breath.

  • PA farmer (unverified)
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    Hi... we are facing the same foodbanking shortage here in the Northeast. Demand in NY and NJ is up about 35% and food inventories are actually down about 20% due to shortfall of donations (food and $$).

    Ive been growing my own veggies for years and doubled the size of my garden this year. For my family of 4, we typically save about $25 a week in produce alone during the summer, and then have jars of tomato sauce and other frozen goodies all winter. It makes perfect sense.

    A tip for your readers -- if you are planning to grow tomatoes, try this new staking product, its really the best. http://www.thetomatostake.com

    Ive tried everything, and this one is the best, easiest and affordable. The metal cages blow over easily and break your tomato plant branches, and the bamboo sticks are way too flimsy.

    Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Someone else commented about growing fruit. I do a lot of this. If you have the right sort of sun exposure, growing dwarf trees against fences and walls is eminently doable and can yield a lot of fruit. Grape arbors can also yield a huge amount in a small space. If you harvest more than you can use, freeze or preserve, give it away, swap with other people for other goods, and so on. You can also grow strawberries in your vegetable garden....

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    Whether you save money gardening or not depends a lot on what you grow, where you grow, and how you grow it.

    Some examples -

    Seed starting - starting your own, unless you're going to grow 50 of the same thing is more expensive than buying one or two of each thing you want to grow. Getting together with neighbors and everyone starting enough of each type of plant each of you want to grow, then trading seedlings is cost effective, expecially if everyone goes in on something like a bale of plug mix or the fixin's to make your own starting mix. It also helps if everyone saves their 4" pots from the year before and/or collects them from friends who bought bedding and/or garden plants the year before. You can also use your old newspapers to make small pots to start seeds in. This way, each person can have many seedlings for the cost of starting a few.

    Water usage, if you're on city water, can be a deal breaker, unless you learn to be frugal. Invest in soaker hoses, cover the soil between the rows and between plants to keep down evaporation, water in the evening, use drip irrigation, save grey water, etc.

    If you need lumber and there's construction going on near you, see if you can salvage some. I use salvaged lumber on my farm whenever I can. You can also use salvaged tub/shower enclosures to make cold frames for starting seeds.

    For people in apartments and on small lots, RJ Rupenthal's book Fresh Food From Small Spaces, The Square Inch Garndener's Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting is a great resource. You can find it online.

    If you're in an apartment, perhaps a neighbor or friend would let you grow a garden on their property if you pay part of the water and feed them with fresh vegetables/fruit.

    Also, the Dervaes' website, Path To Freedom is a great resource. They grow 6,000 lbs of produce on a 1/6th of an acre. That's phenomenal. I also believe they do it cost effectively, and that's in Pasadena, California, which is saying a lot.

    I think though, that the key here, is that the food system didn't change, from most people growing their own to most people not, over night. This type of profound change in the way people source their food is going to take years/decades. But I do think that, over time, it's definately possible.

  • (Show?)

    Leslie seems a bit uninformed. Oregon State does offer classes to would-be kitchen gardeners...unfortunately, the budget for the Oregon Master Gardeners program was slashed in 2002

    I'm aware of the Master Gardeners class through the Extension Service and hear that it's wonderful. However, I doubt that people showing up at food banks have the time, money or energy to enroll themselves. I was speaking of something on a much larger scale, a deliberate effort to educate people who live with food insecurity so they could grow some of their own food. I suspect to do that we'd have to go out to the food banks to hold classes as well as distribute seeds, supplies, etc.

    I did hear yesterday that the Oregon Food Bank does have a demonstration gardent (I think in Portland?) and does do some classes for people who are interested in gardening. This good effort should be stepped up and spread statewide.

  • (Show?)

    Jenni Thanks for the dose of reality. We get posts like this every few months and they just don't bear much relation to reality.

    I am pretty active gardener, but the notion that I could grow enough food on my 50 x 100 plot of land to feed my family of six for more than a few weeks is just naive.

    And this proposal runs smack contrary to our stated development policies for more dense urban living.

    Finally, gardening is a fairly labor intensive and often not cheap activity. Yes, someone will post that URL of the family in California trying to grow nearly all their food--but make sure you check out how many hours a day they devote to their garden and what they actually eat.

    In the 30s and 40s, people lived on larger plots and most women spent all day at home. We just don't live like that any more.

  • julie (unverified)
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    Steve's posts illustrate the point that concrete jungle urbanism of modern cities is as ill-advised as the suburbs are. You don't hear that very often: where is the food going to come from in the cities when fossil energy is scarce?

    Made me laugh out loud when he said that people living in the suburbs are using "our" land.

    Village arrangments in which people live less densely than cities but more sustainably than the privacy fence suburbs -- everyone has a kitchen garden (not all of what they need, but some of it) IMO is the most food-secure and sustainable development model. It appears that it actually be more possible to revillage the suburbs than it will be to revillage the cities.

  • Chris at Lost Arts Kitchen (unverified)
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    Yes, the Oregon Food Bank does have a demonstration garden. It also offers cooking classes to clients, and learning to cook, with inexpensive foods that can be purchased in bulk and store well, may be a better use of people's time than learning to garden, especially for those in cities with access to little or no land. In fact, unless you know how to cook with real whole foods, growing a garden is going to be a huge waste of time and energy.

