Homesteading: How to Grow 100 Percent of Your Food

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Many Americans believe that to feed a city, it takes miles and miles of machine-laid and chemically-grown crops. But in reality, with the right soil and a little space, you can grow enough food to feed your family in your backyard. A homestead garden is your ticket to becoming self-sufficient and less reliant on commercial grocery stores. In fact, there’s no better time than now to become self-reliant — especially with the pandemic still looming over our heads and climate change on the forefront. Here’s what you need to know to grow 100 percent of your food.    

Self-Sufficient Living, is it possible?

The end-game for many homesteaders is to be completely self-reliant. Many aspire to grow 100 percent of their own food so that they never have to rely on modern-day conveniences like grocery stores again. But, is it just a pipe dream, or is it a possibility? Many believe it is possible.  However, turning your dream into a reality is a project in itself. Building a self-sufficient homestead garden is not something you can just decide to create overnight and poof… you’re on your way in a day or two. You’ll need to research, prep, and plan.

How much food do you need to survive?

To grow enough food to survive, you’ll need know how much food you actually need to stay alive. If you’re feeding a family, then you’ll need to take into consideration everyone’s caloric requirements. For instance, according to Health Canada men, 19 to 50 years old, need approximately eight to 10 fruits and veggies, eight grains, two dairy (or alternatives), and three proteins per day. Females, 19 to 50 years old, need 7 to 8 fruits and veggies, eight grains, two dairy (or alternatives), and three proteins per day.  

Getting plant-based calcium

Out of the four food groups, dairy isn’t absolutely necessary for optimal health. However, your body does require calcium, vitamins, and additional nutrients that you get from dairy products. And for many people, dairy is the easiest way to get calcium, vitamin D, and protein to keep the heart, muscles, and bones healthy. Small-spaced homesteaders or those living a vegan lifestyle need to consider plant-based sources for calcium and other nutrients.

To get the same nutrients from your crops alone, you need to rely mainly on green leafy vegetables and nuts to get your daily amounts of calcium and protein, suggests Harvard Health. So, you can see how important it is to take all of your nutrient requirements into consideration before choosing which fruits and vegetables you will grow in your garden.

Growing alternative sources of protein

Protein is vital for bone health, cardiovascular health, and increasing muscle mass and strength, among other things. Previous research suggests that animal-based foods are superior protein sources, since they have a complete composition of essential amino acids, with high digestibility and bioavailability. However, unless you have a homestead that’s large enough to accommodate livestock, raise chickens for eggs, fish or hunt, animal protein may not be an option. Additionally, if either for ethical or health reasons, you prefer a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, then animal protein is obviously not for you.

Here’s the good news. Recently, science has been exploring alternative protein sources and transitioning towards more sustainable, plant-based diets. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, plant-based sustainable diets are not only better for the environment but also provide solid nutrition for healthy living in the present and for generations to come. 

Sustainable diets are also protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems. In addition, plant-based proteins are accepted by all cultures, are more readily available and affordable, nutritionally sound, safe, and healthy.

Here are the best alternative sources for protein

There are 20 amino acids in a complete protein. Unfortunately, the human body cannot produce all of them on its own. So, to be considered a complete protein, your plant-based proteins must contain the nine essential amino acids your body can’t make. Here are a few great sources of plant-based protein.

Quinoa — Quinoa is similar to couscous, yet it has a crunchier texture and a nutty flavor. It adapts to most soils but grows best in fertile, well-drained earth.

Edamame — Edamame are immature, slightly sweet, green soybeans. Steamed or boiled, they make an excellent snack or can be added to soups, salads, and grain bowls. Edamame is definitely a warm-weather plant, so if you live in an area that gets frost, start seeds indoors and transplant them into your garden beds once the weather warms up.

Amaranth — A popular gluten-free alternative to wheat, amaranth can be used as a side dish or made into porridge. Additionally, when popped over heat it adds texture to salads or granola bars. Amaranth seeds need warm soil to sprout and can be easily damaged in early spring. Therefore, you’ll need to wait until the soil warms before planting.

Food wastage around the world

Between farms, processing plants, retailers, grocery stores, and our kitchens, 2.8 trillion pounds of food is lost annually worldwide. In fact, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, estimates that one-third of all food produced for human consumption around the world is wasted.

That’s enough nourishment to feed three billion people. And in the U.S. the food waste is even more prevalent. More than 30 percent of food, valued at $162 billion annually, is thrown out. Imagine growing, canning, and living solely off the food of your land? There would be far less waste, and fewer carbon emissions, pesticides, and fertilizers.

Research, research, and more research

The bottom line, to successfully grow 100 percent of your food requirement, you need to do some extensive research for your homestead garden. For instance: 

  • Find out what types of plants will grow best in your small, medium, or large garden by speaking with local growers, attending classes, watching YouTube, going to your local library, community gardens, and even checking out what’s growing locally around you.
  • Learn whatever skills you need to become successful: Canning, baking, forging, sprouting, and even beekeeping (for sweetening foods and medicinal benefits).

Growing your own food takes hard work, passion, and commitment. But in the end, you will gain a healthier lifestyle — both physically and nutritionally — lessen your carbon footprint, and save money.

-Katherine Marko   

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