Cultivating food community

Recently, I reflected upon how edible gardening’s many benefits extend well beyond mind/body health, and a sense of pleasure, efficacy, and empowerment, to directly impact the larger food system as well.

Over the past five years, I’ve intentionally created a life that centers the growing of food. In doing so, I realized how much I’m also financially supporting a wide range of organizations and industries that share my green passions. Here’s just the ones I came up with:

  • Seed companies like Territorial Seed Company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Renee’s Garden, and Alliance of Native Seedkeepers
  • Local feed and farm supply stores
  • Local garden nurseries, which often host free or low-cost gardening classes for the community
  • Worm bin supply companies and worm farmers
  • Organic compost, soil, and mulch suppliers
  • Food, garden, and farm writers, who share their knowledge and experience in published works
  • Independent bookstores, quality food journalism like Civil Eats, and garden-related publishing houses such as Timber Press
  • Agriculture, garden, and food-related educational entities, including university-based extension offices supporting Master Gardeners around the country, organizations such as Tilth Alliance, and botanical learning supercenters like NYBG
  • Professional associations that support students, workers, and teachers, such as the Canadian Horticultural Therapy Association and the American Horticultural Therapy Association, and a variety of local, regional, and national gardening associations.
  • Local farms and farmer’s markets, which supply plant starts for our microfarm’s growing season as well as eggs, meat, honey, and produce during the harvest gaps
  • Food justice organizations that range from local food banks to those led by and centering the needs of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities, such as Equitable Giving Circle

Slowly, I’ve been operationalizing and tracking production through Lavender Belle Farm, my micro-level operation, which I began several years ago when we were still working our 2.5 acre property. Even though I don’t have access to land this year as a result of our move, I’m attempting to grow as much as I can on my rooftop to supply my family with food, donate to the local food bank, and provide materials for future therapeutic horticulture classes through The SAVOR Project.

By my rough estimate, during each of the past two years, I’ve grown thousands of dollars per year in fresh farm produce and eggs, and donated hundreds of dollars in produce, prepared meals, and fundraisers, to food justice-related organizations. I’m proud of our humble little operation, although this yield is nothing compared to real working farms whose communities rely upon them to supply food while working a dawn-to-dusk (or beyond) work week.

However, the benefits of spending hours every week outside, under an open sky, working in the dirt, growing and learning as a home gardener?

Bountiful, and priceless.

So if you’re one of the many who have decided to take up edible gardening or have purchased a houseplant this pandemic year, know that you are truly taking in the good while your consumer dollars also support the larger food-related community – and a greener, healthier world.

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