I tried kitchen gardening back in Mumbai

In October, I resigned from office to prep for my wedding in December. In the meantime, I decided to try my hand at things that will be useful to me and my family someday. One of those things was kitchen gardening, a.k.a. urban farming, urban horticulture, container gardening, etc.

I was always into gardening, so that’s how it hit me that I should go a level higher. As a kid, we had a little garden right in front of our house, oh what a privilege that was in a place like Mumbai. I would often spend time pruning, watering, earthing up, potting up and so on. It was my meditation.

During my little vacation, I looked up for workshops and I found out there was one near the place I studied. It was being conducted by an organization called Urban Leaves. Urban Leaves is a collaborative urban farming project driven by volunteers. Such organizations are coming out of the need for people to become self-sufficient and healthy. Many people are aware of the consequences of chemical pesticides in our food, although not many are aware of our dependence on food imports and consequences thereof.

How your food is grown, stored, transported, processed and cooked can all influence how it impacts climate change and the environment. – NRDC

Food mile is a mile over which a food item is transported from producer to consumer, as a unit of measurement of the fuel used to do this. It deals with the broader issue of sustainability which deals with a large range of environmental, social and economic issues.

Yet food mile doesn’t show all the impacts of food transport, in which case Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) does a better job. LCA takes into account embodied energy and water involved with producing food. According to a study launched in 2007, the food in a typical Australian’s shopping basket has traveled a staggering 70,803 kilometres to reach Melbourne — equivalent to almost two trips around the world.

So, have these guys been thinking about this for so long? Not as long as this Swedish researcher who in 1993 calculated that the ingredients of a typical Swedish breakfast traveled a distance equal to the circumference of the Earth before reaching the Scandinavian table.

Since the green revolution, India has come a long way avoiding famines. Self-sufficiency shouldn’t have been a problem in a country with the largest irrigated land in the world. According to FAO, since 1950, population almost tripled, but food-grain production more than quadrupled. The scene is changing as rising food imports in India are rendering food costlier. Droughts, the lack of long-term investment in agriculture and increasing demands from a growing population are to blame. Food waste is a topic for another day but it should have been on this blame list. An estimated 40% of all fresh food produced in India perishes before it can get to customers. Let’s just say that the more our food travels to reach our table, the more mess it creates and by mess I mean waste and pollution.

Locally grown foods are proving to be a better choice and by not importing food, we are not importing pollution and water scarcity.

I present my work in the slideshow below. I couldn’t grow anything more than a leaf of a red radish. It’s technically not even a ‘true leaf‘. But I won’t be bogged down, I’ll try again. Thanks to Urban Leaves for helping kick-start my kitchen farming.

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