Vandana Shiva talks ‘fake cheap’ food (VIDEO)

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Just saw this video of Indian scholar and sustainable-agriculture advocate Vandana Shiva talking about the true cost of cheap food and three keys to ending what she calls “the final stages of a very deceitful system.”

(By the way, Shiva is on our list of 50 Global Changemakers, here.)

She makes some excellent points, and I thought you might enjoy the video as much as I did.

Some of my favorite quotes from the video:

  • “We are living the final stages of a very deceitful system that has made everything that is very costly for the planet, costly for the producer, look cheap for the consumer. So very high-cost production with GMOs and patents and royalties and fossil fuel is made to look like cheap food.”
  • “Every young person should recognize that working with their hands and their hearts and their minds—and they’re interconnected—is the highest evolution of our species. Working with our hands is not a degradation. It’s our real humanity.”
  • “We are not atomized producers and community. We are part of the earth family. We are part of the human family. We are part of a food community. Food connects us—everything is food.”

I also love the way she defines “true freedom” in the video: “Never be afraid of deceitful, dishonest, brutal power. That is true freedom.”

And hey, let me know what you think about her solutions to the problem of high-cost “cheap” food! What others would you add? Leave me a comment below. 🙂


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Are You Prepared for Peak Chicken?

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three-step-chickensWe have all heard about peak oil. But have you heard about “peak chicken?” Or peak almost everything else that composes the modern human diet—dairy, meat, corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, vegetables, and sugar?

According to a study in Ecology and Society,1 we’ve already been there and done that. We peaked on just about every food-related product considered critical to human survival, except farm-raised fish, in or before 2010.

Thank goodness for carp, catfish, and tilapia! If you don’t like those, you might want to start working on some new recipes and get used to them….

Once you get your head around the idea of peak food—meaning that food production is stagnant or declining—then do an Internet search for “world population clock.”

Sit back and watch as the world’s population increases before your eyes.

It is interesting to watch, until you do the math and realize that declining food production + increasing population = a big problem. Suddenly that population calculator looks a lot like a ticking time bomb, and the $60,000,000,000,000 (global public debt)2 question is: “When does it explode?”

The truth is that we don’t know if, how, or when the bubble will burst.

Reason to Worry

But according to the authors of the Ecology and Society study, we should be worried. Their findings show that 20 of the 27 key resources for human survival peaked within the 50-year period ending in 2010.

The fact that so much of our food supply peaked within the same time frame makes sense at an intuitive level. Growing food with current industrial processes requires adequate water and fertile land suited to maneuvering large equipment. When we run out of fertile land, we develop undesirable land by leveling or clearing the earth, adding synthetic fertilizer, and pumping in water for irrigation. That works until we exhaust our water stores and deplete easily accessible nitrogen sources.

As land, water, and fertilizer become less available, the natural result is that food production declines, prices go up, and distribution gets contentious.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in wealthy countries like the United States have been insulated from most of the deprivations of peak food.

  • But if you live in rural Mexico, you probably already know what a 733% increase in the cost of a staple like tortillas feels like.
  • Or if you’ve lived in parts of Venezuela in the last few years, you know what it’s like to go to the grocery store and find the shelves inexplicably empty.
  • In India, farming-related debt is so high and weather events are destroying crops so frequently that suicide among farmers has reached epidemic levels.

These are just a few examples of peak-food-related issues already occurring around the world.

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Projections through 2022,3 “Although agricultural prices decline in the near term, continued growth in global demand for agricultural products holds prices at historically high levels.” This means that for those of us who live in the United States, Japan, or the EU, our days of food cost stability are numbered as developing countries are expected to outpace us on demand, economic growth, and strength of currency in international markets.

Additionally, the USDA’s Food Price Outlook, 2017-20184 for the U.S. indicates that the most notable inflation increases in food have occurred, and will continue to occur, around the perimeter of the grocery store.

The Rise and Fall of Peak Nutrition

Poultry, dairy, eggs, seafood, and fresh fruits—the most nutritious foods available—are becoming less affordable, and this is expected to get much worse.

In response to price increases, such as the market price of beef going up 10 percent in two years in the U.S., consumers have already diverted their budgets from nutrient-dense natural foods to prepackaged, high-calorie foods, which tend to be less nutritious.

