A Family Garden

"You can still connect with nature - and one another - through the choices you make about your family’s food."

Michael L. Lipford, Virginia executive director for The Nature Conservancy


By Michael L. Lipford

After working in the garden with my three girls one day early this summer, I cleaned soil off my tools and boots and couldn’t help feeling a sense of pride.

We’d just planted tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and favorite herbs such as basil and dill. And we’d harvested some early spinach, lettuce and asparagus.

Our garden provides a large part of our family’s diet. We even grow enough produce to sell at our local farmers’ market on Saturdays, along with fresh bread and eggs. By working together in our garden, we also grow closer as a family.

Of course, not everyone has the space or inclination to garden. But you can still connect with nature — and one another — through the choices you make about your family’s food.

One way you can reduce your environmental impact is by eating foods grown locally. A food item that travels shorter distances from the farm to your table produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and often requires little or no packaging. A real bonus is freshness that you can taste.

Here in Virginia, farms and farmers’ markets throughout the state produce delicious sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, peaches and many other choices to fill out your summer menu.

You can also find local in-season foods at many nearby grocery stores, or through a community-supported agriculture program (CSA). A quick online search turned up 140 CSA options and more than 80 farmers’ markets in Virginia.

Eating locally grown vegetables is good for the planet and good for your health, and it’s a great way to connect your children with nature. Plus, you will have the opportunity to meet the people who actually grow your food and to support these hard-working Virginians.

The Nature Conservancy works closely with people who produce our food — farmers, ranchers and fishermen — all over the world. I invite you to check out some of the resources we offer to get you started thinking about food and nature.

Isn’t it time to make better choices and possibly start some new family traditions? So enjoy your summer vegetables, enjoy time with your family and enjoy the natural landscapes of Virginia.

Before you know it, the kids will be heading back to school and the autumn chill will be in the air. Then we can look forward to apples, broccoli, collard greens and other fall vegetables!

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