Grow It Yourself
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network
There’s an old adage that if you want a job done well, you should do it yourself. While many 21st century people pursuing “busy lifestyles” do not agree – and rely on manufacturers and retailers to provide an infinite variety of convenience foods and ready meals – there is a growing group in both the U.S. and U.K. that has decided to take growing into its own hands. Literally.
A recent article in London’s Guardian points to a growing love for growing food throughout England, amongst men and women, old and young. New figures from the Horticultural Trades Association show a 31 percent increase in the sales of vegetable seeds with a corresponding 32 percent decline in flower seeds. Onion and potato growing has increased dramatically, and many are looking to grow old varieties of vegetables that the industrial system has left behind and legislation has made hard to grow. In addition to people using their own gardens and window boxes, there are some 330,000 allotments producing thousands of tons of vegetables each year.
In the U.S., Robert Wolke, a professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh, wonders in the Washington Post, “Whose spirits are not lifted by the sight of those first green shoots that emerge in the spring?” Waxing lyrical, he reminds readers of the biblical story in which God awarded them (seeds) third-day priority so that they would “produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.”
There are obviously many reasons for this trend. (Or fad? Who can tell at this point?) The Guardian article suggested several: the political desire to not be beholden to large supermarkets, a new awareness about healthy food and the environment, and deep dissatisfaction with industrially-grown food.
“It’s a fact that chefs are beginning to take up the idea of healthy foods and concern over chemicals,” Geoff Stokes, secretary of the National Association of Allotment and Leisure gardeners, told the Guardian. “Fifty years ago people turned to vegetable gardening to save money. Now it’s for fresh food and lifestyles.”
“I find it the best way to relax, the nearest thing to personal and political freedom,” said Joanne Nutley, 25, a Manchester allotment holder.
Discussion questions: What should manufacturers and retailers take from the “grow your own” trend? Does the behavior of those who grow their own suggest some broader underlying consumer desire and/or need that manufacturers and retailers can be tapping into?
[Author’s Commentary] There is far too much evidence of the demand for convenience and the reluctance of consumers to spend time cooking to pay any serious attention to the few who prefer to spend their leisure time doing it themselves. This is a no-brainer for manufacturers and retailers.
- Digging in: Britain’s green revolution on the home front – Guardian
- Manor from heaven – Observer
- Seeds, Packed With Promise – The Washington Post