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Food gardens growing alternative to high cost of produce

Even those with smaller spaces are finding ways to grow a selection of produce
Trendy ugly organic carrot, beetroot and cucumber from home garden; Shutterstock ID 383006851
Many are going back to doing what their parents and grandparents did: learning to rely more on themselves for various food sources.

With the steady rise in food prices, planting fruit and vegetable gardens is becoming a popular option for many as an economical means to healthier eating.

The Guysborough Journal in Nova Scotia interviewed several St. Mary’s residents, who happily shared their reasons for having a food garden, planting one for the first time or increasing the size of their garden this year.

“The cost of food today is completely out of control,” said Sonora resident Sonia Morgan. “We have two main competitors around us, who are able to charge whatever they want because there aren't any lower price alternatives. This is not right and forces people to buy garbage because it costs less.”

READ: Price growth at restaurants outpacing grocery inflation as businesses struggle

From small areas — such as patios and hanging baskets for cucumbers, strawberries and other hanging varieties of produce — to larger garden areas in yards that offer space for a wider array of fruit and vegetables, many are going back to doing what their parents and grandparents did: learning to rely more on themselves for various food sources. A vegetable garden is become more than a way to enjoy an occasional home-grown salad; in many cases, it can be the main option for affording a healthier diet.

Today, practicality is making many people rethink their property options — beautiful lawns and flowers, or fruit trees, blueberry bushes and vegetable gardens, which require work but offer more ‘fruit’ for their labour.

In 2024, even those with smaller spaces or less time to tend a full garden are finding ways to grow a selection of produce to eat healthier for less.

“We do planters on our deck — cukes, tomatoes, beans, peas and lettuce,” said Indian Harbour Lake resident Heather Laybolt.

Morgan, who relocated to Nova Scotia from a busy city in Ontario with her husband six years ago, said she learned her gardening skills from her mother, adding that growing vegetables has helped offset the cost of food, while allowing her and her husband to eat better. Growing produce has also allowed them to have fresh food while avoiding the chemicals often used by commercial growers.

“In the growing seasons we save so much money because we don't have to buy expensive produce at the store,” she said.

“Food grown in a garden tastes so much better than store bought. We realized that buying organic produce costs so much money and also we weren't even sure about what ‘organic’ even meant.”

READ: Many Canadians still feeling squeezed even as debt worries ease

Sherbrooke resident Gabriela Shupbach also plans to plant a garden this season.

“I try to buy less processed food and actually buy more veggies than ever, to get myself used to eating foods we could grow ourselves,” Shupbach said. “Inflation actually helped me appreciate proper nutrition.”

Indian Harbour Lake resident Bob Weagle and his wife, Wendy, have been growing vegetables for several years.

“I enjoy being outside, and working a couple of hours a day is relaxing and keeps me going,” said Weagle, who grows a variety of produce and berries, and rotates his varieties from year to year.

The home gardener acknowledged that planting a garden makes a difference in the cost of eating healthy.

“I am just glad I grow mine and a lot of my veggies are frozen or pickled,” said Weagle, adding “It is [difficult to eat healthy] if you are buying from big box stores instead of local farmers’ markets.”

As for Schupbach, a vegetable garden is just the beginning. She expressed her excitement about the possibility of taking her self-reliance a step further.

“A community should process its own hemp, flax, trees, etc. for clothing and building materials, and could even make its own pottery, blacksmithing articles, etc.,” she stated. “Why? To become less dependent on the global economy and government. We need to ask ourselves ‘what do we need to live and how can we grow and make it ourselves?’”

If municipalities and health organizations “would educate people on programs available for community residents to access, and the benefits of home gardening, we could implement them and help our communities,” says Morgan. “Food for Life has a program teaching people how to cook with healthy food, they even supply the food and accessories.”

Morgan spoke of another program called Community Gardens.

“Each community gets a grant for raised garden beds, veggies, dirt, etc. Port Bickerton has one and the community members get to go and pick some options for their supper.”

Schupbach said she would like to see more people “turn their mowed lawns into food forests… to become less dependent on the global economy.”

Morgan said she feels for people who are struggling to make ends meet with the cost of food weighing heavily on many.

“It breaks my heart that people think they have to buy Kraft Dinner because they can't afford healthy alternatives,” she said.

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