Food Sovereignty

Fall is here and as a result there is not much growing on in the garden. I have posted about my mums, and well, aside from the pretty red colour our Sumac has turned, there is really not a lot happening this time of year.
So, I was wondering what I would post about, and I have come up with a few ideas. Today, I thought I would talk about the global issue of food sovereignty and sustainable food, and how what we are doing ties in with this notion.

So, what do I mean when I say food sovereignty anyways? When I say food sovereignty I am referring to the issue of producing enough food that we, as communities can feed ourselves. This is important for a few reasons, but the most pressing reason really is that it is an effective way to reduce the effects of poverty.
Maybe this is a bold statement, but when you make minimum wage and you need to eat, but also pay your bills and fulfill social obligations, live, there is just simply not enough money. This is exacerbated when you live in the city, where the cost of living is high. So, if you reduce or eliminate the out of pocket expense of food, you are helping to alleviate the stress that particular cost has on the pocket book. Trust me, we had a daily harvest this year, throughout the summer. Our grocery bill was greatly reduced, and now I am wishing I had planned more for the coming winter.

Another benefit to producing your own food, is the added health benefit of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. The majority of people eat too much processed food, and not enough fresh food. Furthermore, much of the produce that is commercially available is old. Vitamins and minerals in food diminish with age. The best way to eat food is fresh! The taste says it all.
Studies have shown that if you involve your kids in the growing and harvesting they become far more likely to eat their fruits and veggies. My son is a shining example of this. He is a notoriously picky eater, and says no to just about everything. No meat, not potatoes, no broccoli the list goes on… That being said, this summer he was a trooper when it came to food from the yard. He ate more new food this summer, than he has ever! Including all kinds of lettuces, and salad veggies, purple beans… you get the idea.

Beyond the physical benefit, there is also the mental benefit. I am going to be honest with you here, this is hard to admit, but when I first started gardening, I found it tedious and time consuming. It was my passion for the plants themselves that kept me coming back. Over time, and with a shift in thinking patterns (ex. weeds, often are useful and pretty, just leave them and consider yourself lucky that such a plant would volunteer to grow in your garden) I came not only to find the process of gardening peaceful and relaxing, but I now get a great feeling of satisfaction from growing plants. Especially when the end result is tasty food!
The satisfaction that I get when I eat a handful of juicy raspberries (I had a handful this morning, super tasty!) or collect a salad or make a garden salsa, is simply tremendous! Not only am I nourishing my body, but also my mind. My confidence is propped up by the knowledge that I grew that food, that I collected that food, and that it is contributing to my well being. I guess, it is hard to put into words, the elation, the freedom I feel.

Another, big problem food sovereignty beings to address is the issue of the environment. This is where how we are growing our food becomes part of the bigger picture. The first thing to keep in mind is that nature is always trying to be a forest. When land is left to regenerate, it will become a forest (eventually). Don’t believe me? PBS has a great documentary about Chernobyl. This city was once a thriving part of the Russian Bread bowl. Wheat fields and monoculture food crops once reigned in this area. Since 1986, following the disaster there, the affected area has been basically quarantined. The newest footage of this area reveals great forests emerging, animals are even returning. Heck, the beavers are flooding out the plains and returning the land to it’s natural state of being a wetland!
The second thing we need to keep in mind is how this idea of growing forests relates to food. We have “designed” our yard with the idea of permaculture in mind. We have a relatively small yard, so zoning was not our focus, but the layers of a forest was something we thought about extensively. How can we make our lot (approx 65 by 150 feet) into a productive food forest? An unexpected benefit of food forestry was variety, planting for the different layers meant lots of variety, and lots of options. We have no less than 5 varieties of currants in our yard… My point is that by including layering into our plan we were able to have significantly more plants, more varieties than we would in a traditional food garden.
Ok, so how is food forestry a good thing for the environment? If the earth is always striving to get back to a state of forest, and instead of inhibiting this process, we influence the success of certain plants, we are creating a mutually beneficial situation. The earth gets what it wants, forest; We get what we want, food.
Also, when you companion plant and have loads of variety you are less likely to be put in a bad position if you do have pests. Say you had Squash beetles, well, if you have a variety of foods, you reliance on that crop is decreased. There are also plants that will distract or repel pests, thereby reducing the need for pesticides (which I wouldn’t use anyways) and other interventions. So variety is a good thing.

Ok, so food foresty, in my opinion is the best way to help the earth get back to something resembling it’s natural cycles, and it is the best way to feed ourselves!

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