Recession, health concerns get Americans gardening

Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:31pm EDT
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By Ed Stoddard

DALLAS (Reuters) - Alison Baum of San Antonio, Texas hopes to save money and eat better by getting her hands dirty.

She is joining the swelling ranks of Americans who have started backyard fruit and vegetable gardening, a trend rooted in a desire to cut costs as the recession bites, fears about the safety of commercial food supplies and popular views that organic food is better for you.

There is also a growing sense in these tough economic times that food security starts at home.

"This recession got me thinking that if things turned out like the Great Depression then it would be better to grow your own stuff and be in control. I've even ordered baby chicks," the medical intern told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"I've always thought it's important to eat organically but it's really expensive. So I thought it would be a good idea to start growing them myself and I am pleasantly surprised. It's easier to put food on your table than I realized," she said.

In her small yard she has put in some fruit trees, herbs and some vegetables such as bell peppers and parsnips.

Rising seed sales and one survey point to the rapid growth of food gardening, which Americans spent around $2.5 billion on in 2008 according to the National Gardening Association (NGA).

According to a nationwide Harris Interactive survey conducted in January on behalf of the NGA, 43 million U.S. households plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, berries, and herbs in 2009, a 19 percent gain from 36 million in 2008.   Continued...

<p>First lady Michelle Obama joins 5th grade students from the Bancroft Elementary School during a groundbreaking ceremony for the new White House Kitchen Garden in Washington, in this March 20, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Reed/Files</p>