This is an excerpt for an article I wrote in the Bristol-Harold Courier, explaining the benefits of growing your own produce…

There are a number of reasons why families choose to buy local – supporting their community; eating fresher, safer food, but generally, people tend not to consider growing their own produce.  The average carrot travels over 1800 miles to get to your dinner plate, and 93% of the money you dish out for those carrots is paying for processors, packagers, distributors, wholesalers, and truckers.  That means that only 7% of your dollar is actually paying for the produce in question; so imagine the money that could be saved if three-quarters of that food was grown in your backyard!

There is no doubt that creating and maintaining a garden takes time, but starting small and succeeding is a much better model than going big and failing.  So what are the other major benefits of starting a garden?  Well many of them are psychological; cultivating veggies creates a sense of pride, and that means a greater likelihood in getting creative with the food you are harvesting, rather than starting from scratch at the local grocery.  On average, American families throw away over $600 worth of food each year; this tends to happen a fraction of the time when it is “your” food that you raised.  A study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association also found that preschool children served homegrown produce were more than twice more likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day than kids who rarely or never ate homegrown produce.

Knowing where your food comes from, and what was put on it is comforting and healthier in itself, but the process that leads up to harvest promotes physical health as well; gardening for 45 minutes burns the same amount of calories as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.  Gardening is a hobby that provides consistent health incentives, both during the cultivation process and after harvest, when it is time for a meal to be served.

But I am sure after reading this, you are wondering where you would start if you were to consider such an idea.  Well, I work for a food access program called Grow Your Own, which is managed by Appalachian Sustainable Development.  Our goal is to empower locals in need with organic gardening education and resources.  We offer seeds, transplants, tools, tilling services and supplies to first-time gardeners.  In partnership with Abingdon’s Faith in Action food pantry, we are able to host a demonstration garden, where we grow with our participants.  All of our food in the demonstration garden is donated directly to the food pantry, and our excess is sold at Glade Spring Farmers Market.

We currently help support 30 local families and 5 community gardens.  Last month, our participants harvested a combine total of 4,000 pounds of produce for their families.  We invite all to come to our bimonthly workshops, which are open to the community.  For more information please call (276) 623-1121 or email  The amount of money that can be saved, and nutrition that can be gained is monumental, and there is nothing quite like growing your own food.