I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out how to sum up the negative consequences of agribusiness in a short paragraph that is easy to grasp. But that is impossible. It is too big of an issue with both drastic and nuanced effects on people and the environment all over the world. Yes, it hurts some more than others. It is not an exaggeration to say that it directly takes away peoples’ livelihoods, that it is responsible for lives lost.
And what I find with most big issues is that people get overwhelmed. They don’t know what to do so they do nothing. There is so much to learn so they stop trying to learn and ignore the issue instead. But it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to have a complete understanding of an issue in order to have a positive effect.
Start small. Start simple. Pick something that your family loves to eat, something that grows in your environment, something that works with your home situation, and grow it. Just one plant. What you can do in an apartment will be different than what you can do in a house with a yard. Maybe you just have a small patio. There are a ton of cute and practical ideas for small spaces. With just a quick search I found the ideas that make up the pictures for this blog. But they are just for inspiration, simple pots on a patio are perfect.
Many herb do well in a small space, like a single pot. Tomatoes, lettuce, chard, kale, peppers, spinach, and more grow well in containers. There are tips for high nutrient soil, so once you pick a family favorite food that you can grow in your space, be sure to look up how to best care for it.
And get your kids involved. Avery, my 3 year old wants to be involved in every aspect. If we [attempt to] sprout seeds, they want to make the hole, put in the seed, cover it with dirt. When we transplant, they want to help dig holes, put the start in the hole, cover it, and give each leaf a kiss. They want to help pull weeds. They LOVE harvesting. An onion they pulled from a garden (not ours) a month ago is still a topic of excited conversation. Just yesterday they used a knife for the first time in a garden. They held chard leaves with one hand and used a knife to cut the stems.
I think it is important for kids to know where food comes from and whenever possible, I think they greatly benefit from being a part of the gardening process themselves. One thing I truly wish for my kids is for them to grow up learning how to take care of themselves, including growing at least some of their own food. But also I want them to know the social and environmental consequences of agribusiness and know the ways they add to those issues and ways they can mitigate harm by making choices such as growing their own tomatoes.
With every plant we grow, we mitigate harm. Individually we can’t take down agribusiness, but as a collective we can seriously undermine it.
I am very, very new to gardening. And I have basically no money. So I thought it might be helpful to some if I share how I am doing it. There is a community garden in my area that grows for the local non-profit that does a lot of food support for the community, such as providing food boxes. I take my kids and we volunteer at the garden a couple times a week. Avery loves it! Brie, who is 1, sometimes tries to help but often just finds a dirt patch to play in. Yes, it hard work for me to keep two toddlers happy and also be helpful in the garden but lucky for me everyone there is super supportive of bringing kids. They don’t mind if a project takes us longer than it would someone else (like picking green beans or picking up apples that have fallen to the ground). The benefit is that I am learning about gardening as we go. AND we get to pick a few things to take home home with us (so helpful on the grocery bill!) AND we’ve been able to take home several starts! Honestly I would not have a garden otherwise. If you have any opportunity for participating in community gardens, I so recommend it. Do a little research, ask around, there might be opportunities you haven’t heard of yet.
The other thing I did was join a local gardening facebook group. People share tips, sometimes people share harvest, sometimes people share starts. I’ve gotten a handful of kale starts and three strawberry plants this way. Just recently my kids and I attended a potluck with this group and somebody brought a ton of starts to share because the store they work at was going to just throw them away (What?!!) and someone else brought a ton of day-old bread to share because the bakery they work at needed to get rid of it (*fist pump* YES!).
In no way could we budget making raised beds. So I took a shovel, a hoe, and a rake a got to work on a small patch in our yard. I dug out the grass and weeds, turned the soil, added some manure and leaf mulch (I got a bucket of each from the garden!), and planted veggie starts. The leaf mulch was for adding nutrients to the soil I have, I didn’t have near enough to create a bed with it. Yes, I’ll be pulling more weeds than those with raised beds, but hey, Avery likes to help with that so we’ll spend time together while taking care of our tiny garden. Also, my veggies won’t need as much as water than they would in a raised bed. My plan is to add a little bit more veggie growing space every year. Bit by bit, I’ll make a dent in our grocery bill and in our family’s contribution to world issues that come from agribusiness.
The previous people who lived in our house had put in flower beds, so I have used spaces among the flowers to put in kale. So far it has worked nicely. The only money I have spent is about $15 to buy chicken wire and garden posts. I had to create a small fence around the garden, otherwise my cat and the neighborhood cats would use the newly turned soft soil as a bathroom. And that’s just gross.
So go for it. Grow one plant. Get your kids involved. Find gardening community.