I had a conversation with a couple of health-care professionals about the public-health issues they face. Not surprisingly, poverty related "lifestyle" diseases were number one—hypertension, diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, drug abuse and malnutrition among the first that came to mind. " A meal is chips and a soda."
It surprised me a little bit. "Nobody gardens?" It seems to me that when you're poor, but have a little patch of land, a garden is a no-brainer. Yet, when I thought about it, I hadn't seen a single garden at any of the farmhouses or ranch houses I had passed in four days. (Recognizing that the plural of anecdote is not 'data', and this just might be a sampling error on my part, but still...)
"Most people don't garden here. I know a few folks who have a little garden patch out in their cornfield, where it gets irrigated by the center-pivots. But most folks just don't bother."
They laughed. "You order a vegetable plate here? Corn-on-the-cob, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. If you get green beans, they're swimming in Velveeta."
It made me kinda sad. The Indians of the southwest knew about the 'Three Sisters' —growing corn, beans and squash together to increase both the yield of the earth and the nutritional potential of the food. Now the southwest is not the great grasslands, and maybe the growing season is too short or the rain too sparse or the weather to brutal. But the passivity of a people eating themselves into an early grave—given a simple alternative readily at hand—bespeaks an indescribably sad worldview.
If you want to foster self-reliance and independence, learning to feed yourself is a pretty good place to start.