gardening course


Welcome to the first lesson of the “Grow Your Own Food” course. I’m Denise Crawley, and since 2014, I’ve been living on three acres in Florida, zone 9b, transforming my property into a thriving food forest.

Module 1:
The Power of Growing Your Own Food

In a world where reliance on government and big agriculture has become the norm, we’ve lost touch with the most basic human skill: growing our own food.

Starting a garden, even a small one, is a great step towards a better way of living as it ensures your family’s food supply and knowing that you can step into your own yard and harvest fresh food when you need it is a powerful feeling. You get to eat fresh and healthy produce right from your backyard, you know exactly what’s in your food and you’re empowered to be less dependent on a fragile food system.

Why Should You Grow Your Own Food?

It’s crucial to understand why you want to grow your own food and what end results you wish to achieve so your motivations will keep you going, especially during the inevitable challenges you may encounter on this journey.

Self-reliance is a key driver. Back during World War II, victory gardens were a massive movement. People grew their own food to take care of themselves, to be more sustainable and to ensure food availability, especially in uncertain times.

Unfortunately, in recent times, we’ve moved away from this self-reliant approach, but the importance remains. The rise of industrial agriculture and globalized food supply chains has increased our dependence on complex, often fragile systems for our most basic needs.

As we navigate the uncertainties of large-scale food production, we encounter another significant issue – the nutritional quality of the food we consume. As we transition towards heavily processed and mass-produced food, we can now meet global demands, but it compromises the nutritional integrity of our diets.

Today’s food contains less nutrients than the food of previous generations. This decline is due to agricultural practices that contribute to soil depletion and selective crop breeding for size and growth rate, rather than nutritional content.

Growing your own food can add way more nutrients into your life and the simple act of tending to your garden, being outside, and connecting with nature has proven benefits for mental health. My children and I have found solace in our garden.

Every day, we’re flooded with news and posts that can make the world seem like a chaotic, stressful place but there’s a simple yet effective way to escape it – get into gardening.

Step into your own yard and create a space that provides you with a happier, healthier and more fulfilling way of spending your time.

Growing your own food not only provides the satisfaction of cultivating fresh produce but a successful garden often yields more fruits, vegetables, and herbs than one household can consume, as well as an excess of seeds and plants that can become a source of extra income from local farmers’ markets, to neighbors, or through community groups can turn your gardening hobby into a profitable venture.

Gardening is not merely about growing food; it’s about growing yourselves. It teaches patience, care, and a sense of accomplishment and independence. This joy extends to your family and friends as well.

In my own experience, gardening has been a transformative activity for my entire family, particularly for my son with Down syndrome. It has given him a space to thrive, develop skills, and I hope to leave it to him one day as an abundance food forest where he can generate food, income and purpose in his life.

Why Do You Want to Grow Your Own Food?

So, it’s essential to dig deep and discover your own motivations for gardening. What’s your purpose? For me, it started as a way to utilize the land I had, but it evolved into something much more profound and a journey that has grown into something truly incredible.

I aim to create a fully functional and sustainable garden where my boys can access their own food, generate income by selling produce, seeds, and plants, and find purpose and meaning in their lives. It’s a profound motivation for me, and it keeps me committed to this journey as we grow lots of food and memories.

Different Gardening Styles: From Large-Scale Farming to Sustainable Practices

Now, let’s explore different gardening styles. Starting with large-scale farming, this approach operates on hundreds of thousands of acres with a primary focus on high efficiency, mass production, and profitability. These farms aim to produce food as quickly as possible, often utilizing high inputs of water, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. While this approach is necessary to feed a large population affordably and efficiently, it also comes with environmental considerations.

For instance, some crops are genetically modified (GMOs) to withstand herbicides or resist pests, and these modifications can affect the nutritional content and environmental impact of the food. GMOs are a complex and debated topic, with safety assessments conducted by the FDA and EPA indicating no significant risks to human health. However, when you grow food on a smaller scale, such as in personal or community gardens, the need for these interventions diminishes. Small-scale farming allows for more sustainable practices, natural varieties that thrive without genetic alterations, and a reduction in chemical treatments.

Small-scale farmers prioritize quality and sustainable practices over mass production, often using fewer chemicals and focusing on organic methods. While the produce from these farms may be more expensive due to increased labor and sustainable practices, it aligns with personal values, supporting environmental stewardship and promoting high-quality, healthful food. So, when you choose to support small-scale farming, you’re not just making a financial decision; you’re making a commitment to health and sustainability.

Discover Your Gardening Style

Gardening comes in various styles, and I want to emphasize that what I do may be entirely different from what you choose to do. Whether you’re practicing container gardening on a small balcony or tending to a vast three-acre plot, there’s a gardening style for you. Don’t feel overwhelmed by some of the more extensive practices I employ; gardening on a smaller scale is equally rewarding and achievable.

Gardening also reduces reliance on fluctuating commercial supply chains, giving you control over your diet and bolstering self-sufficiency during crises or economic instability. Whether you’re converting a tiny balcony into a container garden or tending to acres of land, the principles of gardening remain universally beneficial.

Join me through a unique journey of gardening, where your success is based on your personal progress and the rewards you gained because of it.