Just as it makes intuitive sense that peak food would follow quickly on the heels of peak land, we can also assume that trading fresh, healthy foods for processed foods to make ends meet will lead to peak nutrition—after which our collective public health will begin to accelerate in its decline.

So, is there anything we can do to change our food future?

In light of their disturbing findings regarding synchronous peak production, the authors of the Ecology and Society study suggest that we need a “paradigm shift” in our use of resources if we are going to be able to adapt to our post-peak realities.

That seems like a polite way of saying, “we need to radically alter our methods for growing and distributing food, or we’re in big trouble.”

Finding Answers

The good news is that you, I, and other members of The Grow Network community are already starting to work on this. The peak calculations were based on data from the 2013 FAO Statistical Yearbook5 That report includes figures reported by international governments like Gross Domestic Product, and is dependent on financial information provided in tax returns and financial statements.

All the home-scale food growing taking place around the world is not included in determining these peak food calculations.

The study also does not take into consideration the black markets and barter markets that are already prevalent throughout much of the world, and may be used by two-thirds of the world’s population by 2020.

Unfortunately, for the same reasons that these data are not included in peak calculations, it is impossible to determine how much of an impact home food growers, barter economies, and black markets are making in relation to peak food.

Anecdotally, though, we know that there has been increased interest in home-based food production:

  • Just look at the number of self-sufficiency publications showing up on supermarket and bookstore shelves over the last ten years.
  • The number of farmers’ markets have increased by nearly 500% over the last 23 years, according to the USDA.6
  • There’s been an explosion in intensive growing practices—raised beds, vertical gardening, companion planting, permaculture, aquaponics—methods that use significantly less inputs than industrial agriculture while producing a superior product with excellent yields.
  • The Obamas put a garden on the White House lawn, and Oprah started a farm in Maui.

These are all positive signs that a transition to more sustainable food-growing processes is already under way.

A 3-Step Solution

Taking a closer look at the details reveals that our current “peak food” problem is really more of a “peak industrial farming” problem.

What the Ecology and Society study makes absolutely clear is that we cannot feed the world using only industrial farming methods because they depend on resources that have peaked, or will peak, in the near future—such as constant nitrogen inputs, spray irrigation, and mono-cropping on cleared land.

However, we can continue to improve our outlook with regard to peak food by choosing to support a few clear, actionable solutions:

1) Diversifying What We Grow
2) Reintegrating Local Farming Into Our Communities
3) Supporting Community Food Security

Let’s take a closer look at these solutions…

#1. Diversifying What We Grow

sweet-potato-vinesThe fact that our key resources list can be narrowed down to just 27 items that include corn and sugarcane is both an indictment of our modern diet, and a mandate for change.

The Case for Corn

Corn, for example, could be an excellent “calorie crop,” meaning that it has the potential to provide a high calorie-per-acre yield. It has culinary versatility: corn bread, polenta, grits, tortillas, eaten on the cob and off the cob, popcorn, and as a supplemental feed for poultry and pigs.

But less than 1 percent of peak corn grown today actually makes it to your table directly. The rest is inedible for humans as it is grown specifically to go into our cars as ethanol or to be used as feed for livestock like cows, which would never touch it if they tripped over it in the pasture. A good portion of the corn used in our human food supply is corn syrup that is arguably a leading contributor to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Fields of monoculture corn swaying in the wind might even seem pretty—but don’t walk barefoot in those fields because they are loaded with toxic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that require protective gear to apply.

For the home grower, corn can be a fun food to grow as part of a balanced diet, if you have the space. You need to grow enough corn stalks for good cross-pollination or you need to hand-pollinate, and you have to take some extra precautions to prevent contamination from cross-pollination if you want to save your seeds.

But an even better option is to focus on more nutritious foods that don’t make the peak list.

Think about cabbage, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and winter squash. These are also versatile in soups, sauces, and pies, and they can be mashed, added to breads and pasta, roasted, and fried. Pumpkin and squash take space to grow, but there is no reason that they can’t be grown in vertical space. There are compact varieties of sweet potatoes like Bunch Porto Rico that can be grown in containers. These alternative calorie crops also store well without additional processing and they are relatively high in nutritional density, according to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.7

Mix these alternative calorie crops up with a long list of other highly nutritious foods that you can easily grow at home or pick up at your local farmers market, such as tomatoes, chard, beets, turnips, arugula, watercress, lettuce, and you will be on your way to post-peak food health and happiness.