    Fresh fruits and vegetables make up only a part of people's diet, and only for part of the year. To make the most of a kitchen garden, one also needs to know how to store the seasonal bounty. To really save money on food, learn to bake bread, cook with inexpensive cuts of meat and make stock from bones. Culture soft dairy products at home and make your own condiments.

  • Joanne Rigutto (unverified)
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    Chris is right, unless you know how to use and store what you grow, then growing is a waste of time and effort.

    Canning, freezing, drying, pickling, all of these need to be used in addition to growing. And even if you're not in a position to grow your own, you can still save money and eat well by buying produce in bulk and putting it up for later use. A couple of years ago, we were able to get cull tomatoes at a produce processor near by - for free. I put up over 100# of frozen tomatoes. Last year, because we grew mostly smaller and specialty tomatoes, and couldn't get culls, I bought tomatoes by the crate to freeze. I put up 42# and have had fresh tasting tomatoes to cook with over the winter, and they're also great for making fresh salsa, for a lot less than I could buy tomatoes for right now. Freezers don't cost too much, especially if you buy used, and it's inexpensive to blanch/freeze produce and it'll come out tasting like it was fresh from the garden. At produce stands you can usually buy for less than at the store, and you can buy bulk. The mom of a friend of mine used to go out and buy when the asperagus was on. She'd get it from the farm and for way less than at the store. She'd blanch it, freeze it, and eat it all year long.

    For meats, locate your local small, independant slaughter house. If you have a freezer, you can buy a quarter beef or hog for way less than you can buy meat at the store, and you'll know where it came from,and in some cases, how it was raised and fed out. I buy my beef and pork from Mark's Meats in Canby. Locally sourced, you can watch them cut up the carcasses, and I can buy beef by the pound, if I get a whole, half or quarter for less than ground beef at the store. Litteraly, filet mignon for less than $3/lbs.

    In season, go to the U-Pick farms for fruits and other produce and put 'em up. Worried about gas? Get together with several other people, car pool and split the gas. Perhaps go in two vehicles, one to haul the people one to haul the produce.

    Also, on the cooking front, doing it yourself is a huge way to save money. I bake my own bread and now pay around 25 cents a loaf for bread I was paying $4 a loaf. Same's true for pasta, one of the easiest things in the world to make, and very inexpensive to make. You don't need a pasta machine, a rolling pin and a large knife will do just fine. You can make all sorts of things you can't even buy at the store.

    Don't have time to cook every night? I hear ya. Take one day for a cooking day. Fix large ammounts of you favorite foods, and freeze them in individual servings. I do this with soups and stews all the time. Then, when I want a good hearty soup, all I have to do is pop it into the microwave and in 10 minutes I've got a bowl of soup that would have taken 4 hours to make from scratch.

    There are lots of ways to be frugal and still eat like a king. You just gotta 'noodle' it out.

  • Jeff (unverified)
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    Is depression here or not? not very clear. But if you look at the past history recessions and depressions come and go. Economies go through cycles and recession is part of the cycle.

    In the mean time, I just came across a very helpful website on the current economic downturn and employment:

    http://www.recessioninfocenter.com

    http://www.recessioninfocenter.com/2008_tax_tips_for_recession.html

  • Pam (unverified)
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    I started out small with some pots of culinary herbs and tomatoes on my very small porch. With that success behind me, I've decided to build a raised garden bed out of salvaged materials (craigslist is great for this). Metro offers compost bins at a big discount ($35). A friend of mine has chickens and agreed to set aside manure that I can then compost as fertilizer. To offset the cost of water, I'm making rain barrels to connect to my downspouts. They're expensive to buy but pretty cheap to make. Contact local food companies like The Yoshida Group for good deals on food-grade barrels.

    I agree that low-income families need help learning to prepare healthy food. I've been making a concerted effort to avoid processed/packaged food and I've been surprised to discover that it doesn't take much extra time and I've saved a lot of money. Breaking a body's craving for simple carbohydrates is probably the toughest part.

    Folks have offered up some great ideas for giving urban dwellers access to garden plots. For those with a brown thumb or absolutetly no garden access, there are farmer's markets all over the city. Where there's a will, there's a way!

  • OnceUponATimeInKakania (unverified)
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    Posted by: Richard | Feb 22, 2009 9:57:20 AM

    SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Salem man has called off a yearlong attempt to eat only foods grown locally because he says he was adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by driving around the state to shop.

    Uhh... The story of America. Someone had a good idea, and, uh, someone else did something dumb with it, so, uh, so let's nobody try it.

  • Gekkobear (unverified)
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    Sorry I'm late... this was a good idea when posted; as I don't thin H.R. 875 had been written.

    Now, the $1,000,000 fine as a "food production facility" per violation per day might put this out of business pretty rapidly.

    You can read the bill yourself, but I'm pretty sure this would fall under the "food production facility" description in the bill. So unless you're testing for every possible hazard, this wouldn't be legal (once that bill passes).

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