Grow Hither

Frugal Locavore

Grow Hither

By Anna Thomas Bates | Photo By Anna Thomas Bates 0

We are lucky to be in southern Wisconsin, an area that is bursting with farmers markets and honest small farms offering shares directly to consumers. Supporting local farmers helps sustain our local economy and is a strong vote against corporate farms utilizing chemicals, and a strong vote for a regional foodshed.

But take a moment to consider growing a portion of your produce yourself. Not only is it budget-friendly, but it is endlessly exciting. Gardening offers more drama and suspense than a summer blockbuster.

Looking for romance? The pleasure of plucking ripe, red strawberries from lush green foliage and eating them out of hand until your fingertips and lips are stained pink makes for a hedonistic afternoon.

Need a thrill? Late May brings the constant uncertainty of a late frost. Will it? Won’t it? Watch the forecast, watch the skies, and try to figure out if it is worth gathering up old sheets and running outside at 10 pm to cover your tender new transplants.

The yearning for a good, soaking rain; the horror of gripping a hornworm the size of your thumb and yanking it from your prized crops; and the complete happiness watching your 18-month-old pick a tomato the size of your fist and sink his four teeth right in.

My heart starts pumping when I find the inaugural purple spear of asparagus poking up through the crumbly earth or early summer’s first tiny green tomato. The act of growing, harvesting, preparing, and then eating food that I have raised is unparalleled, and I feel it each and every growing season.

The contentment I feel as I lug a heavy basket of fruit and vegetables back to the house is worth the mosquito bites and back-aches. As I load the freezer with bags of diced heirloom tomatoes and the shelves with blueberry jam, I’m proud to be providing nourishment for my family that I nurtured from seed to their stomachs.

The list of impelling reasons why you should grow your own food is long, and I’m confident one will tug on your soul and encourage you to leaf through a seed catalog or consider raised bed designs.

Before I lose all of you who don’t think you have a green thumb or the space for it, please consider this: there are many amazing garden resources to help answer questions, and frankly, you can grow a fair amount of food knowing very little. Plants are opportunists; they really want to thrive.

A tiny yard may still have room for a trellis or a raised bed, or containers on a patio or balcony. No place for containers? A sunny windowsill can host a tangle of herbs, or even tiny tomatoes, lettuces, or chili peppers. If you truly have no space or available sunlight, consider a friend or neighbor who may not be able to garden, but would gladly let you use a portion of their yard in exchange for a share of your harvest. Or there may be a community garden in your neighborhood, or an opportunity to start one where you work. If there is a will, there is a way.

Other reasons that may sway you:

  • You will never taste a fresher leaf of lettuce as one that made a simple trip from your backyard to your salad bowl.
  • You can enjoy chemical-free veggies for pennies a serving.
  • A garden teaches children where food comes from and how plants grow, and encourages them to try unusual vegetables. (And maybe you can persuade them to pick off your hornworms.)
  • You can grow unusual varieties that you may not be able to find at market.
  • You’re providing food and habitat for animals and insects.

I hope this has inspired you to grow something to eat in 2012. Future Frugal Locavore entries will include gardening tips and ideas on how to use and preserve your harvest, along with recipes for nourishing, whole foods.

Go forth and thrive!

Anna Thomas Bates is a writer and mother of two young boys, living just south of Madison. When not extricating legos from the heating register or playing bulldozer mechanic, you can find her outside in the garden or in the kitchen making cookies. Or soup. Anna also blogs about healthy (and delicious) homemade food at

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