A Not-So-Sweet Staple

Now for a not-so-sweet subject: sugar. Sugar is a staple of our diets … really?!

Why is something that significantly increases our chances of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease (according to the American Heart Association) a resource considered necessary to our survival? Sure, it’s got calories, but they are non-nutritive.

If you consume your calories as sugar, you must either overconsume other foods to make up the nutritive difference, or run a nutritive deficit. Both roads lead to poor health.

Currently, roughly 898,000 acres of sugarcane and sugar beets are grown commercially in the U.S. alone. That amount of land, replanted using intensive farming methods, could grow enough healthy vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy products to feed 400,000 people a healthy, balanced diet.

If you’ve got an incurable sweet tooth, how about satisfying it with a source that takes almost no land to produce, is good for you, and the production of which actually increases crop productivity in the immediate area? This is not some manufactured miracle sweetener that we will later discover causes cancer. It’s the oldest known sweetener on the planet, so revered at one time that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt were buried with it in their tombs, while indigenous communities risked life and limb to extract it.

Of course, you guessed it: The miracle sugar alternative is raw honey.

Raw honey is loaded with good nutrition. It may also help reduce the intensity of seasonal allergies, which are expected to increase in length and severity as a result of climate change, resulting in greater losses in productivity. Keeping bees near your garden increases pollination rates and raises yields. Since every third bite of food we eat requires insect pollination, and most of this is done by honey bees, adding honey to our key resource list makes much more sense than sugar.

If you want to keep your own bees, try a top-bar hive. You can make it out of scrap materials and it does not require expensive extraction equipment. If you can’t keep bees, buy raw honey from your local beekeepers to encourage more beekeeping activity that benefits our entire food supply.

stevia-growing-in-herb-gardenOr how about growing stevia? Stevia is an acquired taste, but once you adjust your palate, it becomes a viable alternative to sugar in beverages.

The leaves have negligible calories and can be boiled with teas and iced to make a sweet-tasting soda alternative. You can grow stevia from seeds obtained from a reputable supplier or you can grow it from cuttings. The plants do well in containers and can overwinter indoors in zones 7 and below with adequate light. When you harvest leaves by trimming the plants between leaf segments, similarly to how you harvest basil, the plants will become bushier and even more productive.

Corn and sugar are easy targets because there are delicious, available alternatives. But there are endless ways to diversify your diet:

  • Swap rice for bulgur, quinoa, lentils, or split peas.
  • Try goat or duck as a beef substitute.
  • Use buckwheat and amaranth flour instead of wheat.
  • Substitute sunflower seed meat for almonds.

Study your shopping list, identify the things you buy regularly, and then seek substitutes that can be grown in your community. You may be surprised at how much variety is available when you make the effort to look for it.

#2. Reintegrating Local Farming into our Communities

peak-chicken-peak-eggs-fullThe expression “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has never had more relevance than it does right now.

Checking Into Chicken

Chickens are fairly easy to raise at the home scale and they add fun and beauty to a landscape, so if you are seriously thinking about raising a backyard flock, now might be a good time to start. Make sure you know your LORE (laws, ordinances, rights, and entitlements) before taking the plunge. Also, talk to chicken owners you trust or do research to determine best practices in buying and keeping chickens in your area.

If it’s against the “LORE” for you to keep backyard chickens or you don’t have the space, how about rallying your community to turn underutilized common areas onto vegetable gardens and raise egg chickens or egg ducks there? Not only does this concept make common space meaningful again by doing something productive with it, but it can create opportunities for new farmers to enter the profession, and opportunities for residential “lawnscapers” to become organic “foodscapers.”

baby-ducks-and-chickensLaying Off Lawns

And this leads us to another method for countering peak food—let’s overcome our lawn addiction. North Americans devote 40,000 square miles of prime growing land to lawns.8 That is more land than we use to grow wheat or corn, it requires half the American residential water supply to grow, and it uses heavy doses of post-peak nitrogen and chemical products that end up soiling our waterways.

In the era of peak food, we really need to kick our lawn habit to the curb.

If you are a DIY type and you already take care of your lawn and landscaping, swap your holly hedge for blueberry bushes, replace flowers with flowering herbs, grow veggies anywhere you currently grow annuals, or build raised beds right over your lawn. Fruit trees like paw paw, jujube, Asian pear, mulberry, and elderberry are less needy than many ornamental trees like dogwood or flowering cherry, so use those as your starting points for planting a “foodscape.”

