Edible landscaping for food security in unsettling times

Published 12:48 pm Monday, May 11, 2020

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Max Phelps

Yards to Paradise


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Fewer people live and work on farms than at any time in America history. And with that comes the fact that what’s for dinner is controlled by just a relative handful of large farm, wholesale and grocery corporations.

If a million chickens catch a virus and have to be destroyed, the affect is far greater than if your grandparents’ chickens died from an illness or a fox got in the henhouse.

When one family has a problem, neighbors can pitch in and help. But, when the farm workers or meat packers have a problem, it disrupts the food supply of literally millions of people.

As we observe moratoriums on imports, the supply of New Zealand apples and Chilean grapes and Honduran bananas we take for granted may cause shortages at the local supermarkets. Virus related meat processing factory closures currently threaten to cause shortages, and panics, in some areas.

Edible landscaping offers a remedy. Being able to pick and eat from the yard or garden when you are quarantined, or when the stores are closed for whatever the reason, gives some certainty in uncertain situations.

Some of us remember when just about everything one needed, with exception of a sack of flour or a jug of kerosene and perhaps a loaf of white bread, was raised on the farm. When the last tomatoes had been harvested in the fall and consumed, you had tomatoes out of a mason jar, or you did without tomatoes until about the Fourth of July the next summer. If you needed meat, you cut the head off a rooster or went squirrel hunting, or maybe butchered a hog.

It’s been fashionable to get back to nature, to buy local and to eat organic for some time in some locales—and definitely fresher is apt to be more nutritious, as storage times reduce some vitamins and enzymes in produce. But, at the present time we are faced with lockdowns and some are scared, frankly, about what might be next. With things being as they exist today, growing a garden or putting some fruiting trees or bushes into the yard makes a whole lot of sense.

Food security hasn’t been on the minds of most Americans, since the 1930’s and the War Years. We’ve gotten used to having both the necessities and just about anything else our hearts desire available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at the big “Super” stores. When that suddenly is interrupted, be it from reactions to the current virus, to droughts, or to future wars, insurrections, the next pandemic—uncertain times remind us if all we have in the cupboard or refrigerator is enough to get us to the next trip to the store, we might have to do without something to eat. And, skipping a meal is a frightening emergency to many folks.

From apple trees to a row of carrots to some spring or fall turnips or rutabagas or cabbages, raising some food in one’s yard is certainly do-able, and it may not be quite as convenient as carry-out from a restaurant, but you won’t starve when you have food to harvest outside your door.

Some lettuce and radish seeds planted anywhere in a bare spot, or a tomato or two in a big pot on the porch—there are some things you can do for quick results, and which will produce homegrown food in a few days or weeks. Besides the salad fixings, try climbing beans, cucumbers and summer squash for a quick supplement to the food supply.

Longer term solutions are berry bushes, grapevines and a mixture of various fruit and nut trees. These may take from a couple years with dwarf peaches and cherries to seven and more years for large nut trees to begin contributing to the food needs of your family. Planting some of these now will help you maintain your sanity when the next big calamity comes along.

Question? Contact Max via rockcastles@gmail.com