America is facing a food crisis: too much consumption and not enough production of food grown within areas close to major populations. That’s why the people at Hungry Mother Organics, an organic nursery in Minden, NV, decided to form a Backyard Farming association in the Carson Valley-Reno corridor of northern Nevada.
Mark O’Farrell, Owner and Operator of Hungry Mother Organics, and Stacey Hamburg, Community Program Coordinator at Hungry Mother Organics / FOCUS, met with about thirty people from Carson Valley to survey interest in such an organization.
They suggested that the members could pay a small amount of dues and receive 15 percent off purchases of farm plants, soil, and tools at Hungry Mother. The group would meet once a month to share information about how to grow food in residential plots, and trade produce and tools with each other.
By meeting’s end, most people decided to form a simpler network that would not rely so heavily on keeping track of money or enforcing by-laws. A monthly meeting at an agree-upon place would suffice. When people’s backyard produce came into season, members could bring it to meetings to trade with others.
Thus, the Carson Valley-Reno Backyard Farming Network was born.
Encouraging families to grow their own food is not a new idea, Hamburg reminded attendees. During WWII, Americans were encouraged to have Victory Gardens so that farm produce could be diverted to the GIs in the war zones. By doing this, American families were able to provide 40 percent of the nation’s food supply.
Now the Backyard Farming Movement has emerged to bring back this effort. As energy prices increase, food production and transportation will make food more expensive if not more unavailable. Food safety has also become an issue.
In some areas, such as inner city neighborhoods, grocery stores are not within walking distance of those who are unable to drive. These residents are then forced to eat convenience market foods, such as, corn dogs and chips rather than fresh fruits and vegetables.
Organizations such as Will Allen’s Growing Power, Inc., began as a way of solving this problem in northside Milwaukee. He wanted to find ways to employ teenagers in the neighborhood and teach them a skill. What he eventually got was a nationally-respected “laboratory” for ideas and education for anyone interested in farming on small plots in urban areas. And he made fresh fruit and vegetables available to inner city neighborhoods.
What this and similar programs around the country have shown is that anyone can produce even a small portion of their own food with a bit of training and a small investment of cash. Hungry Mother estimates that a $500 investment in soil, plants and tools will yield over $1,200 in vegetables and fruit.
Of course, that varies with environments. A Dayton, NV, family told the meeting attendees that water in that area is so full of minerals, “it kills everything.” Likewise, Great Basin winters typically last through Memorial Day, tantalizing gardeners with beautiful spring weather in April only to freeze new plantings with snow in May. Even cold hardy vegetables need to be guarded from sudden dips in temperature.
At the meeting, everyone had the chance to tell about their current situations and ambitions for farming. Some had suburban lots with only a few feet of space. Others had recently purchased as much as 10 to 20 acres of land and wondered what they could with it.
Over the coming months, these concerns will be answered by the experts and other gardeners in the network. O’Farrell hopes that members will eventually be able and willing to bring their experience and expertise to local schools and community garden groups to help them do a better job of local food production.
Barbara Kingsolver stated in her book, Animal,Vegetable, Miracle, that if everyone ate just one meal a week made up of locally and organically raised food, we could reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 30 million gallons of oil every week.
Besides energy savings, we could be relatively sure our food is fresh and safe.