Surround the trees with a living mulch of Russian comfrey and borage. As the trees grow, prune them for good airflow and a less dense shade profile so you can grow shade-tolerant spinach, lettuce, and peas under the trees. If you have good southern exposure in front of your trees, plant fruit bushes there, plus herbs like chives, lemon balm, and mint to attract beneficial insects. You can also vine grapes up the trunks, making use of that vertical space.

herb-spiral-for-microclimatesIf you are not the DIY type and you spend on lawnscaping, reallocate your budget toward foodscaping to support a new generation of growers.

Many professional farmers and landscapers are excellent machine operators, soil scientists, irrigation experts, and pesticide applicators. But they may not have the expertise to grow a variety of foods without the aid of heavy equipment or purchased fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

To beat peak food and take advantage of prime growing land located within our populated communities, we need more small-scale farmers and growers skilled in controlling pests without chemicals, adding fertility with organic inputs produced onsite, minimizing water usage through smart planting, and applying intensive planting methods to increase food production.

There are plenty of people who want to do this, but we need to create the economic opportunities for them to be able to make a living at it.

To get started, talk to your current landscaper about having them do the work for you. If they don’t have the skills and they aren’t willing to gain them, talk to your local agricultural or gardening extension office, farming schools, vendors at farmers markets, or nearby permaculture schools to find people who are able to help you.

To keep costs low, you can make agreements to let student farmers sell surplus crops and keep the profit in exchange for doing the work. There are also a lot of budding permaculturists who offer their consulting services at discounted rates to develop their resumes and client bases.

Finding ways to grow food in our homes and neighborhoods should be a priority for anyone concerned about peak food.

#3. Supporting Community Food Security

Planting food instead of lawns not only increases food production, but also raises awareness of the importance of doing so. A surprising number of people are not even aware of the issues surrounding peak food. An even more surprising number of people are aware of some of these issues but feel powerless to do anything about them.

By bringing food growing to the forefront of our daily lives, we create opportunities to share our knowledge and help others collaborate with us. Our window of opportunity to beat peak food gets smaller the longer we wait and as weather becomes more erratic and resources less available, so the sooner we spread the news and help others get involved, the more impact we can have.

If you have any doubts about the urgency of building food communities, look to China for guidance. The Chinese government has encouraged its food corporations, through loans and preferential economic policy, to purchase and accumulate companies from around the world that grow and process food products (e.g., Smithfield Foods). This is part of a concerted effort to ensure food security for China’s growing population. And, it might be a wise policy given the reality of peak industrial food.

Yet not all governments are this proactive, and even when food is stockpiled or production is secured, distribution systems may not be fully developed. Also, goods may be distributed with preference for specific populations, like wealthy cities and wealthy citizens.

Realistically, unlike the Chinese government, most of us here don’t have $5 billion to buy up 25% of the pork production in the U.S. “just in case.” But most of us do have some kind of grocery budget and/or a food-growing system in place. Instead of spending our money and resources to support a post-peak industrial food system, we need to redirect our efforts toward local and sustainable food-growing activities.

Home growers can set up food-swapping networks with other growers to exchange products and increase diversity. Non-growers can take their food budgets to the farmers’ market and buy direct from local producers, or pick up weekly baskets from a local CSA. Greater demand for local food means more local growers. More local growers means more food security when declining industrial farms can no longer meet the food needs of a growing population.

We can adapt our eating and growing habits, and make the paradigm shift required to overcome peak food, if we acknowledge the problem and meet the challenges individually, and in our home communities, through thoughtful effort.

We can reach critical mass and cause real change in our society.

But the clock is ticking….



TGN Bi-Weekly Newsletter

(This is an updated version of a post originally published August 14, 2015.)

References   [ + ]


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How Much Food Can You Grow on 1/4 Acre?

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An Organic Mini-Farm on a Small Suburban Lot

How much food can you grow on a 1/4 acre lot? Not much, right… Maybe a small garden in the back yard… Think again!

