Green Travel Magzine

Little Green Acts: The Shift Towards Sustenance Farming in 2022

During World War II, the U.S. government encouraged citizens to plant “victory gardens,” in order to alleviate wartime resource pressure and boost public morale. People all over the country, from cities to rural-scapes, transformed their backyards, empty lots and rooftops into sustenance gardens for their individual family units and communities alike. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted during this time, and harvests were estimated to be 9-10 million tons.

As the war came to an end in 1945, so did the spirited promotion of victory gardens. However, nearly eighty years later we are witnessing another paradigm shift in consumer mentality – and this time it’s for the fight for the longevity of our planet and equitable access to food. Programs like Urban Farming are proliferating exponentially as more and more consumers shift their awareness towards sustainable and equitable food security. As the innovation of these programs continues to evolve, so does the access and ability to incorporate their systems into the average American’s everyday life – no matter where you live.

outdoor garden trees man adding fertilizer from bag
Source: Gigi

Environmental & Social Impact of Industrial Agriculture

While the modern industrial agricultural model has been successful in supplying large volumes of foods to global markets… well, that’s it, that’s really all it’s done. It’s no secret that its input-intensive practices have generated immense environmental consequences. Widespread degradation of land, water, and ecosystems; high GHG emissions, irreversible biodiversity losses, persistent hunger juxtaposed with the rapid proliferation of obesity and diet-related diseases, livelihood stresses on farmers… are just a few that come to mind.

Thankfully, our consumer base (who ultimately controls the market), is recognizing the unjustifiable actions of corporate-led agriculture. With an increase in awareness, and a shift in demand towards sustainable, regenerative products, we can simultaneously meet society’s current food needs without compromising Earth’s production ability for future generations. 

“Think Small”

Despite decades of being told to “think big,” the real idea is to actually think small. Small-scale farming has a lower environmental impact and can alleviate pressure on food systems. As a new era of homesteading, vertical farming, and hydroponics are sweeping the globe, they are simultaneously marketing themselves on the full spectrum: from the corporate to the individual. Scaling it down to the local level affords plenty of opportunities for people to become directly involved in food production systems – and you don’t need to be a farmer by profession in order to accomplish this. 

“Homesteading,” is the term used to describe a lifestyle centered on self-sufficiency. And while the word itself may evoke images of green acres, a closet space filled with preserves, and chickens at large, it can also be applied to the third story, 300-square foot apartment you share with Roberto… and his pet snake. From the urban to the suburban dweller, there are a plethora of resources and strategies to get involved in subsistence agriculture and reap the benefits.

green plants growing in pots
Source: Markus Spiske

Urban

Self-proclaimed plant killer? Living space on par with Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs? Fret not – urban “farming” is still within your reach! Thanks to a rising popularity of smart indoor gardens and hydroponic kits, growing your own produce can be as simple as clicking the “Add to Cart,” button.

By now, you’ve surely had a conversation with a microgreen fanatic (“I’m telling you man, everyone should grow them!”), but the idea of buying a pot, laying down the soil, planting the seeds, watering just the right amount, calculating the exact space in your home where it will receive the perfect amount of light – it can feel like a lot. But a multitude of companies now offer all-inclusive technology to take the guesswork out of making sure your plants thrive – like Click and Grow.

While their products err on the pricier side, ranging from $140 USD to $2,500, you don’t have to break the bank to implement the micro-agriculture craze into your home. Although you probably won’t get the tech support, if you’re up for committing 15 minutes a day (or less) you can still have a thriving urban garden.

Plants that can tolerate low light and maintenance include: parsley, chives, mint, lemon balm, and oregano. You can also think “vertical” when contemplating space allocation for your plants. Using stakes, trellises, and hanging pots, you can grow multiple different plants in a single area, and have them grow upwards instead of sprawling outwards. Trellises, shelving, and even netting are great tools to encourage greenery in your home without compromising on limited space.

*Pro tip: While a light source is crucial for successful growth, don’t sleep on air ventilation; opening your windows for fresh air is the best option, but rotating fans work just as well – just make sure it’s located far enough away so it doesn’t disturb the plants.

Suburban

If you have the time and space for something a little more than what can be afforded in a city-dwelling, you may want to consider building out a small (or medium… or large…) garden bed. While this certainly invites a bit more work into your produce-producing efforts, it significantly expands the realm of “crops” you can plant.

Raised garden beds take the hassle out of tilling, excavating, and otherwise prepping the soil for planting. It also provides greater control over soil quality, pest control, and affords greater access if you utilize a wheelchair, walker, or have other differently-abled mobility. Furthermore, you’re less likely to deal with incessant weed intrusion in raised beds – don’t get me wrong, weeds are essential components of ecosystems, are crucial elements of detritus (and can also be detritivores), and some can even bolster the growth of plants – but in the case of your 4×4 garden bed, they’re most likely using up resources that could be going towards your produce.  

