Although growing your own garden may sound ambitious – especially if you live in an apartment – it’s not only doable, but it’s also good for your health.
Today, more and more people across the U.S. and around the world, in both rural and urban settings, are cultivating their own gardens, driven by a growing desire to grow food locally.
Health is the number one motivator, but while it’s no secret that we are what we eat, Daphne Miller, a San Francisco M.D. and author of Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, believes that the connection between farming and our bodies goes far deeper than that.
“As a doctor, I am always trying to practice in a more ecological way and to think of my patients as part of a complex ecosystem rather than as a series of organs with their own specific malfunctions and diagnoses,” Dr. Miller says. “Healthy farms, healthy soil and healthy plants create healthy families and healthy communities – and vice versa.”
The crux of the connection between farming and our health, Miller says, is to treat our bodies the way a mindful farmer treats his or her soil, and treat the soil in the same way that we should care for our bodies. “If we do this, we will be healthier, our food will be healthier and our environment will be healthier,” she says.
Although more people are realizing that growing their own food is vital to their health and well-being, the logistics of individual farming are daunting to many, who have no idea where or how to start.
Crowdsourcing Garden Knowledge
It’s only natural to doubt one’s ability to grow something worthy of eating or feeding a family, but although farming isn’t easy, Miller is convinced that “we have much more wisdom and many more skills than we realize, and it’s just a matter of putting them into practice.”
And the key to that is sharing knowledge, points out David Hughes, a professor of biology at Penn State University and the brains behind PlantVillage.com, an online community designed to crowdsource solutions for farming at all levels anywhere in the world.
Hughes launched PlantVillage to enable farmers – both large and small – anywhere in the world to connect with each other online to share their experiences (positive as well as negative) on just about anything related to farming and growing.
From Nairobi, Kenya, to Newport, KY, from the open spaces of British Columbia to the innards of Brooklyn, PlantVillage connects anyone who wants to grow their own food.
Since the site was launched in February 2013, it’s been swarming, Hughes says, with questions from users wanting to know how to transplant watermelon seedlings; what’s the best way to support tomato plants; whether young grapes can suffer from an unexpected spring frost; and whether root plants can grow in partial shade.
As the discussions flourish, Hughes believes that PlantVillage will bring together billions of people from around the globe, all of whom will eventually be able to grow more and better food.