A group of roommates in Austin decided to stretch their small suburban lot as far as they could. And you won’t believe how much food they’re producing…

In addition to replacing the lawn with garden beds, they worked in a couple of greenhouses with aquaponic systems, and a huge composting operation. They didn’t neglect the visual appeal of the yard, either. They worked in some evergreens and perennial landscaping to keep the yard looking nice for the neighbors. As you’ll see, they actually won their neighborhood association’s Yard of the Month award in 2014.

My favorite part of the video is when Michael says, “Our way of dealing with the squash vine borer… is to just replant.” That’s great! We hear so much about this particular pest and I’ve seen some pretty intricate attempts to control it. Some people insist on bringing in fresh soil. Others build physical barriers to keep the moths out. Still others inject Bt insecticide into their squash stems using hypodermic needles. Or, you could “just replant.” I love it when there’s a simple, natural solution for a complicated problem.

Micro-Farming as a Side Income

It looks like these folks are eating very well, and they’re generating a big surplus. They’re selling some of the produce they grow in a mini-CSA arrangement. And they sell their aquaponic herbs and greens directly to local restaurants.

This group had to be pretty resourceful to come up with the funds to bring this whole plan together. Between crowd-funding, grants, and partnerships with other local organizations, they were able to find all of the money they needed.

No doubt, some neighborhoods would not be as supportive as this one has been. In some places, you might attract some unwanted attention by building a farm in your front yard. But even if you have to keep your garden in the back yard, these guys might lend you a little inspiration about just how much food you can grow on a small plot of land.

You can learn more about Ten Acre Organics and co-founders Lloyd Minick and Michael Hanan here: Ten Acre Organics.


Everything That’s Right with the World Today

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Bad news is everywhere you look. On your television, on your radio, and on your computer screen. Frankly, it can be overwhelming sometimes.

But nobody told that to the folks over at Rodale. They just announced the honorees of the first ever Rodale 100. These are 100 inspiring people, projects, and organizations that created positive change in 2015 with unique accomplishments and innovative ideas.

If you read one of these stories each day, you’ll have a positive pick-me-up that lasts 100 days!

The Rodale 100 – Inspiring Good News from Around the World

So take a break from the negative news and read about these people who are doing something positive to improve their local, national, and global communities. There are many inspiring stories here…

The honorees are divided into 5 categories:

Social Outreach

You can see all 100 of the honorees here: The Rodale 100.

Selecting the Honorees for the Rodale 100

To build this list, Rodale put together a panel of journalists, activists, and experts. Each honoree has been vetted by an expert panel, with an emphasis on these 3 factors:

• groundbreaking innovations that revolutionize how we see the world while driving others in the industry to embrace creativity;
• a positive impact that affects changes on a local, national and/or global scale;
• a displayed commitment to the welfare of human beings, animals, and the environment.

Who Made the List

There are many familiar names on the list, including some Hollywood actors and actresses who have taken on meaningful pet projects, like Matt Damon’s And there are some big companies who are sponsoring various projects, like Subaru, who in 2015 became the first car manufacturer in U.S. history to achieve zero landfill status. And there are some really great looking nonprofit projects on this list that I hadn’t seen before.

There’s even a U.S. Politician. No kidding. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio is a foodie, and he made the list because of his book, The Real Food Revolution: Healthy Eating, Green Groceries and the Return of the American Family Farm.

I was especially happy to see that Perry Alagappan made the list in the Health category. If you missed the story about Perry’s new water filter, see this article – One Young Man Tackles a Huge Global Problem. Go, Perry!

And there’s another notable youth on the list, as well – Olivia Hallisey is a 17 year old from Connecticut who invented a new way to test for ebola virus. You can see a short video with Olivia below. These kids are making me feel like a serious slacker!

I hope you enjoy looking over all the different projects on this uplifting list, and I hope it helps distract you from the negative news for a short while.


Catch Marjory Wildcraft on TV this Weekend!

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Marjory Wildcraft will be featured on this week’s episode of the public television show Central Texas Gardener. Marjory went into the studio and had a nice chat with the show’s host, Tom Spencer, about how to grow half your groceries in less than an hour per day – no matter how big your yard is.


Central Texas Gardener is a long-running local gardening show in Austin. The show regularly includes local experts from the world of gardening. This summary is from the show’s Facebook page:

We’re all about organic gardening, outstanding waterwise plants, design inspiration, wildlife, homegrown food, and creative fun in the garden!

