As food and fuel costs continue to rise while concerns about conventionally grown produce increase, micro-gardening has become a hot trend among urbanites. Using an array of creative measures, these organic miniature gardens not only provide nutrient dense, locally grown food, but also create a feeling of connectedness and well-being.
Levels of trace minerals in conventional fruits and vegetables have been in steady decline since 1940. As most produce travels an average of 1,500 miles from farm to plate, these fragile nutrients are depleted even further. Fresh, local, organic produce is a welcome alternative, demonstrating a higher quantity of 21 key-nutrients including vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, and chromium.
In PBS "Food Miles" episode 3, writer Michael Shuman states, "investing in local food systems lessens the distance between who we are and what we eat, and creates wealth in the community."
Shuman continues in an article for the Huffington Post:
"A study done two years ago found that a 20% shift of retail food spending in Detroit redirected to locally grown foods would create 5,000 jobs and increase local output by half a billion dollars."
A shining example of a thinking out-of-the box solution to our world food problems is the Truck Farm in Brooklyn, NY. As necessity is the mother of invention, Ian Cheney, along with Curt Ellis, created a vegetable garden in the 5' x 8' bed of his grandfathers pickup truck after moving to New York and realizing there wasn't a space to grow food. Utilizing green roof technology to allow for proper drainage and to hold the soil in place, Truck Farm was born. As the harvest and neighborhood popularity of the Truck Farm grew, Ian and Curtis started a CSA program.
Ian explains during an interview with PlanetGreen.com:
"In principle, the CSA works like this: members give twenty bucks at the beginning of the spring, and then every month they get a little bag of greens, herbs, and vegetables delivered to their doorstep. In reality, most of the subscribers live in my neighborhood so I encourage them to just clip a few greens or pluck a few tomatoes on their way home from work. Saves gas!"
One of the main challenges for the Truck Farm is getting enough water for the plants because the lightweight soil drains easily. The solution created another link of community. "We drive up to an Italian restaurant in my neighborhood, hook up a hose to their spigot, hand over a little basil, and water away. Sometimes Fulvio, the owner, gives me a glass of wine with a flourish: 'Water for the farm, wine for the farmer!'"
Gardening can create happiness too. In a study at the University of Texas, 400 participants responded to a survey concerning their life satisfaction. Respondents who were gardeners answered positively 20% more of the time to statements about energy level, optimism, zest for life, and physical self-concept than non-gardeners.
So dig in. A creative micro-garden can help prune food costs, nurture health, foster joy and prosperity, while sowing the seeds of connection.
Sources for this article:
Virginia Sole-Smith, "It's a Truck! It's a Farm! (And Now, It's Going To Be a Movie.)" PlanetGreen.Com, June 11, 2010.
Michael H. Shuman, "Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace." Huffington Post, January 25, 2010.
Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson, Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens. Gibbs Smith, 2009.
Creasy, Rosalind with Cathy Barash, “Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet.” Mother Earth News Magazine: December 2009/January 2010.
Soil Association (2001), "Organic farming, food quality and human health: a review of the evidence."
Worthington V (2001), "Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables, and grains." The Journal of Complimentary Medicine, vol. 7, No. 2, p. 161 - 173.
Brandt K and Molgaard JP (2001), "Organic agriculture: Does it enhance or reduce the nutritional value of food plants?" Journal of Science in Food and Agriculture, 81, p. 924 - 931.
TM Waliczek, JM Zajicek, RD Lineberger, "The Influence of Gardening Activities on Consumer Perceptions of Life Satisfaction." HortScience, 2005 (aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu).