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Impact

From backyard patches to global impact: Why your home garden matters more than ever

Drew from Rhubarb
January 29, 2024

The challenges facing our food system – from the environmental footprint of industrial agriculture to the vulnerabilities of global supply chains – cast a spotlight on the growing importance of home food gardening. At Rhubarb, we believe in empowering individuals to make a difference, not through isolation but through a balanced approach. We're not here to demonize industrial agriculture or farmers but to raise awareness and create pathways for an equitable food future where everyone plays a role, starting with the end consumer – or, more accurately, the end eater.

Supported by research from the United Nations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and leading environmental academic institutions, we delve into the reasons why transforming our spaces into productive food gardens is not just a hobby, but an essential practice for our times.

Here are some thoughts on how your home garden contributes to a healthier planet and a more resilient food system:

  • Reduced reliance on industrial agriculture: Growing your own food reduces your carbon footprint and supports sustainable farming practices.
  • Increased food security: Homegrown food provides a safety net against disruptions in the food supply chain, offering fresh, healthy options close to home.
  • Empowerment and connection: Gardening fosters a sense of accomplishment and connects you to the natural world and your local community.
  • Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems: Home gardens attract pollinators, promote biodiversity, and contribute to healthy soil and water systems.

Some supporting numbers to chew on:

Industrial Agriculture's Legacy

A staggering 45% of all fruits and vegetables produced worldwide go to waste. This fact highlights a profound inefficiency in our food system. Nearly half of the nutritious food cultivated is never consumed, contributing to environmental degradation without fulfilling its primary purpose of feeding people.

Source: FAO Infographic – Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction

The Economy of You

Home gardening emerges as a potent antidote to the modern woes of price spikes and shortages. The average garden provides a $677 value in produce. In a world where a $10 lettuce has become a possibility, the economic benefits of planting your food are undeniable.

Source: What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?

Vegetable Road Rage

In the United States, the average vegetable travels an astonishing distance from farm to plate. This journey doesn't just contribute to carbon emissions; it also results in up to 80% nutrient loss by the time these vegetables reach our plates. The nutrient value and environmental cost are significant factors to consider.

Source: How far did your food travel to get to you?

Your Patch vs. Industrial Farm

Home gardening is vastly more sustainable than industrial agriculture. When food is grown at home, it emits 81% per kg less CO2 compared to industrial agriculture. In contrast to the monoculture, pesticide use, processing, and plastic packaging of industrial farming, home gardening is a simple, clean process.

Source: Greenhouse Gases Emission from Urban vs. Conventional Produce Production

It Just Takes One Seed

If 1 in 4 households were to grow lettuce at home, 675 million salad mix bags could be saved annually. This shift would greatly reduce the usage of single-use plastic bags, illustrating the collective impact of individual choices.

Source: North America Packaged Salad Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report

Protects the Crops, Not You

By opting for homegrown vegetables, we could reduce pesticide usage by 95%. This not only benefits the environment but also ensures that the food we consume is healthier and free from harmful chemicals.

Source: Economic and environmental impacts of pesticide use in home vegetable gardens in Florida.

Homegrown for Good Health

Individuals consuming homegrown produce are 3.5 times more likely to meet their nutritional needs. This stark difference underscores the health benefits of consuming fresh, nutrient-rich food directly from our gardens.

Source: Fruit and vegetable intake among urban community gardeners

My, That's a Lush Green Lawn

A surprising 50% of outdoor water use is wasted, often on ornamental landscapes. By redirecting this water to grow edible gardens, we can make more efficient and beneficial use of this precious resource.

Source: University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Center for Landscape and Urban Horticulture

Later this year, Rhubarb growers and professionals will be able to unlock the collective impact of their gardens! By analyzing anonymized data on things like crop yields, water usage, and plantings, we'll unveil the impressive nutritional bounty cultivated across the globe. But the journey doesn't end there. This data will become a powerful resource, not just to motivate and inspire, but to fuel positive change at both individual and governmental levels. Imagine gardeners making informed choices based on local insights, while policymakers gain critical data to support local food initiatives and sustainability goals. Through the power of shared knowledge and anonymized data, Rhubarb is poised to cultivate not just food, but a healthier planet and a more resilient food system.