Growing a Local Garden

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, gardening seems more popular than ever before. With all sectors of the country experiencing some troubles related to food, many are taking action in their yards and communities to take control of their own food supply. And that chain does not get any shorter than from your own backyard to plate.

Gardeners can localize their home gardens even further by supporting Michigan-based gardening suppliers. Seed companies like Ann Arbor Seed Company and Great Lakes Staple Seeds, and Nature and Nurture Seeds offer high-performing seeds that are regionally-adapted and suited for growing in the Great Lakes and midwest. Purchasing starter plants directly from farmers markets and farm stands are a great way to ensure locally incubated plants. Even the foundation to grow these plants in – soil – can be purchased from local producers, such as Morgan Composting.

Growing their own food gives gardeners another added local benefit – a deeper understanding of the time, dedication, and commitment farmers put into their crafts. A home garden can be fun, but it is not necessarily easy. Experiencing things such as pest pressures, weather fluctuations, and crop failures will cultivate appreciation for fresh local foods. Find home gardening tips from MSU Extension here.

In addition to connecting you to the greater local food movement, growing for self-consumption reduces the cost of food in a household budget. The USDA’s website states that for every $1 dollar spent on seeds and fertilizers, home gardeners can grow an average of $25 worth of produce. In this sense, growing your own food is akin to printing your own money. If the funds saved by growing your own produce are put toward other local food products, such as meat, eggs, milk, bread, etc. major impacts can be made in local economies.

Did you know?

The USDA advocates the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds to purchase seeds and edible plants to stretch household food budgets. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, have continuously been eligible for use on seeds and plants since it was first introduced by Senator James Allen of Alabama in June of 1973. Unused SNAP funds carry-over each month for up to one year, and when these leftover funds are combined with Double-Up Food Bucks (DUFB), funds can be stretched even further. Many locations eliminated the $20 per day limit on DUFB that was in place prior to the COVID-19 crisis. New P-EBT benefits are also eligible to be used as well.

Kimberly Conaghan is the Northwest Michigan Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference and the Executive Director of the Grand Traverse Area Children’s Garden. You can reach her at [email protected] when she isn’t gardening.