Growing Your Own Food: The Health Benefits

As a divorced mum, money had always been an issue for me; but when Covid resulted in reduced hours of work and the corresponding pay cut, I was quite desperate. I have three growing children and I needed to put food on the table. I have always tried to make sure my kids get a wholesome, balanced diet that incorporates fresh fruit, vegetables and enough protein.

How was I going to do this when I was suddenly earning much less? The price of fresh produce seemed to soar and I found myself feeding my kids more starch and less fresh produce because I simply couldn’t make my dollar stretch that far.

Getting started

A friend suggested growing my own food and it seemed like a fantastic idea – until I realized there was an initial outlay I simply could not afford. I needed to buy seedlings, nutrients for the soil, fencing to keep the dogs out and I had my heart set on owning chickens for the freshest eggs.

I searched the internet for solutions and found betting online to be the perfect fit. I began by using the tips provided, and even with my measly pay, I managed to make up the amount needed in no time. I was super excited when I went to the hardware store and the nursery to buy all the items needed to get started.

The chicken or the egg

We searched for tutorials and together, the kids and I built a chicken coup. We started initially with just four hens because they are the ones who produce eggs. My youngest claimed the chore of feeding the chickens daily and searching for the eggs. She learned a sense of responsibility and how nurturing pays off.

She chatted to the hens each day when she went to feed them and was quite convinced that her chatting increased their egg production. The hens live a natural life, eat only grain and what they scratch out of the ground; they are happy and hormone-free and their eggs taste great.

The vegetable patch

I studied a bit on which vegetables prefer sunlight and which prefer shade, which like a lot of water and which prefer a drier climate. I fenced off a section of the backyard and we planted a row each of carrots, broccoli, green beans, pumpkins, sweet peppers and cauliflower.

My eldest was given the chore of watering the plants and although he was initially a bit reluctant, as soon as the first head of broccoli was ready to be picked, the garden was suddenly “all his idea” and he was happy to take the credit for the delicious, fresh vegetables we were enjoying from our very own backyard.

Fruits of our labor

Fruit proved to be a little more of a challenge because most fruits grow on large trees that take years to produce. After some research, I found that berries were quick and easy to grow. We planted those in pots: strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, which grew quickly and were soon laden with the freshest and most delicious berries we had ever tasted.

My middle child took on the responsibility of watering the berries and harvesting them as soon as they were ready. He was also responsible for making sure that they were free of pests. We used only natural pest repellents to ensure that our fruit was safe.

Family affair

Growing our own food has not only benefited us with the tastiest and freshest produce around, but it has also taught my kids so many lessons. They have developed a sense of responsibility that hard work pays off. It has encouraged them to spend more time outdoors in “nature” instead of watching TV or playing computer games. It has brought us closer as a family, improving relationships and reducing bickering.

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Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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