More often than not, in-ground gardens require more initial grunt-work if your soil needs prepping, but they can be less expensive than their above-ground counterparts in terms of start-up and maintenance. In-ground gardens have the luxury of utilizing natural cycles to maintain and replenish soil nutrients, insulate, protect, and accommodate roots, as well as afford better drainage to avoid root-rot. But be prepared to subsequently contest with these natural cycles – in-ground beds are more prone to soil compaction, pests, and disease!

*Pro tip: There are simple hacks you can utilize to make the daily tasks of tending to the garden easier, like this list of crop planting strategies which outline the best plants to grow near each other, and how they benefit the maintenance of your garden.

woman indoor gardening flower beds purple red orange yellow
Source: Zoe Schaeffer

Other Involvement Opportunities

There are an abundance of alternative ways to get involved in gardening activities in your community if time, size, cost or mobility restricts your ability to implement it at home. 

Volunteering at a local community garden is a low-to-no cost option, especially for urban dwellers. In the past decade, there has been a large movement to transform vacant lots into these community green spaces. Urban agriculture not only increases access to healthy and locally grown food, but it also reduces the distance food travels in order to reach our plates – which is good for both our climate and our health. Check out These 5 Inspiring Community Garden Projects, and visit the American Community Gardening Association to find a community garden near you!

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) provides another opportunity for people to become directly involved with their food sourcing, without too much commitment. Though each farm is different, the general concept follows that a consumer purchases a “share,” (or “membership”) and in return receives seasonal produce each week from the farm. By getting involved in a CSA you are directly supporting local farmers, who are often undermined by corporate agriculture, and you are reducing the distance food travels in order to reach our plates – which is good for both our climate and our health. You can find more information and a local CSA near you here.

Gardening is not confined to the able-bodied population – a growing environment centered on inclusivity has been bridging the divide in accessibility. Adaptive gardens have been making a huge resurgence across the United States, as more awareness towards the benefits of outdoor exposure has been brought to light. Gardening has shown to induce relaxation, as well as reduce stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and muscle tension – which are necessary for all populations. These gardens modify traditional gardening methods to accommodate the physical limitations of its visitors/volunteers. A quick Google search can tell you if any such programs are offered near you!

outdoor space blue sky garden plots colorful signposts green shrubs
Source: Tim Umphreys

Small Acts, Big Change

Scaling it down to the local and nuclear levels directly translates into various communal and personal benefits. Whether you’re purchasing produce from a local CSA, committed to making your “Homestead” Pinterest board a reality, or simply just trying to keep your basil plant alive for the third time this month – you’re actively participating in the resistance against industrial agriculture.  

While urban farming won’t solve food security –that’s not really the point. The more realistic hope is getting people directly involved the different facets of their food production, which has a cascade of positive effects on lifestyle and consumer choices. By implementing micro-shifts in your consumer habits and mentality, we ultimately have the power to apply real and big change on the macro-level.

ecomadic is a sustainable tourism brand that empowers travelers to make more conscious decisions. By curating a marketplace to easily find and identify responsible businesses to support, and providing educational publications through our online green travel magazine, ecomadic is committed to helping empower travelers make responsible choices throughout their journeys.


Want to learn more?

Victory Gardens – Living History Farm

Urban Farming: More Than A Gardening Organization – Urban Farming

From uniformity to diversity: a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems – CGIAR

About Us – National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

The real value of urban farming. (Hint: It’s not always the food.) – Vox

Top Four Health Benefits to Working on a Farm – Farm Work to Feed Canada

How To Grow Food At Home (Even In A Tiny Apartment) – Forbes

Smart Gardens for a healthier you – Click and Grow

5 Inspiring Urban Community Garden Projects for City-Dwellers – GOODNET

Adaptive Gardens: Access for All – Mother Earth Gardener

Companion Planting Guide for Vegetables – Almanac 

Urban Agriculture in Our Communities – Conservation Law Foundation

Cecilia Hyland
A retired preschool teacher, Cecilia is a Content Writer for ecomadic, and serves as the Project Manager for Weave News. Born and raised in upstate New York, her appreciation for the natural world was nurtured by the Adirondack Mountains and continues to be bolstered throughout her travels. Emboldened by the synchronous experiences of learning and unlearning, her writing and research attempts to focus on how human experience informs our relationships with our environment. She currently resides in San Diego, California where her favourite past-times include people-watching, yoga and spending an exorbitant amount of money on her cat, Pete.