Grow Your Own: Fixing the Broken Food System

I don't often force my opinions on others. And for the most part I am of the opinion that people have freedom to choose. I don't care if you stay-at-home or work. I don't care who you marry. I don't care who you believe or don't believe in. I don't care who you vote for. We all should have the freedom to make those choices for ourselves with out fear of retaliation or loss of rights.

Things get a little hazy when it comes to more global issues. I do care if you throw your trash somewhere it shouldn't be. I do care if you pollute the air. I do care if you recklessly and thoughtlessly hurt the Earth in various ways, because the truth of the matter is we are hurting the Earth, and ourselves,  and for the most part the people of this world just don't care. And that's not right.

But today I am going to voice my opinion, my opinion about food and the current government run food system we have in the United States. I have been reading Joel Salatin's Folks, That Ain't Normal and while his words aren't completely new to me, they do get my heart pumping and my brain screaming about all the people in the world who just don't realize or care about what they put in their bodies or how it got there. About how some people in this day and age don't know where their food came from or what is in it. About how out of touch we are with the fact that we are leaving one of our most basic human needs in the hands of someone else, who may or may not have our best interests at heart.

Just down the road from where we live is a tomato farm. A huge farm with acres of tomatoes. It's a beautiful sight to see. That is until you see the warning signs. These aren't your run-of-the-mill No Trespassing signs, but danger signs warning you of the health risks the chemicals used on the fields might cause. When they spray the fields the workers wear what look like Hazmat suits. The beautiful fields are also marred by rows and rows of red, ripe tomatoes. Not on the plants, but wasted on the ground. Only the green tomatoes are wanted. I would suggest donating those ripe tomatoes to homeless shelters, but I am not sure I would endorse giving Hazmat tomatoes to the less fortunate either.

I  believe that our current food system is unnatural. It's unnatural that food be shipped for thousands of miles. Its unnatural that milk in it's natural form is illegal to buy or sell. It's unnatural to eat watermelon in Maine in December. And it's unnatural that some children today don't know how, when and where the food they are eating came to be, or worse yet that the food they are eating is so far removed from it's natural state that they might as well be eating cardboard.

But how do you fix a broken system? That's a big job. The only current solution I have is that every capable person should be growing something. Anything.

Live in an apartment?

  • Grow plants in pots on your deck or balcony. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, strawberries and a ton of others do well in containers. 
  • Ask the managers of the complex about starting a community garden on the grounds.


Live in the city? 

  • Look into local cummunity garden plots available for rent
  • Can you grow on the roof of your apartment building?
  • If you have a sunny window or room for artificial lights you can grow plants such as greens, roots, and herbs that don't require pollination. 


Can't afford it?

Gardening doesn't have to be expensive. You can get seeds as cheap as $0.99. Are they heirloom? No, but they will grow into food nonetheless. The local Dollar Tree sells reasonably sized bags of potting soil. Plant your seeds in recycled egg cartons, use milk jugs with the tops cut off and holes poked in the bottoms for containers on your deck. And remember that one zucchini plant, one tomato plant and a container of bean seeds can give you virtually free food all summer long.

Don't have time?

Yes you do. If you have time to read this article you have time to plant a couple plants. Big gardens have the potential to be time consuming, but 1 or 2 dozen plants or a few pots on the deck will add less than 15 minutes of extra time a day. Not having time is an excuse and I am sure most people know that.


Have a big back yard?

What are you waiting for?! Get growing! And don't forget to share or trade with neighbors and friends who may not be able to grow as much as you.

The only way to fix a broken system is by taking it into your own hands and hope that everyone else does too. We grow a lot, but still are much too dependent on a grocery store for our food. But we are a lot less dependent compared to 5 years ago. If every able-bodied person began to take back control of their own food, we'd get a whole lot closer to a more natural, healthy way of living and eating. It all starts with one person taking small steps to fix a problem. Start small, work your way up, but the most important thing is to start.

Note: All quotes in this post come from Joel Salatin's Folks, This Ain't Normal. No matter what your thoughts are on food and farming I recommend reading this book. If you agree with him it might help push you on to the next step. If you are still eating McDonald's and buying processed foods on a regular basis, it just might open your eyes. 

This post has been linked to Freedom Fridays From the Farm Blog Hop, The Clever Chicks Blog Hop, The Homestead Barn Hop, The Backyard Farming Connection,


  1. I agree with you so much. That makes me so angry hearing about those wasted tomatoes loaded with pesticide. It's not right.

    1. It's just awful to see them all lying there. Acres and Acres of them!

  2. Oh this post put such a smile on my face knowing there's another like minded soul out there! Love your "opinion" and keep them coming!
    I'll be sure to put that book on my reading list too!

    1. It really is full of great stuff. I already have a few of his other books on my list to get from the library as well.

  3. You got me with the "don't have time" part :)

    Kristen from The Road to Domestication

    1. There are plenty of things I "don't have time for" but if I look close it's more about priorities than anything else. I know I waste plenty of time on things that I could be using for a better purpose :)

  4. Sarah, I have to tell you how much I really appreciate this blog post. When I saw the title and read the first paragraph, I was afraid it was going to be like so many small farmers' judgmental posts I've read (or even heard from their mouths). It's difficult to hear from people who are living a life I dream of (land, farm animals, fresh milk!) accusing everyone else of ruining the world for not living their lifestyle. But your post is truly encouraging and helpful. I am inspired by it, and it brought a smile to my face. Thank you for addressing this issue so sensitively (all the way around), passionately, and most of all, helpfully. I hope a lot of people read it and are inspired.

    1. I'm glad Sarah. I always go back and forth with posts like these, so I am happy that the point I was trying to make, in the way I was trying to say it came across the right way :)

  5. Thank you Sarah for posting this. It is not always easy to speak the truth boldly. You did it, and did it well!

  6. I thought this was really encouraging too! I'm definitely going to get that book! It's been discouraging putting so much work into a garden and not seeing a big yield, but, the lessons we've learned as a family have been invaluable. that we'll probably be renting for a while, I'm determined to grow as much as I can in containers!

  7. Great post. We grow most of our veggies and have planted several fruit trees for the future. I recently read "Bet the Farm" and it is another really good book that explores the global-ness of our food system. It's very thought provoking. I think there's probably something that everyone can do to help our broken system, even if it's not growing your own food. We also shop at the farmers market and buy our meat and dairy through co-ops. The rancher and dairy farmer are within 60 miles of our town. It's inconvenient and a little more expensive but it's worth knowing that we're buying outside of the system. Antoher great book, esp for those who have a really tight grocery budget is "Wildly, Affordable Organic"

  8. Great post!! The food chain is so important and so overlooked by most people. I shuddered reading about the tomatoes near your home!!