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Thursday, April 25, 2024

How to start growing your own food

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Starting a garden, farm or growing food can become a journey of self-sustainability with many lifetime benefits.

“I think getting your hands in the dirt, there’s something about reconnecting with the Earth. When you’re gardening, you’re going to be outside, you’re going to be in the sun, you’re going to be getting fresh air, you’re going to be interacting with animals, even insects and things of that nature, and I think it just connects us back to the Earth,” said Sylvester Friend, one of the farmers behind Prairie Hills Farm – a farm in Selma, Indiana – on the benefits of growing your own food.

Friend started Prairie Hills Farms with his wife Sabrina in 2021, but the farm’s roots started with their home garden in 2018. At that time, Friend and his family moved from Michigan to Georgia for work, and he said he decided to start a garden after talking to his wife one day.

He started it on the balcony of his house, growing the vegetables they already ate and cooked. Then, an experience with the food they grew drove his family to become serious about growing and gardening.

“One time when I was away from home for work, my wife needed bell pepper, and we had two little girls at the time, and she was just like, ‘I don’t really feel like packing the kids up, going to the grocery store and all that,’ and then that’s when she was like, ‘Oh, well, I think there’s bell pepper out on the deck.’ So, she went out to the deck and got a bell pepper. Something was so different about dinner when we were talking about it that night, and she was like, ‘It was the bell pepper. It was so fresh,’ and she was just ranting and raving about how good it was. That’s really what was the beginning of our growing, our gardening journey,” Friend said.

From there, they started to grow their garden organically as time passed until they moved to Indiana to support the space needed to sustain their food. Prairie Hills Farms now sells fresh produce, whole chickens, eggs, goats and honey made from their bees.

Friend knows the benefits of a garden from a life of experience.

“It was apparent that the food was different. The meat tasted different. The vegetables were fresh and crisp for a lot longer, and they just tasted different. So, you could truly tell immediately that farm-fresh food just had a different taste, a different flavor, and it was more pronounced,” Friend said.

He also emphasized the physical and mental benefits of going outside, being in the sun and interacting with Earth.

Eric Brown has been gardening since he was two years old. While he said gardening allows him to cut down on grocery store purchases, it is the mental benefit of gardening that he feels matters most. 

“That’s kind of how I get away from the things that I have to deal with on a daily basis. When I get out in the garden, and I intentionally don’t wear gloves because I want to touch the soil, whatever is going on, for that hour or two, it goes away,” Brown said.

His garden is 4 feet by 12 feet and contains many greens, including collard greens, mustard greens and broccoli. It may not be a farm, but it produces enough food for him to share with his neighbors. Brown says it does not take a lot to make a lot when growing your food.

Friend and Brown shared tips for people who are just getting started with gardening.

Friend recommends having a plan before you start because there are so many things about gardening you cannot control. He also recommends starting small with the foods you already like to eat.

Brown also recommends starting small and learning what does and does not grow during the current season.

However, or whenever the beginning is, Friend and Brown both said growing food can be a great way to feed your physical and mental self with healthy, safe options.

Contact Racial Justice Reporter Garrett Simms at 317-762-7847.

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