The show airs in several other cities – so check the list below to see if there’s any chance you can catch Marjory on TV this week…

Even if Central Texas Gardener doesn’t air in your city, you can still watch Marjory’s interview on the show’s website, here: Watch This Week’s Episode of Central Texas Gardener

Channel Day Date Time
KLRU (Austin, TX) Saturday
Jan. 16
Jan. 17
Jan. 18
Noon & 4:00 p.m.
9:00 a.m.
5:30 a.m.
KLRU Q (Austin, TX) Tuesday
Jan. 19
Jan. 20
Jan. 22
6:30 p.m.
7:00 a.m.
9:30 a.m.
KLRN (San Antonio, TX) Saturday Jan. 16 11:00 a.m.
KNCT (Killeen, TX & Waco, TX) Saturday Jan. 16 1:30 p.m.
KAMU (College Station, TX) Saturday Jan. 16 5:00 p.m.
KPBT (Midland, TX) Monday Jan. 18 12:30 p.m.
Panhandle PBS (Amarillo, TX) Saturday Jan. 16 11:30 a.m.
KRSC (Claremore, OK) Saturday
Jan. 16
Jan. 19
5:00 p.m.
Arizona Public Media ReadyTV (Tucson, AZ) Thursday Jan. 21 1:30 p.m.
KBDI (Denver, CO) Sunday
Jan. 17
Jan. 19
2:00 p.m.
2:30 p.m.
KTWU (Topeka, KS) Multiple Days & Times
Also on UNCMX (Raleigh-Durham, NC) and
K32EO (Colorado Springs, CO)

I can’t wait to see it!

Many thanks to Central Texas Gardener for inviting Marjory to the show! You can learn more about the show here: Central Texas Gardener


The [Grow] Network is a Global Organization

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czech-republic-on-map-of-europeWe received a very nice note last week from a member of the [Grow] Network named Vera D. Vera is 72 years old, and she lives on a small pension in the post-communist Czech Republic. She subscribes to our newsletter, and she follows our blog and our Facebook page.

Vera wrote in to apologize that she can’t afford to buy our products or contribute to our crowd-funding projects. She regrets not being able to support us financially, but she wanted to let us know that she appreciates all of the work we are doing to encourage others to grow their own food and medicine at home.

We get similar notes from people all around the world, who support our cause – but for one reason or another can’t afford to support us financially. A few recent notes and comments that come to mind came from Gia in Japan, Elena in Germany, and Harriet from Finland. The [Grow] Network has truly become a global organization.

By sharing strategies and tricks from all areas of the world, we can all learn about new methods and solutions that are being worked out by people far away. And sometimes the growing conditions in two places can be very similar, despite the two places being on opposite sides of the Earth. For instance, there are many similarities between the climate in Central Texas and the climate in parts of the Mediterranean. Temperature fluctuation is a bit more extreme in Central Texas, with higher highs and lower lows. And drought is a bit more extreme in the Mediterranean – they might get 20 inches in a year when Central Texas gets 30 inches. But we can definitely learn from each other – varieties that withstand heat and dryness in one area are likely to work well in the other area as well. And strategies for water collection, building, and earthworks developed in one place are usually just as effective in other parts of the world.

So, for everyone around the world who supports the [Grow] Network but can’t afford to contribute financially – we send out a big, heart-felt “Thank You!” to you all. Your participation and contributions are always very much appreciated by us.

If you can’t contribute money, but you want to help, there are many ways for you to get involved with our purpose. Here are a few ways you can help:

Participate on Our Blog: Use the star rating system to rate blog posts. Your rating votes help others to find the best and most relevant content on our blog. Votes are also taken into consideration in picking the winners in our ongoing Writing Contest. When you have something to add to a post, use the comments section below the article and share your thoughts with the community. There’s no telling who might find your input to be helpful – you might help someone else who is half a world away…

Use the Social Buttons: At the bottom of every post, there are buttons you can use to share the article with your network on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, or by email. The last button on the right is “More Options” and you can use it to select from a huge number of other social networking tools like Digg, StumbleUpon, and more. Use these buttons to help spread the word.

Follow Us on Facebook: Follow Marjory’s Facebook page, like our posts, and share them with your Facebook friends and family.

Pin Us: We recently started a few Pinterest boards for The [Grow] Network. Pin your favorite posts and pictures to help get the word out.

