Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Victory Gardens

A World War II era Victory Garden poster. (Oops, I mean WW I)

I've been on a list binge for a while and I planned on writing a list of reasons for planning a garden this year, even if you didn't last year. Sharon, over at Depletion-Abundance, beat me to it, with a nice post listing many reasons for growing a garden. I'm long overdue on posting pictures, so I found another version of her Victory Garden poster, and will add my own thoughts on gardens.

I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma this winter. Having spent a lifetime thinking about food and where it comes from, I didn't expect any big mind-blowing revelations in this book, but I got some anyway. In the first third of the book, Pollan examines the energy origins of the fast food meal, and in the process ends up talking about a good deal of the food we find on the grocery shelf. Most of the components of processed food are derived from corn, corn is dependent on nitrogen fertilizer, and nitrogen fertilizer is manufactured from natural gas. When you look at the fuel used to plow, plant, spray, harvest, dry, transport, and further process corn and it's derivatives, you start to think of eating corn as tantamount to eating oil.

Synthetic nitrogen became plentiful at the end of WW I as nitrogen was no longer needed for the production of explosives. Our current system of industrial agriculture arose as a way to use this new abundance of nitrogen. Without synthetic nitrogen we would be soon be searching for alternate sources of calories. The caption on the poster, "Every Garden a Munitions Plant", was originally meant as a metaphor, but we might think a moment about our food security in an age when America is dependent on foreign fossil fuels to put food on the table.

So that's my new reason to grow a garden. In my last post, I listed four reasons to save energy. Now I'm presenting gardening, even just a little gardening, as a way to save energy and ensure our food security--as if eating well wasn't it's own reward!

Correction, although I found the Victory Garden poster on a website devoted to WW II, it clearly dates back to WW I

No comments: