Larry D. Jones, MPH
Are you a gardener? Let me clarify that, how many of you are vegetable and fruit gardeners?
I grew up on a farm so I thought that to grow vegetables you needed at least an acre for your garden and then we planted sweet corn with a corn planter in one of the fields.
Gardening was a community event. The whole Sunnymeade neighborhood worked together. We had only the one corn patch so when it came time for the corn to be ready, everyone worked together to harvest and both can and freeze. The same held true for most of the vegetables, and if someone in the neighborhood had insects attack their garden they just got part of ours. If there were any additional produce, and there always was, we just took it to the parsonage where it would be used and distributed among those who needed it most.
Community gardens are sort of like this. However, most of the raised beds are only 4 foot by 8 foot instead of an acre is size. You would be surprised how much you can grow in them. I put my first one out this year. I have tomatoes, peppers, egg plant, herbs, and green beans. It won’t take much hoeing since everything is close together and small enough I can weed by hand.
If you would like to put a raised bed garden in your back yard or rent one at one of the community garden sites, give the Independence Health Department a call at 325-7185. We will be glad to share instructions and some gardening tips.
While you are at it, think about what you will be doing with the leftovers. We have a number of food banks in town who never or rarely ever receive fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a list with locations and telephone numbers on the Independence Health Departments at http://www.ci.independence.mo.us/health. They would love to hear from you this summer when you have extras. We have a number of struggling families who use these resources.
This Saturday at the Farmers’ Market, you can find plants that are available for your garden, or check out all the plants for sale at other locations here in town. It is surprising the vegetables that grow well here. It will also surprise you the difference in taste between what you get in a can or frozen and what you bring in fresh from the garden to cook or eat fresh.
There are a lot of side benefits to gardening as well. The first is the fresh fruit and vegetables. Second, is the exercise you receive. Yes, exercise. Think about it. Bend over pull a few weeds, stand up and move to the next spot, bend over pull more weeds, repeat the process until you are done. Build those core muscles. If you use one of the community gardens, try walking or riding your bicycle to the garden and back. You might do this daily just to watch your garden grow.
If you have children take them with you, make gardening a family event. Try growing a new vegetable; they will definitely want to try something that they helped grow. In today’s economy, just like after the war, gardens are great ways to make the food dollars go farther.