Why Grow Your Own Food (Even if You Can't Grow ALL Your Own Food!)


When I first started gardening, I struggled with this question. I had worked on farms for several years, and as a farmer, I was so used to asking “is this particular crop cost effective to grow?” So when I started gardening, while still working at a farm with plenty of access to fresh produce, the answer was “no”....because I could almost always have the same produce item cheap or free from the farm.

But nonetheless, I started gardening anyway. So why grow your own food at all, especially in a small space? Ultimately, you will have your own reasons (even if they are as simple as “I’m kinda curious about trying it.”) Here are some of my own compelling reasons to grow food, even in a small space.

  1. The average person does not have access to cheap or free produce fresh from the farm, so learning to grow can increase the amount or variety of produce available.

  2. Produce in the grocery store may have been in transit for up to 2 weeks before making it onto a store shelf. When you pick food you’ve grown yourself, you have the option of eating it the same day it is picked. This leads to better flavor, better enjoyment of the food, and better nutrition.

  3. Most people find the act of growing their own food to be extremely rewarding, fun, exciting, and relaxing, once they work through any initial overwhelm.

  4. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, we’re going to need to increase global food production by 70 percent over the next 40 years to keep pace with population growth. This means that even if we all learn to grow a little bit of our own food, we’ll probably be rewarded in terms of better food access or more affordable food in the years to come.

  5. Like many skills, most people take years to become good and efficient at growing their own food. This means that there is no time like the present to jump in and learn! If next year, you found yourself in a position to need to grow your own food, you will be grateful to have some experience under your belt.

  6. If you have children in your home or your neighborhood, normalizing gardening at a young age can impact them for the rest of their lives. The garden provides real-life lessons in botany, soil science, patience, empathy, nutrition and more.

  7. Most people are reluctant to waste produce they have grown themselves, which can lead to including more produce in the diet (if that is your goal; here at Happy Belly Gardening, I don’t push any particular dietary goals on you).

  8. It’s beautiful and can connect you to the ecosystem in a meaningful way.

In our culture, many of us can be prone to “black and white,” “all or nothing” kinds of thinking, and that can prevent us from getting started on new projects. If we fear failure or can’t do it all, we trick ourselves into thinking that it is not worth doing at all.

In my experience though, one of the best ways to learn to garden and stick to it is to start small! So if you can’t grow ALL your own food (and don’t worry, most of us can’t here in the Merrimack Valley!), start by growing something! It will teach you many of the lessons you need to know in order to expand your growing horizons in years to come. Take a step forward, no matter how small.

My friend Justine Lustig coined a phrase and a hashtag “all or something.” If you can’t do it all, do something! Can’t have a large garden? That’s okay! Can you grow herbs and lettuce on your window sill?

And if you need help….I’m here for you! I offer garden coaching and planning services, both remotely as well as in person in the Merrimack Valley. Want help in your growing adventure? Drop me a line!

Happy Growing,


Bethany Bellingham