Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

How Does Your Garden Grow?

How does your garden grow? All over the country families are preparing to start a backyard garden this spring. This time it will be a victory garden of a different sort- a financial victory and maybe even a nutritional victory. The movement to eat locally grown products and buy locally is sweeping the country for many reasons.

The economic crisis the country is experiencing is a creature that has so many tentacles and is so far reaching that Americans are looking in every direction to improve the quality of their lives while saving money. People are valuing time spent together doing activities that strengthen the core of the family. Laboring in the garden together and then cooking and eating the bounty are activities that can bring family members closer while children learn. Even a small container garden will bring great rewards.

We are so fortunate to have access to locally grown food from farmers’ markets and vegetable stands and neighbors who share. A dollar spent in a community business does not leave the area and benefits many people. Vegetables purchased in some grocery stores often have spent days or weeks in storage and transit. Even organic food loses some benefits if it has to travel a long distance.

Local vegetables have been handled less, are safer, and retain their fresh taste plus most people just think they taste better. Many people only eat tomatoes in season because there is no comparison in taste with those purchased in the winter. Vitamins and minerals are retained more successfully when the produce is eaten soon after it is picked.

You might want to ask yourself how much eastern oil did it take to get the apple to me? Transporting goods makes us more dependent on costly foreign oil. Also, the effects of pollution produced by trucks carrying the products are harmful to the environment in general.

Eating locally produced honey can have even more benefits than many people may realize. Honey contains small amounts of pollen from the ecosystem in which it was produced. By eating local honey, you receive allergens which is almost like getting a vaccine in small doses which may reduce allergy symptoms.

On first Saturdays in the coming months kids can bring a 2 liter bottle to Port Discover and plant a vegetable to be transferred to their gardens later. AgCarolina Financial provides funding for Project Grow at the center. Programs at the center during March focus on National Nutrition Month. Angie and John Lamberson, registered dietitians and owners of Nutrition Pair, LLC presented a Kinetic Kids program “Eat Right with Color,” made possible by the Albemarle Hospital Foundation.

The health benefits of having your own garden or buying locally are numerous. Get out in the fresh air and sunshine this spring. Plant a garden or go to the Farmers’ Market in downtown Elizabeth City or buy produce at your favorite vegetable stand. Make it a family affair and experience the benefits first hand.
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