Subscribe to Our YouTube Channel: Marjory’s YouTube Channel has about 10,000 subscribers. The more, the merrier! Having more subscribers means that our videos will get recommended more often and reach a wider audience. If you haven’t already, subscribe to the YouTube Channel and help us reach more people.

Take Part in the Writing Contest: We host an ongoing Writing Contest where gardeners and homesteaders from around the world write in to share their knowledge and experience with the community. We think this is one of the most effective tools we have because it allows people to learn from each other’s successes and failures first-hand. And, if you win, we get to send you a bunch of awesome prizes. We just gave away over $2,574 in prizes last month, and the next Writing Contest will kick off early in 2016.

GROW!: The biggest thing anyone can do to support us is to start growing your own food and medicine at home. After all, this is what we’re all about. We want everyone to produce as much of their own food and medicine as possible. So whether it’s a multi-acre homestead, a square foot garden in your back yard, or a few containers on your balcony – get growing!


A Life Long Love (of Gardening)

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raised-vegetable-bedI grew up on an 80 acre farm. My father rotated corn, soy beans, and wheat, so I knew enough about gardening to be (as they say) dangerous. My family fell on hard times just after my father bought the land. A car accident left him with two cracked vertebrae and a mountain of hospital bills. This was the in the 1970s, and it was a hard decade for us, as my mother learned to make soap, as well as clothing, for herself, my father and us three boys. And we learned how to garden. And boy did we garden – over a full acre of sweet corn, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, beans, lettuce, cabbage, squash, onions, peas, beets, and many herbs. We would pick wheel barrels full of sweetcorn and tomatoes, and bushels of beans almost every other day!

What we couldn’t sell at the farmer’s market we ate or canned for winter use, and even what some would call waste was given to the chickens and pigs. I can never remember a time when we didn’t have enough to eat.

Then I went to college and then a university 150 miles from the family farm. I worked forty hours a week or more to pay my way through, and never took a dime from folks for my secondary schooling. I had grown used to the food in the college cafeteria, and quickly forgot how good fresh vegetables and fruits are.

Later I got a fairly good job, married and eventually moved into a condo. The condo association allowed flower beds, but for nine years I grew a small garden with a few tomato plants, beans, cucumbers, and potatoes (all heirloom varieties organically grown). I really enjoyed gardening and especially the fresh vegetables, and even gave tomatoes and cucumbers to some of my neighbors.

Then one day we got a letter in the mail from the board of our condo association (no direct communication, just a cowardly note) that said to cease and desist. I was heartbroken, as I loved to garden and even more loved the fruit of my work.

A couple of years later a friend of mine was retiring from his job. He is about ten years older than I, and we started talking about gardening. He had a large back yard, and decided to turn a corner of the yard into a garden. I helped him amend the soil, pick out heirloom varieties of seeds and potatoes, and we planted the first garden he had ever had in his life.

That first year was OK, but we live in Michigan, were there is a lot of wildlife, particularly deer, woodchucks, and other small creatures who tend to love heirloom and organically grown food as much as we do. So the first two years were about learning how to keep out the pests.

Then three years ago I told him about square foot gardening, and how we could build raised beds and then fence everything in to help from losing most of the veggies. He enlisted the help of his stepson and father-in-law, and between the four of us we built 10 8’x5′ beds two feet off the ground. My friend found some plastic owls that have sensors that detect movement and spay water from attached garden hoses, which he attached to the fence on either end.

I have had one bed to plant, and I have been planting three tomato plants, four cucumber plants, an eight foot row of beans, and then carrots and potatoes in the remaining space. I trellis the cucumbers, and stake up the tomatoes. We have been getting the tomato plants to grow over eight feet high! From this one bed, I get twice as many tomatoes, cucumbers and beans as my wife and I need and the rest I take into work. My workplace lets us bring in extra garden produce and my fellow workers give money to the local food bank for any veggies they want.

So in conclusion, I have come full circle as a gardener, and have brought in a friend who is using gardening not only as a hobby, but a way to keep him from getting (as he says) fat and lazy.

Thanks to Jim Craft for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest.

We have over $2,097 in prizes lined up for the Fall 2015 Writing Contest, including all of the following:

– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
– 1 free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $239 value
– A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
– 2 large heirloom seed collections from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, valued at $103 each
– A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $59 each
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $43 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $33 each
– 4 copies of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, valued at $31 each