Do you #growyourfood? It seems to be one of the hashtags of the summer on Instagram, in my feed at least. And I think this is a very good thing for a number of reasons. For one thing, I have never bought a grocery store tomato that tastes as good as my uncle’s homegrown tomatoes. His kohlrabi tastes even better than the kohlrabi I recently bought at a farmer’s market. And the satisfaction of growing your own food is also worth mentioning!
How about my own gardening? Well, let’s just say growing my own food makes me appreciate farmers. Last year, my tomato crop was decimated by tomato-loving squirrels. This year, it looks like I have a bumper crop of tomatoes, and they are still ripening on the vine. Hopefully those pesky squirrels won’t bother them this time.
Gardening can be time consuming, too. I just went outside to capture a photo of my ripening tomatoes, and all of a sudden an hour had passed with weeding, pruning, and watering. Can you imagine tending acres and acres of garden? Even with modern agricultural technology, it’s still a full-time job! Farmers need to be constantly vigilant, on the watch for insects, weeds, and disease. Not only that, but the weather is unpredictable. Many farms in Illinois had a very soggy summer from all the rain we had in June.
Tending your own garden can help you realize what hard work producing food really is! While I love growing my own tomatoes and peppers, I know I would never be able to produce enough food for my family to eat. I don’t have much land available or the expertise. Did you know that most farmers major in agriculture in college? All of the information I’ve learned in the past two years as a Field Mom is just the tip of the iceberg! As a teacher, I need to go to classes and workshops for professional development; did you know that farmers are required to receive training on pesticide application? They must renew their certification every three years! Home gardeners like myself don’t need any training to go buy pesticides at Home Depot! (I choose not to use pesticides, however, since my vegetable garden is very close to my pollinator garden. I don’t want to accidentally kill any beneficial insects!)
This year, I accidentally planted my tomatoes on the west side of my raised garden bed. While my tomatoes are growing quite well, the huge plants have been shading my poor pepper plants. I only have one bell pepper, and so far have only grown three jalapeno peppers, when normally I have too many to eat! I need to make a better plan for next summer’s garden. Farmers also spend the winter planning and preparing for the next growing season, and as you can imagine, their planning is much more intense than mine. On our farm tours, some of the farm wives told us how much their farmer husbands love poring over seed catalogs!
Fortunately, my basil plant has been flourishing. Don’t give me credit; basil is very easy to grow!
With my tomatoes and basil, I can make this very easy and delicious Caprese Salad. Simply layer tomato slices with fresh mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It tastes as good as it looks!
Even though I love eating what I grow, I know I would get sick of tomatoes before long. I’m so thankful for all the farmers that provide fresh produce for us to eat!
Do you grow your own food? What plants have you had the most success (or least success) in growing? Visit watchusgrow.org for more information on farming!