Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Growing your own grains
Well, I have been really thinking about this food shortage. It is a disturbing thought, being a mother and a pregnant woman, I cant help but think of the importance of access to healthy and sustaining food for our family - and what would we do if we couldn't have it? Panic rises within me just at the thought of not being able to feed my children - how hard it must be for families in countries where this fear is a reality. I dont really know any more about it than what I read in the internet, and hear on the news, but its enough to have me concerned and thinking about what we can do here. Alberta, a large, wealthy province, mostly dedicates its land to wheat mono-agriculture, and yet, flour and bread here has doubled in price. Granted, there are not many people in Alberta who will die due to this price change, but it gives a hint of how close we are to the rest of the world. Also, since we have been making all our own bread recently, and I go through a big bag of oats every couple weeks, it makes me wonder what it may be like to try to grow these things for ones own sustainability.
I did some research and found an article that talks about growing grains in your own garden. (This article too!) Granted I am not a farmer, nor have i tried any of these things, but I would love to experiment. From what I can tell, the major reasons that people do not grow their own grains is because the ratio between harvested food and the size of plot is low compared to other vegetables, and also the historical difficulty with milling the grain. From my research it looks like, yes, it would be difficult to sustain a families needs for grains in a urban backyard. But you could grow a plot of wheat or oats, and have grains for special occasions throughout the year - much like the amount of produce we normally get from a vegetable garden. Also, the milling has become much easier with small, electronic mills. I have a friend who has one and their family mills their own flour in their basement, which keeps the entire grain and makes a healthier and tasty bread. (True whole grain is not what you buy in the store, because part of the grain goes rancid after being milled in a couple days - so you have to mill it fresh yourself.)
But, if you had a small piece of land - like a Acre or something it actually may be possible to grow your own grains, to support your family, and a couple small animals - like chickens. Then your family would be very well off in any food shortage (throw in some sustainable grey-water irrigation from your house, and some good permaculture principles, and you may never go hungry again...) The thing about grains is that even though you don't get pounds and pounds of food from the garden, the food value (energy) in the food is much higher than other typical garden vegetables, so it actually evens out in the end. Anyways, I live in a condo right now so all this is just talk - but I tell you... one day soon!