Personal gardens a lush idea

The modernist alienation from production is nowhere more apparent than in produce. We live in a world where many of us have never eaten a thing we have grown ourselves Food prices, in terms of resources as well as currency, are becoming too expensive to allow us to maintain the current status quo of big agro-business and monoculture foods. Fortunately, the victory garden is making a comeback in the Slow Food movement, farmer’s markets and urban harvest gardens.

The idea that somehow healthy eating is unpleasant, a thing to be borne versus enjoyed, is pervasive and misleading. Fortunately, we live in the greatest "foodie" town in the United States and arguably one of the best in the world. In addition to the variety of foods, we also have the benefit of being a hub for the Slow Food movement. Slow Food is the tongue-in-cheek antithetical response to fast food – specific preparation, known provenance, integrated spicing and healthy ingredients – the exact opposite of picking up a fatty, salt-laden burger-in-a-box.

Slow food is not only for vegetarians or vegans, but also involves higher standards for meats, involving free-range or grass-fed animals, such as buying direct from the grower, and growth hormone-free beef. They also involve alternative meats to the standard American fare, such as bison or ostrich. The battle cry of "eat where you live" applies across the sideboard, from meats and cheeses to produce and honey. The local Houston climate and rural proximity allows us access to a large, year-round selection of fruits and vegetables, and the cosmopolitan population allows us healthier alternatives to standard preparation and spicing for relatively high availability and low prices.

The idea of growing one’s own food could very easily be applied to campus living. In a city where progressive software companies are subsidizing their employees’ in-house cafeterias with food and spices grown on-site in landscape gardens, we here at the University can certainly make the case for edible landscaping. We already have a huge team of gardeners and landscapers, funds already established for cultivation of the grounds and lots of arable land. We could begin installing attractive food plantings for later use either at a farmer’s market hosted on the UH campus, analogous to the one hosted at Rice University on Tuesday afternoons, or for use in other ways by students. The program could end up mitigating its cost or paying for itself outright.

Healthier food means healthier people. It also means tastier food and provides the opportunity for education of the populace about food habits. We already equate healthy bodies with healthy minds and commit our dollars to college athletic programs, gymnasiums and a health center.

Re-engineering a food production and distribution system is not going to be easy. It’s going to, like most changes in this great experiment, require a commitment from the grassroots level and the ingenuity and motivation of the everyday American. With reasonable effort, pocket gardens could be as oft-visited as the local pool and provide opportunities for exercise, emotional investment and family bonding. It begins when you eat something you grow, even if it’s as small as the mint sprig for your iced tea.

Mohammed, an anthropology freshman, can be reached via [email protected]

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