Picture of cooked vegetable dish

Lessons Learned in Veggie Gardening and Other Tips for Eating Local

Hey Sam,

I’m curious how your vegetable garden turned out? I struggled a bit with mine and I’m curious what lessons you learned or other advice you have for finding food locally to help our planet?



Hi Matt,

What a glorious summer we’ve had!  I read that Minnesota’s corn crop is its best in years.  I wish I had the same glowing report about my vegetable garden!  While my inaugural effort at growing vegetables was not a failure,  I would not go so far as to say I got a bumper crop. My tomatoes were afflicted with a condition called “blossom end rot” which occurs basically from overzealous watering and the chipmunks loved to feast on the healthy ones the moment they turned even the slightest hue of red.  I didn’t put my strawberries in a sunny enough spot so I got a beautiful full and leafy strawberry plant but not a single strawberry. And the rabbits really enjoyed my broccoli so I never got to.

But there were a few bright spots.  I grew about 10 beautiful zucchini and a bunch of onions and scallions.  With those I made delicious Zucchini Parmesan and a new dish called Tian.  My butternut squash plant had several blooms so I’m hoping for some nice butternut squash in a few weeks.  I managed a few small but tasty yellow and red peppers.  And my herbs flourished!  So much beautiful basil, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (lalalala).  I made caprese, mojitos and French potato salad.  Yum!  I also managed to grow romaine lettuce well into July so we ate many tasty, fresh, truly homemade salads.

So while I am not going to survive the Minnesota winter on my harvest, I did produce some food.  There were a few things that I really loved about having my own vegetable garden.  First, when I harvested something I was so proud and pleased that I grew it myself.  There was a satisfaction to knowing that a little effort on my part produced the food I was going to enjoy.  Second, because I grew it myself, I wanted to be sure to eat it (no food waste!) and this prompted me to prepare new dishes like the Zucchini Parmesan which would never have occurred to me if I was buying food at a grocery store. And third, there was unexpected pleasure in puttering around my little plot, weeding and checking on the plants – a lovely and peaceful morning ritual.

Trying out a vegetable garden was fun and educational and I learned a lot that I will apply to another garden next year.  But it also gave me a renewed appreciation for food production and its importance in our busy lives and in our fragile environment. Watching a plant flower,seeing that flower turn into a vegetable,  observing the vegetable grow ever bigger and more robust until you harvest it and then enjoy its wonderful taste and texture is a profound experience that focuses your attention on how truly marvelous the natural world is.  It has renewed my commitment to trying to live sustainably in order to help our local environment and communities thrive.

To live a more sustainable life, I am going to focus more on where my food is coming from.  Large scale agriculture and agribusiness, in general, are not considered sustainable ways to produce food.  They contribute to the degradation of soils and water quality, decrease the biodiversity of our food and have serious social justice problems related to living wages, poor working conditions and environmental racism.  And while it is not yet practical for me to source all my food locally, buying more of my food from local sources such as farmers markets and Co-ops is not only the healthier option for me and my family, it is a more sustainable option for my community and those who live in it.  

My colleague came across this list of 10 reasons to buy local food that I think is really clear and succinct so I thought I’d share it.  I also found this great publication from the University of Minnesota that provides lots of informatiton and resources about how to buy food locally.  

 If you, our faithful readers, have any suggestions on particular items you like to buy local, or places you shop for locally sourced products, please share them with us at info@tangletown.org. I’d love to expand my horizons to see more of the wonderful, local and sustainable work that is happening in our communities and to contribute to its success by being more conscientious about my food sourcing.

Sustainability Sam