Famine, Victory Gardens and Resiliency

In WWII, harvest from victory gardens in private homes were estimated to produce 40% of the country’s fresh fruits and vegetables. So, while the Economist Magazine and other news sources scream about Famine, reduce your stress about the food shortages and plant a garden. If you encourage healthy soil, you also are sequestering carbon and contributing to air quality.

Gardening is part of the American heritage. No one who traveled to the New World in the 1600’s expected to find a grocery store. In WWI and WWII, Victory Gardens became popular as civilians were urged to contribute to the cause by growing vegetables in every flowerpot and patch of land available.

Today, Victory Gardens, renamed Resiliency Gardens, are enjoying yet another resurgence. This started 2 years ago, due to the corona virus pandemic. Gardening is known to reduce stress, the fresh produce is good for your health and growing your own increases your resiliency and self-sufficiency.

If you’re like me and want to reduce your trips to the grocery store, you are probably thinking about planting a Resiliency Garden. You are not alone. On March 28, 2021, the New York Times published Panic Buying Comes for the Seeds, describing seed companies who are overwhelmed with higher than normal orders. Demand has continued into this year.

“Even with a small amount of acreage, homeowners are able to grow large gardens-and these assets can reduce the number of trips to the grocery store and reduce your odds of contracting the COVID-19 virus,” says Tim MacWelch, owner and lead instructor at Advanced Survival Training in Northern Virginia.

Food rationing was a part of life during both world wars, so an estimated 20 million homes participated when the government urged Americans to pitch in by tending home garden plots. It was a combination of labor and transportation shortages, combined with the needs for food by the troops. Empty lots, front lawns, rooftops, and random pots — all were worthy spaces for sowing these wartime seeds. 

Again, in World War II, these Victory Gardens produced over 9 million tons of food that was consumed in America. 

Ron Finley, a community organizer from South LA, has been telling inner city dwellers for years that “ Gardening is a Revolutionary Act”. His message is that EVERY spot of open urban land is potentially a community garden. You can find his TEDx, and others, on the SymSoil YouTube channel, under the “ SymSoil Recommends — A Short List of Videos on Soil Health “ playlist.

Even before COVID, home gardens had been making a comeback, thanks to the farm-to-table trend that has people interested in growing their own fresh food. “For a few years now, I’ve been seeing a heightened interest in edible gardens, from regenerative ag farmers, to every day residents to the ever growing permaculture movement. It appeals to people who want to live a net-zero life and eat organically,” says Daniel Garcia of Visalia.

Recent research has found that the key to carbon sequestration is growth of soil microbes, specifically fungal hyphae and abroad biodiversity of bacteria. Some bacteria capture nitrogen out of the air, others cycle other key nutrients for the plants.

For those who are looking to use their garden as a teachable moment, SymSoil recommends ebooks by Matt Powers, The Permaculture Student, for home schooling in the field of permaculture and regenerative farming. There are many versions of the Soil Food Web, which try to capture the soil microbial ecosystem, but Matt Powers’ version remains one of our favorites. 

If you are a home gardener, we recommend you learn about composting and living soil. There is increasing evidence that soil microbes, from food grown in biologically healthy soil, is helpful to human health. 

A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Health Psychology reported that gardening was more effective at reducing stress than reading a book. Another study that appeared in the Journal of Public Health found that working in a garden for just 30 minutes increased self-esteem and mood. In addition to the nature of the activity, one common soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, produces a substance that has been found to mirror the effect on neurons that anti-depressants like Prozac provide. The bacterium appears to stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier.

If life has become too stressful, consider digging in the dirt and reading Gardening and Food Growing to Reduce Stress and Stress Related Illness. You can use containers, a windowsill and pots, if your space is limited. Even a window, balcony or roof will work. All you really need, beyond potting soil, is a sunny location so the seeds can germinate.

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

On the continuum from organic farming to sustainable farming, regenerative e farming is the logical next step. With each crop farmed in a regenerative way, the soil health and fertility improves. Thus, regenerative agriculture is the return to the harmonious and mindful application of natural systems to farming. This approach has proven its ability to dramatically increase the nutritional value of crops, without sacrificing yields, while reducing inputs and associated costs of highly intrusive techniques, healing the damage done by conventional approaches to farming.

SymSoil has products to help farmers improve profitability where ever they are on the continuum. These include products to reseed the complete soil microbe biome, foods for soil microbes, consulting and laboratory testing to assess the biology and shift, with biology, plant nutrient cycling, and soil conditioners.

SymSoil and Permaculture

Permaculture classes are where many regenerative techniques are taught. SymSoil is a provider of goods and services for growers using regenerative agriculture methods. Two of the 4 co-founders of SymSoil, a California B-Corp, have advanced certification in Permaculture Design. They focus on wholistic thinking, and utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. Permaculture has proven its ability to dramatically increase the nutritional value of crops, without sacrificing yields, while reducing inputs and associated costs of highly intrusive techniques, healing the damage done by conventional approaches to farming.

Talk to us about your urban project or farm to learn more. SymSoil was named one of 2019’s AgTech Companies to Watch

Originally published at https://symsoil.com.

Published by Elizabeth Pearce

Soil health is my second career. I spent 25 years running a mutual fund, working as a portfolio manager for Northern Trust and San Francisco investment firms

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