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With the Independence Day holiday this week, our biggest fireworks are in the garden: This time of year those little seeds we planted in the early spring explode into our first zucchini, broccoli and green beans. It looks like the beets are ready to start eating as well. We feel abundant gratitude as our kitchen countertop is covered with buckets of kale, spinach and Swiss chard. The Fourth of July has over the years evolved into an early Thanksgiving of sorts, as we give thanks for all we have and appreciation for everything else coming this season.
Independence Day is thereby the perfect time of year to express our gratitude by recommitting ourselves to true food independence, the ability to “shop” these abundance garden “aisles” and not rely on products from the supermarket. That’s what we find exciting and inspiring about the concept of food independence: It’s very much an ongoing, evolving effort. We can always use new ideas and sources of motivation.
Here are five ways to implement food independence this gardening season and beyond:
1. Grow Basil
There are many reasons why that little 1.5-ounce package of basil costs so much, one of which is costly shipping. Basil wilts quickly, so a lot of energy and effort go into bringing it quickly to its point of sale. What isn’t sold often goes to waste. By growing your own basil plant, even if it’s in a container on the patio, you can save money and make pesto all summer.
2. Plant Too Much
We all know the zucchini jokes about sticking them in your neighbors’ car when they aren’t looking. But there’s more to that story than just passing along vegetables: By sharing our abundance, we help strengthen community ties. When neighbors and friends share in our garden harvest, we all win when connections among our neighbors grow. Also, you never know what will come back your way: We gave our neighbor Anna some of our snap peas, and she dropped off some amazing lemon curd along with her recipe.
Composting might truly be the ultimate patriotic act—creative recycling at its finest. By composting, not only do you keep food waste out of the landfills, you utilize the nutrients to feed and improve the health of the soil.
4. Raise Perennials
Produce such as asparagus and berries should be dubbed the independence powerhouse: You plant them once, and they keep growing and giving every year. Our fellow Wisconsin farmer friend and devout currant grower Erin Schneider of Hilltop Community Farm calls perennial fruits a means to food security.
“By eating more seasonal and locally grown fruits, such as currants, during the summer, we’re reducing fossil-fuel consumption while increasing our ability to feed ourselves within our community, which all add up to increased food security,” Schneider says.
5. Make Ice Cream
None of these ideas are that difficult, but the concept of ice cream adds a fun flavor twist to our journey of food independence. As with basil, ice cream comes with its own fossil-fuel-based baggage—it’s a transported frozen item. That said, we love and eat our fair share of summertime ice cream, and a couple of years ago found a small electric ice cream maker and aim to use that exclusively in the summer. We can control our ingredients, using organic milk and heavy cream from Wisconsin-based Organic Valley Family of Farms along with Fair Trade Certified sugar and bountiful garden fruit, such as strawberries. We’ve also done the hand-cranked, old-fashioned version and quickly concluded that this works well if we have at least a dozen kids on hand eager to crank. The small and electric version is much more accessible and motivating for us to use more often.
Have a great Fourth of July holiday. Here’s to continuing to explore this journey toward food independence together.