It's a good question, and that might puzzle a city person who has never considered growing their own vegetables. If you are one of those people, have you ever wondered why the landscaping industry is so much larger than the vegetable gardening industry? Why do we tend to hide our vegetable gardens at the back, giving centre stage to the ornamental landscaping?
For me, I can say without a doubt, that there's nothing more satisfying than heading out to the garden (just 10 feet from the kitchen door), to grab a carrot and some herbs for something I'm cooking. No refrigeration or storage, no need to peel or even wash, the food goes straight into the pot. It's perfect for people who hate the chore of shopping for produce - it's heavy and bulky, and if you don't eat it quickly enough it spoils in the fridge. I find we waste less food from the garden because we only pick what we need. All the leftovers go to the compost bins, and return to the garden the following year to enrich the next season's crops. This reduces the volume of garbage we send to the landfill, and we benefit directly from having way less stinky dirty trash - especially in the heat of the summer, it makes a noticeable difference.
I also love it when I see my children raiding my garden for strawberries, raspberries or peas in the pod. What better way to get them to eat fresh seasonal produce and connect with where they come from?
It's easy to take our grocery stores for granted, with their shelves stocked full of shiny produce and cartons of eggs. But do you know how much food we buy in Windsor comes from elsewhere? Even tomatoes and cukes are often shipped in from Mexico or California. How is it people living in Canada's Tomato Capital, in the country's southernmost region, eat imported tomatoes? Does that not strike you as absurd? Not only that, but it means that a lot of fuel goes into the price of putting that produce on your table. The varieties also have to be longer lasting, with thicker skins, which can require some sacrifice of flavour and nutrients. Doesn't it make more sense to obtain your food from closer to home?
There is a food security aspect to consider. Much of our food comes from us from across the Windsor-Detroit border, as well as from warehouses and supply points closer to Toronto. If anything were to happen to break those supply lines, we wouldn't have more than a couple of days of food in the region to sustain us. Even worse, if something happened to our fuel supply - either a significant price spike (with peak oil upon us, that's something you just have to consider), or a disruption in the actual supply - this would undoubtedly push our region into a very difficult situation.
These are just some of the reasons why urban farming is important to me and my family. Adding backyard chickens to the mix takes it another step further, but the underlying reasons to keep them are exactly the same. Chickens, by virtue of the high quality protein from their eggs, provide a complex form of nutrition, but they also take the composting cycle a step further. They eat the food scraps we currently throw in the compost bin, processing it more rapidly, which in turn provides fertilizer for the garden. In this way, chickens and vegetables can coexist very efficiently in our backyards.