Editor’s Note: The following post is from “A Blog by Any Other Name,” by Maggie Rineman. Maggie’s blog features local movements in sustainable agriculture and organic living. She lives in Kutztown, PA. Raging Chicken Press loves this kind of stuff, especially when we get a chance to highlight the awesome work activists are doing every day. Check out Maggie’s blog here and tell her that Raging Chicken Press sent you!
Robyn Jasko is the founder of Grow Indie and author of the book Homesweet Homegrown: How to Grow, Make and Store Food, No Matter Where You Live (DIY). Grow Indie is a site that works as a giant resource bank for growing, storing, and making your own food. Homesweet Homegrown is a compilation of information that does a lot of the same. She’s also just created a line of homemade hot sauces, made with all natural and homegrown ingredients (which are also available at Betty’s in Kutztown). She gives demonstrations on growing, canning, and making food with homegrown varieties of vegetables, AND she co-manages the Kutztown Community Gardens, which rents out garden plots to Kutztown residents in need of some growing space. It’s nice to see anyone who does so much work in creating and preparing their own food. It’s especially encouraging to see someone who spends so much time sharing these practices and knowledge with other people, which seems to be a focus of Robyn’s work.
I found her book while buying seeds at The Companion Plant, a local gardening shop in Kutztown, and I used it as my gardening guide this past summer. The book, as well as Grow Indie, is a grow your own manual that breaks down the task of producing your own food, from seed to pantry to table, making the process much more accessible to even the most unexperienced gardeners. Why? Because she believes this is an important practice for people to learn. Both the book and Grow Indie encourage and make more accessible a more sustainable and local lifestyle. We can produce some of our own food, so that we do not need to rely so heavily on the commercial food industry, which is not so mindful of our health, our environment, or the farmers and laborers that work for the large companies that make up this industry.
Since I’ve learned a little about the processes that go on in the food industry, I’ve been feeling curious about people who are taking these small (and large) steps to make a sustainable and more independent lifestyle more possible, and Robyn does this in several unique and effective ways. I contacted her to see if she’d answer a few questions about all the work she does and how and why she got so involved in teaching people to take their food into their own hands, and she kindly did…
A lot of the work you do is geared toward teaching and encouraging people to grow or prepare their own food. How did growing your own become so important to you?
When I started learning about the environmental, social, and political effects of our current food system, growing my own food never felt more important. GMOs (Genetically Modified Organizisms), or Frankenfood as I call it, come from a plant or meat product that has had its DNA artificially altered in a laboratory by genes from other plants, animals, viruses, or bacteria. Scary stuff, right?
Today, GMOs are found in 80% of non-organic packaged foods that line your supermarket shelves, which is truly terrifying to me, because no one really knows the long term-effects of messing with our food supply like this.
Then, add in the fact that most food is sprayed with seriously dangerous pesticides, then trucked across the country using a huge amount of oil and petroleum—-it makes growing your own food a no-brainer to me. Once I learned all of this, I couldn’t unlearn it. I wanted to share this info with others, and inspire them to grow their own with my site GrowIndie.com and my book Homesweet Homegrown.
When did you decide to start teaching other people?
After looking at several garden web sites, reading hundreds of books, and watching countless documentaries on food, I began my site Grow Indie in 2009 with one simple mission—-to make growing your own food as easy as possible. A lot of books and sites overcomplicate the process of growing a garden, but it’s really one of the easiest things in the world (plants love to grow!). Instead of focusing on perfection and aesthetically pleasing edible landscapes, I wanted to make a site that actually encouraged people everywhere to try growing their own food, even those with less than ideal growing spaces.
AND…if you find yourself in Kutztown looking for some good local eats and bottles of Homesweet Homegrown hot sauce, don’t miss the chance to eat at Betty’s.