Why ‘growing your own’ is growing
Several years ago scientist David Suzuki observed that humans have an innate need to be connected with nature, even if it’s only a nearby park or a tree in the backyard.
Australians, who have always expressed nature as part of their national identity, are manifesting this observation more than ever before.
In a recent study looking at a range of social issues related to modern living a surprisingly high number of participants reported growing their own vegetables or herbs at home.
Across all life stages, from their early-20s onwards, people relayed their horticultural efforts with great pride and satisfaction. These ranged from a full range of fruit and vegetables in the back yard to a window box with some parsley and mint.
These efforts are not driven by a desire for savings. Rather than financial the rationale is more fundamental, about the very essence of life and connection with the natural world.
When it comes to food Australians recognise their reliance on the processed and manufactured.
Busy lives necessitate consuming food that is not fresh and they have no intention (other than the unique few) of abandoning this practice. While cooking meals from scratch at least sometimes is an ideal for many, they recognise that it is for the most part unrealistic.
There is, never the less, a growing desire for the real and natural. Asked what they would keep spending on should their finances become tighter Australia’s place fresh food high on the list.
This is exemplified by a trend away from supermarkets towards local greengrocers for fruit and vegetables where the produce feels more authentic.
This is also one reason behind the popularity of organics, a label which no one quite knows what it means, but is generally accepted by consumers as food that is unadulterated. And it has become the gold standard for healthy food. We are more cognisant of additives and preservatives and look for labels indicated the absence of these where possible.
We have also seen a trend towards local food. Australians figure that the shorter the distance from where their food is grown to where it is sold the healthier it is.
To quench this desire Australians seek to participate in the process, even in a small or tokenistic way. And this is perfectly achieved by growing their own food.
A part of their meal that comes from the earth rather than the supermarket shelf; that it is part of a natural cycle and does not arrive processed and pre-packaged.
Especially for parents, back yard gardens allow them to share the experience with their kids, to observe and participate in the cycle of life, from seeding to feeding to picking to eating. The result is powerfully rewarding for everyone.
It may be time for community gardens to emerge, to allow those inner city and apartment dwellers a space to cultivate a small piece of land. And to share the experience with others.
Similarly, there is also much more talk these days of having a few chooks in the back yard. Collecting organic, natural, backyard eggs is also on the rise.
While these trends will continue to rise, I wouldn’t expect backyard butcheries to emerge any time soon.
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