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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting Dirty


This past week was a great opportunity to get your hands in the dirt and start planting - at least here in the northeast. Gardening season is a upon us and what better way to reconnect with nature, further our efforts to live healthfully and sustainably, and to save money? Even if you don't have a green thumb, here are some great reasons to try your hand at gardening:

Connecting with Nature

Getting outside is just plain good for you. According to the Boston Globe "Walking in the woods, smelling the roses, and digging in the dirt are good for mental health, learning, and brain development. Being close to nature may foster people's ability to concentrate, improves the behavior of children with attention disorders, and boosts science test scores, research shows." Richard Louv, author of the bestselling book Last Child in the Woods, makes a compelling case that our children are suffering from a nature-deficit disorder. Additionally, children are disconnected from the source of their food and the power of nature to sustain life. Gardening is a simple way to bring them back and to empower them with knowledge and awe.

Sustainability

"Food miles" is now a commonplace term among consumers interested in living green. The phrase refers to the distance our food travels from the place it is grown to its point of sale to the customer. A study published by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture indicates that a typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. With gasoline releasing 19.64 lbs of CO2 into the environment per gallon, that's a significant ecological footprint for our daily intake of carotene! Produce from your own backyard is a simple way to reduce your food miles and your impact on the environment.

Good Health

Whether growing your own organic fruits and vegetables or purchasing them from a local farm, local food means you have a better chance of knowing how your produce is grown, what it is treated with, whether or not it has been genetically modified or irradiated, and how fresh it is. Organic gardening gives you an opportunity to feed your family without chemicals and pesticides and to reduce your exposure to toxins. Local food is also fresher and peak nutritional value occurs when a fruit or vegetable is ripe, so you maximize your vitamin intake while enjoying great taste.

Economics


Home gardening is on the upswing. "Recession gardens" are popping up everywhere, especially in the face of rising food costs, particularly for organics. By some estimates, just $50 spent in seeds and garden supplies returns $1,250 in form of savings in the grocery bill. Even if you are not growing your own food, buying from local farmers will put more money into your community. Farmers' markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer and many farmers, in turn, buy local supplies and products to further area sustainability.

So, we say it's time to get dirty! Eating local is a sure bet for your health and for the health of the planet.

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