I propose that kitchen gardening is so important and valuable to the individual, the family and to society at large that it should be a legal necessity to learn and practice this skill. I further argue that it should replace sport in the school curriculum and that the playing fields should be dug up and replaced with vegetable beds and fruit cages.
First let me remind you of all the benefits that kitchen gardening brings. The healthy exercise; not that single monotonous regime of jogging or the mindless repetition of lifting weights but many different movements both light and exertious -certainly enough to exhaust most of us most days! The fresh air; not in some air conditioned cell block of a gym or the asphalt jungle but amongst plants liberating the oxygen we need. The sounds; not more Vivaldi from a CD but the wind, the birds, the rustle of leaves. The sights; not more shabby, man made right angles and planes, but the subtle curves and shades of nature pristine in every part.
Then there are the pleasures of the kitchen gardener's table; the quality and freshness of our food, the variety, and the choice, the full ripeness of our productions. We kitchen gardeners become accustomed to a freshness and ripeness that is never ever achieved commercially. And we are near spoilt by the range of varieties available to us, each different, appealing in it's own right and with particular attributes that are most important to the enthusiast or connoisseur.
The kitchen gardener's family benefit from the fresh food and again if the food is good then the meals are more likely 'at the table' which is healthy for your family in other ways. And with fresh food in the garden then the family may also delight in those 'stolen' meals of fruits and leaves nibbled on the hoof. Some wonder how to get fruit and veg. into kids -have a fruit cage full of cherries and strawberries then you'll need a lock to keep them out.
All these riches, enhanced by the kitchen adding more value as preserves, stores, pickles and jams, add up to a significant economic gain. Not just in the cost of food now grown rather than bought in (less the costs of so doing of course) but also the ancillary gains. When you garden you do still consume- but not in all those many other ways that occur once you leave the home, basically it is cheap entertainment. And not just during the time taken by gardening; usually we are so pleasured / exhausted that few gardeners I know revel much at the thought of late nights out.
But as I have said many times we can gain more in our social lives with a bit of cunning. We have a tendency to work hard on our garden and then to give away our produce to all and sundry. Stop! They don't deserve it anyway, you do. So cook and eat the best yourself but invite the more worthy to come and enjoy it with you. This maintains your social life, feeds them with good food at it's best thus possibly recruiting them given time-and as a matter of self interest; guests often bring along a bottle of wine do they not...and they have to get home...
Of course there is also that incredible pleasure we get from a well grown crop. Just that pure pleasure of the sight of all your efforts transmuted into solid reality. There is little in the world as satisfying to the soul as a superb crop of ripe fruits or just that treasure seeking thrill of ferreting out potato tubers. Plus the rightly earned pride in a store now full and a job well done.
There are few things left in this world where we are (apparently) in control and can affect the outcome. Few things where we see the whole; from beginning to end. Few things where we can learn that the more we put in the more we get out. Kitchen gardening is great for bringing out the philosopher in you. Indeed, and also the other way round; almost all great philosophers ended up reckoning gardening, particularly kitchen gardening, was about the only sensible thing for anyone to do! Even in literature great lives often go on to garden, if they haven't met a tragic end first. Sherlock Holmes retired to study bees and you can be sure Poirot would maintain a sticklers greenhouse of methodically arrayed pots. But I digress.
Kitchen gardening is of such supreme value to the individual developing and nourishing character as well as all the other virtues so far described that it really should be regarded as a social necessity for these many reasons. Indeed the first duty of us as a species is to perpetuate ourselves and our ecosystem; it seems foolish that so few of us have any idea whatsoever about some very basic knowledge. i.e. In the event of a cataclysmic catastrophe be it man made, asteroid, avian or alien flu or whatever it ought to be of paramount importance that any survivors know how to survive, both in the short and long term! A rudimental familiarity with the birds & bees will not be as helpful as that with slips & seeds.
A few consider it unreasonable that some states demand national service in the armed forces from each citizen or that conscription is imposed in times of war. However most agree with such necessity; that citizens should be obliged to learn how to fight and kill. Yet how much more necessitous is it that every one of us should know how to grow the very food we eat? This is of course a modern problem as less than a century ago almost everyone was very well aware of such mundane everyday processes and only the mega-rich could avoid actual contact or 'contamination' with the earthy world.
Now too many are divorced from this the real world; some children really do not know where food actually comes from. I fear many alleged adults are in the same boat. They certainly have no idea of all that has happened to the food they consume from it's birth to their plate. If they did I suspect they would change their diet overnight. Such ignorance is fatal to a society; look how farmers are now disparaged and how the countryside is regarded by the town as a playground if not an enemy or vassal state to be subdued.
I contend that the general dis-satisfaction so often evident in those that suffer poor nutrition is aggravated if not caused by their lack of dietary satisfaction. This is certainly the case with the truly hungry. Trials have further shown that where prisoners and school children were given 'better' food then their 'behaviour' improved. A 'poor' diet appears to make people 'less pleasant' to be with thus it is in our own interests to get them to eat 'better'. Which simply means encouraging them to grow, cook and enjoy their own. And this will also cure our national slide into obese unfitness.
Ah but if it was so simple. Well it could be. It only requires a change in the law governing the school curriculum, not even any more funding. Let us cull Sport which is a sacred cow well past it's sell by date. We will serve our kids better if we drop the current commercialised emphasis on Sport and get them to grow, cook and enjoy their own food instead. Let us regard PE/ PT/ Sport much as we regard music, dance and drama, as adjuncts, minor interests for the physically gifted. A lot of emphasis is put on the health benefits of Sport yet in practice too often the majority of kids get ignored, only the 'sporty' ones get coached, and the real needy slackers skive off. Being paraded in insufficient clothing in wet weather once or twice a week for a dozen years never made anyone healthy. Ensuring they have nutritious food will do it in half that time.
Also Sport, like Pop, is not a very sensible, plausible or even possible career opportunity for most kids unless they are exceptionally gifted. And it does not foster a 'good' attitude. Sports personalities too often behave like prima donnas, referees are argued with and fouls commonplace. Almost all Sports are heavily tainted by gambling though at least the association with alcohol and tobacco has been cut down. However Sport is one of the few 'professions' where all the practitioners have to be routinely and regularly drug tested! What an example to our kids looking for a future career. Surely they'd be safer studying gardening.
And would it not be easier to get all their attendance, attention and exercise by guiding them into the many ways of getting tastier tomatoes or bigger strawberries? On how to make sweet sticky things to enjoy all year round, and even which potatoes make the tastiest chips... Sure it would be better to get them eating 'greens' but let's start with what interests them already. So let us take what is left of our playing fields and turn them into outdoor classrooms where our future can learn something really useful.
We could go even further. Some are already considering fines if you do not separate out your own household wastes. Could we be fined for not composting and growing tomatoes with it? In the middle ages it was the practice to build each house with a field for the cow shed and apple trees, thus the inhabitants would never be a burden on the 'poor rate'. Why not equip every new house with a decent plot instead of just enough to put a bird table on? Give each family it's own fruit cage and a row of cordon apples and our daily diet will be immensely enriched. The health conscious state urges five portions of fruit & veg a day. Where are these to come from? Are they all to be imported, old and sold? Let's make them all home grown, fresh and free.