Pandemics, earthquakes, floods and climate change - so much of the world around us feels far out of our control. But Angela Clifford is teaching people to find a sense of wellbeing by taking control of one simple thing - growing food.
“Gardening is actually accessible to anyone - whether you’ve got a small balcony or a large garden. Growing food is a small thing that you can do that contributes to a better place. It is good for your mental health, your physical health and it helps create better outcomes for the planet.”
Angela says you can start really small to supplement some of the things you are buying from the supermarket.
“Herbs and salad greens are a great place to start because they are expensive to buy but really easy to grow and they last for a really long time when you can pick them fresh compared to how long they last through the supermarket supply chain.”
Not to mention the health benefits. Angela says that the nutrients available in food start to diminish from the moment it’s picked. And the way we farm has seen a massive decline in the macro and micro nutrients in our commercially grown vegetables in the last 40 years.
“You would need to eat three times as many carrots today to get the same nutrients as 40 years ago. By investing in growing your own food, you can turn back time and get more nutrients in your diet,” she says.
Angela’s top tip is to start by growing a vegetable that you really love eating. “Once you’ve grown it yourself and you’ve tasted the difference in flavour, you’ll be hooked. As a species, we are flavour junkies.”
Angela sees veggie gardening as a marathon rather than a sprint. “Starting off small and experiencing success is much better than trying to do everything at once. And it’s important to remember that failure is the best teacher.”
Spring is the time to try and grow things from seed, Angela says. “It’s such an amazing thing- especially if you have children - to experience the wonder of raising vegetables from seed. All you need is a warm windowsill or a verandah, some seed raising mix and a few of your favourite seeds.
Carrots, rocket, radish, coriander and parsnip should be sown directly into the ground, but everything else can be raised in a container to be protected from cold or windy weather before transferring to the garden or outdoor pots.
“Good soil equals good plants equals good health, so do everything you can to improve the quality of soil and you’ll have fewer problems with pests and disease and more nutrition in your vegetables.”
It doesn’t take a lot of time to get started, but Angela says often when people say they don’t have time, what they mean is “it’s not a priority for me right now.”
“This is an important re-frame, because how we define our priorities changes how we find time and I genuinely believe that the time is coming when growing our own food will be more of a priority - for our wellbeing, our nutrition and our planet.”