Let’s Turn Suburbia Into A Local Food Mecca
These days anybody who has a Netflix account has likely seen the numerous documentaries about our food problems. The ‘Why’, shouldn’t be hard to understand for many of you, you already see there needs to be change.
If you’re not familiar with such documentaries as Forks Over Knives, The Beautiful Truth, Food Inc., and The Future Of Food, then keep reading to understand.
The root cause of our food problem is our mistreatment of the soil. We haven’t understood the importance it plays to our health. As Dr. Max Gerson discovered in the early 20th century, the soil is our external metabolism, and therefore it plays a huge role in our overall health.
Today, conventional agriculture mistreats the soil by growing monocultures and depleting the soil of it’s essence, it’s life giving minerals and nutrients. The soil is so dead in fact that farmers have to inject chemical fertilizers just to get it to grow anything.
The main fertilizers they use consist of 3 nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. So how many nutrients make up healthy soil? There are 52 minerals needed for optimum soil health, and consequently human health. For more on this read here.
Another major problem is that our food travels too far to reach our plate.
So why does it matter how far away our food travels? Besides the effects on the climate, the food is just not as nutritious. That’s right. Food that is being grown to ship long distances is picked before it has actually ripened. This is so the fruit or vegetable isn’t spoiled by the end of it’s long journey. They’re also often treated with chemical gasses to delay the ripening process even further. Why does this matter? Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables are most nutritious when they’re allowed to fully ripen on the vine.
These are not the only 2 problems with our current food system, but they are arguably the most troublesome.
Suburbia is arguably the greatest misallocation of human resources. It’s tried to provide the benefits of living in the country and living in the city, but instead has given us the disadvantages of both. For more on this topic, read The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape by James Howard Kunstler or watch the documentary “End Of Suburbia“.
So we have these huge sprawling suburban areas that have backyards full of something that is grown almost entirely for aesthetic purposes: grass.
It’s already bad enough that we’re utilizing the rainfall to grow grass instead of food. To top it all off however, homeowners will actually water their grass, wasting even more of our very limited, very precious resource: water
There are a growing number of homeowners that understand the problems, and want to be a part of the solution but they’re too busy with work and their families.
What to do!?
Become A ‘Natural Urban Farmer’
Many believe organic farming to be more difficult and less productive than conventional farming. You don’t get to use chemicals and earth polluting machinery after all right?
This just isn’t the case if you understand ‘ natural farming ‘ principles or ‘do-nothing farming’ as it’s also called.
This method of farming was pioneered by Masanobu Fukuoka of Japan. He was able to produce just as much rice as conventional rice farms by challenging everything about the way conventional farming is undertaken. You can learn more about Masanobu Fukuoka by watching this short documentary.
Natural Farming is a very efficient way to grow healthy soil and healthy crops. Mr. Fukuoka discovered that by working with nature, instead of against it, you can achieve much greater results with much less effort.
Growing in this manner has many benefits, including the following:
- Decaying organic matter becomes valuable ground cover that helps the soil to retain moisture, stay cool and serves to prevent erosion.
- When employing proper no-till growing methods, weeds have trouble ever getting started, thus drastically reducing any work load related to weed removal.
- Returning organic matter to the soil helps to naturally fertilize the ground by adding nitrogen.
Natural Farming How To
Here’s a simple video showing how to create your own ‘no dig’ or ‘no-till’ garden. There’s a bunch of awesome videos on Youtube if you just search “natural farming, no till farming or no digg farming”.
Here are the steps I’ve taken for my own garden beds.
Step 1: Cardboard
After you’ve decided where you’d like to put your first bed, the next step is to kill off the grass and weeds in that spot. A popular way of doing this is by using cardboard. Make sure you’ve removed any staples or tape from the cardboard. Then lay it down, overlapping slightly.
Wet the cardboard thoroughly before continuing to the next step.
Step 2: Pile on the soil/compost/organic material
As shown in this video, ideally you want to use a combination of brown/dried organic material and green. If you don’t have this, you can start with compost or organic potting soil.
You can usually find cheap soil/compost from local small farms or by looking on craigslist.
Make sure to water the layers as you add them.
Step 3: Worms
You can find these red digger worms at most local nurseries. Worm castings are invaluable for your garden due to it being a highly nutritious fertilizer. The worms themselves also help to keep the soil loose and aerated.
Step 4: Mulch
The last layer of grass or hay will serve as mulch. Again, mulch is important for a few reasons. It helps to bring fertility back to the soil, protect from soil erosion, and helps soil to retain moisture by protecting it from the hard sun.
It’s important not to use grass treated with lawn chemicals.
Step 5: Seed/Transplant
Depending on which route you take, now it’s time to plant your seeds or transplant seedlings you started indoors. You’ll want to find your counties planting calendar to know what crops your region supports and when you should plant them. It takes a lot of the guess work out of it.
Step 6: Water
Unless you live in a desert, or experiencing a drought, you shouldn’t need to do much watering. That’s the beauty of the mulch.
If you live in a desert like myself, you should still keep watering to a minimum so as to encourage deep root growth.
This new smartphone app called Edyn can help you take a more analytic approach to keeping tabs on soil moisture.
Knowing how to turn your corner of suburbia into a local food mecca can increase the health and vitality of your family, your neighbors, and yourself. You just need to do it!
Start small, and don’t burn yourself out. Start with one or two garden beds this upcoming grow season. Find out what kinds of crops grow well in your region of the world, and just start with a couple.
Once you have mastered ‘no-till’ gardening, simply offer to help your neighbors to do the same in their backyard. If they don’t have enough time on their hands to do it themselves, offer to do it for them in return for a percentage of the harvest or just because you want to make a difference in your community. It’s up to you!
What are you to do with extra produce? You could sell it at the farmer’s market. Or you could just give it as a gift to your family and friends. In return, I’m confident they’ll express their gratitude by gifting back in due time. This is what community is for. It’s time to disrupt this poisonous food chain and create the community we want to live in. Be the change we want to see in this world.
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