Whether you live in the city and only have room for container gardening or you have plenty of sunny space, you can derive major benefits from growing your own veggies and fruits. They will be free of mystery pesticides, they'll taste better, you can save some money, you'll get more exercise and be healthier, and you'll even be doing your part to reduce the demand for imported produce.
Growing your own can be cheaper
The initial expense associated with getting started in gardening isn't that great. Although you may need to do some soil remediation once you choose your garden spot or buy some good potting and raised bed mix, the cost of growing your own will drop significantly with subsequent harvests. Dr. Bob Randall, an ecological anthropologist, teacher, and author of the gardening book Year Round Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers for Metro Houston, calculated that the initial cost of producing a single head of broccoli in a new garden was about 58 cents, but once the garden was established, that cost dropped to five cents per head. For the sake of accuracy, those numbers have been adjusted for inflation. Try and buy a head of broccoli at the store for five cents.
Consider, also, the cost of traveling to and from the store as well as the convenience factor. If you're grilling burgers and forgot to buy the lettuce, someone will need to make a quick trip to the grocery store. That costs more and is far less convenient than making a trip to the back yard to pick what you need.
The health benefits
Healthline.com published an article stating that approximately 40% of Americans suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supports muscle function and immune health. Exposure to sunshine converts cholesterol into vitamin D. As long as you're careful not to burn, getting out in the sun to do some gardening increases your level of vitamin D and the associated health benefits thereof.
The physical exercise associated with gardening is beneficial as well. Doctors John Rowe and Robert Kahn, co-authors of the book Successfully Aging, compared couch potatoes to cigarette smokers. They recommended moderate exercise, specifically including gardening in their list of suggested activities, to improve health and reduce the risk of cancer, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. In his book, Dr. Bob Randall stated that those who exercise by gardening or engaging in other moderate levels of activity at least five days per week have a heart attack risk factor that is only two percent that of sedentary individuals.
Consuming organically-grown vegetables that have not been sprayed with pesticides promotes good health as well. Eating your veggies reduces cancer risks. Dr. Randall's book cited 128 studies that found those whose diets were highest in vegetable content were less likely to get cancer than the average person. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits provides many essential nutrients and is rich in anti-oxidants and fiber as well.
Pesticides have been cited as possible contributing factors in cancer cases, immune systems problems, birth defects, and many other health conditions. If you grow your food yourself, you are in control of what, if any, potentially hazardous chemicals you use. There are organic and non-toxic ways to protect your crops from pests. Articles with recommendations are readily available online, including many provided on The Old Farmer's Almanac site. They include tips like spraying a mix of soapy water on your plants' leaves, using row covers, mixing in plants that repel harmful insects, attracting beneficial bugs and birds to do the work for you, and even using saucers of stale beer to lure in and eliminate slugs. Using methods like these, you'll make sure that the vegetables you're feeding your family are safe and free of pesticides and other potentially toxic chemicals.
Growing food at home reduces the demand for imported produce
Where do your vegetables and fruits come from? A quick Internet search will reveal that the amount of fruits and vegetables imported into the United States has dramatically increased over the last few decades. For example, and article posted by Food & Wine at foodandwine.com/news/fruit-vegetables-imported cites research revealing that the US imported 26% of its fruit in 1975. By 2016, that figure had risen to 53%. During the same period, US vegetable imports rose from 5.8% to 31.1%. Per the Food & Wine article, the increase at least partially resulted from revisions made to the Department of Agriculture's regulations. These revisions allowed countries previously banned from exporting fruits and vegetables to the US due to the possible presence of diseases and invasive pests to begin doing so. This begs the question of how much control the US Department of Agriculture could possibly have over what is being applied to the plants producing vegetables and fruits in foreign countries.
Last and certainly not least, homegrown just tastes better and is much fresher
The vast majority, if not all, of the vegetables and fruits you buy at your grocery store were harvested well before they were completely ripe. They ripened during shipment. They never had the chance to develop the flavor profiles they would have developed if ripened on the plant or tree. Sugars in some vegetables and fruits can convert to starches during shipment from the farm to the store. Vitamin levels, especially levels of vitamin C, begin to decrease after harvest.
When you buy from the store, you usually don't have the option to purchase just a few leaves of lettuce for a sandwich or the two green onions you need for a recipe. You are, in many instances, forced to buy a quantity of items you don't need at the time and that you may not be able to use before they go bad. As a home gardener, you have the option to harvest as the need arises and only pick what you need at the time. What you do pick could not be any fresher.
Need more convincing? Take the tomato challenge. Find a gardener in your area with some vine-ripened tomatoes who is willing to let you pluck one off the plant. Do a side-by-side taste test and compare the flavor and juiciness of your neighbor's tomato to that of one you bought at the store. There is no need for further persuasion.
Gardening isn't that difficult or expensive. In fact, you'll save money in the long run growing your own produce. You don't need a great deal of space. You can grow vegetables, berries, and fruits in containers if space is scarce. You'll get exercise and increase your vitamin D levels. Your homegrown produce will have higher vitamin content and taste better than store-bought. The difference in taste of some varieties will surprise you. You and your family will not be consuming pesticides and other potentially harmful chemicals, perhaps including chemicals used by foreign growers that are not subject to the same regulatory scrutiny as US-based farmers. Helpful articles for new gardeners are readily available online, so what are you waiting for?