When our nation faces a recession, it becomes receptive to the notion of gardening for both economic benefit and pleasure. Imagine new vegetable gardens across the countrysides, in the suburbs and patched throughout the cities. As we face food price hikes—despite relief in gas prices—and cancel big-ticket purchases and investments, we turn to our gardens for comfort and sustenance. I mentioned in “Square Feet“, that small houses, such as bungalows, are popular again. So, too, extended garden seasons are back, along with cold frames and staggered sowings. Frugality and sober-mindedness are again in fashion. Thrift is a growing trend and health is huge. However, I, for one, still have a long way to go.
For example, I’m at two servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, rather than the five recommended by the USDA—less than half. Yet the USDA just reported that consumers spend 8 1/2 cents of every food dollar on fresh fruits and vegetables. What do the other 91 1/2 cents buy? Here’s a clue: chicken and turkey get 2 1/3 cents. In other words, processed food eats probably 80% of the US consumer food dollars. No wonder there’s a sharp rise in diet-related disease. Over-consumption of processed food results in obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The USDA is right to be concerned—these figures are stunning. According to a Harvard study conducted back in the 1960s, caloric intake is the second greatest cause of death, after the passage of time. The point is to maintain a balance. Just as one eats in order to live, overeating is fatal.
I cannot think of a better time than today to be a gardener. Health, exercise (stretching like a flower), taste (no question), savings and—last but not least—inspiration to the next generation. Kids eat the vegetables their parents or grandparents grow, first out of respect, then out of pleasure and in their adult years out of habit and, ultimately, out of gratitude.
Thus, we shall snap a 75 year record of consuming too much refined and processed food.