As we start out a new year and consider the various ways we could potentially live a more sustainable and successful life in the coming year, I want to take this opportunity to highlight the many benefits of backyard farming and growing fresh food in your own yard, home, or community. Having a small garden (it does not need to be a huge garden) brings a wide variety of short, and long-term benefits to you and your family. A backyard garden is probably one of the best investments you can make that will yield positive returns in many different aspects of your life.

January is a beautiful time for gardening in The Bahamas. It is a great time to take the first steps toward cultivating your growing skills, investing in active time spent outdoors, and developing a love for getting your hands in the soil. Getting back to the basics of backyard growing can undoubtedly benefit you, your family, our country and the entire planet. Again, you can start on a small scale. Planting just a few beans, pumpkins or cassavas is a great place to start.

Physical Health

Working in your garden is a great way to get exercise. Bending down to work with your plants and tending to gardening tasks provides valuable physical activity that can be shared with your children. By growing your own vegetables, you also have a much higher chance of consuming more vegetables, instead of letting them rot in your fridge. There is no doubt that eating fresh produce has many health benefits. This is particularly true for children who are much more likely to eat vegetables if they have been part of the growing process. If getting your children to eat vegetables is a struggle, starting a small vegetable garden might be the best way to remedy this situation. One additional benefit of growing your own vegetables is that you know exactly what chemicals have or have not been used on your vegetables as compared to store-bought vegetables, where we really have no idea what chemicals might have been applied.

Physical Health

Let’s face it: life these days is stressful, and many of us struggle with exhaustion, anxiety, insomnia, and even depression. The good news is that working in your garden can help with

all of these issues. Many studies show that spending time in nature and around plants can improve your mood, decrease your stress, and help you to feel more relaxed. There are now doctors who are prescribing ‘spending time in nature’ as a tool to improve mental health and address some challenges. There is even strong evidence

Pleasure of good food

One of the greatest benefits of growing some of my own food is the added pleasure I get from eating freshly harvested veggies. In The Bahamas, we have become accustomed to the flavor, or lack thereof, and texture of vegetables that have travelled for thousands of miles to get to your plate. However, when we eat vegetables that have been harvested at their peak of ripeness from our garden the flavor and texture is far superior and the experience of eating them is much more pleasurable. My family eats vegetables not just because we know they are good for us but because we truly enjoy eating fresh, good quality vegetables that can be prepared in so many different and tasty ways.

Financial savings

Every pound of vegetables that you pick from your garden means less money spent in the grocery store. The cost of vegetables in The Bahamas is particularly high because we are

currently importing most of our vegetables and shipping adds significant cost to the consumer. Growing your own vegetables will allow you to eat a much better tasting product at a reduced cost! In the long-term you will also gain financial benefits from eating more vegetables because as a healthier individual you will have less medical expenses and more energy to pursue work and pleasure.

Improving your yard

Increasing the amount and diversity of plants in your yard brings many benefits to your yard. Your yard will look more interesting and attractive than just a plain lawn. There is a growing movement of people in the USA and Canada that are removing their lawns and installing gorgeous gardens instead. The more plants you have in your garden the more air and noise pollution they will absorb, resulting in cleaner air and a safer and more peaceful home environment. By strategically planting fruit trees in your yard, you can provide shade that will keep your yard and home cooler in the hot summer months.

Spending quality time with family

In this day and age, where we and our children are all struggling with the addictive nature of phones and tablets, working outside in the garden provides an excellent low-stress activity that we can do together without our devices. Creating intentional time away from devices is important for our, and particularly for our children’s, mental health. Working together on the garden project can provide many beautiful learning opportunities related to math and science and can help to enforce important life skills such as resilience and patience. Seeds take time to germinate, and fruit takes time to ripen so working in the garden is a great way for kids to practice being patient and learn the cycles of nature.

Self-reliance and accomplishment

Self-reliance and accomplishment

It feels great to take control of a small part of your life. So many things are out of our control in our day-to-day lives, but by growing our own food, we can take back some of the power and control over our own destiny. By growing some of your own food you are no longer 100% reliant on the system, big corporations and governments etc., to feed you and take care of you, instead you will be taking an active role in feeding yourself and your family. This feeling is very fulfilling and can lead to making changes in other parts of your life as well that will ultimately make you a healthier, wealthier and more resilient individual.

I hope these few thoughts help you to take some steps this month to start a small garden and begin growing some of your own food to enjoy the many benefits of this practice.

We are offering monthly workshops at the Centre for Training and Innovation (CTI) in Rock Sound, Eleuthera to help you in your journey of growing food and becoming a healthier individual. For more information on this and our virtual backyard farming webinars email: ctifarm@oneeleuthera.org

About One Eleuthera Foundation

Founded in 2012, One Eleuthera Foundation is a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to transforming our local island communities into thriving, self-sufficient ecosystems. We do this by focusing on five key areas: economic ownership, meaningful educational advancement, pathways to wellness, and environmentally sustainable communities centered around our island’s unique cultural identity. We run a number of social enterprises, including CTI, our vocational school; the Retreat Hotel, a training hotel for hospitality students; and our farm and Cooling House, which trains future farmers in the best sustainability and food production practices. Through OEF’s consistent dedicated efforts, the tenacity and resourcefulness of our legacy community, and the support of donors and partners, we are creating change in Eleuthera.