6 Things We Learned About Southwest Gardening at the Grow Your Own Food Summit

Chef Aaron Chamberlin made lunch for the first-ever Grow Your Own Summit.
Chef Aaron Chamberlin made lunch for the first-ever Grow Your Own Summit.
Zaida Dedolph

On Saturday, March 7th, Grow Phoenix hosted its first-ever Grow Your Own Food Summit. The symposium, which featured talks from local garden experts, was appealing to both seasoned gardeners and novices alike. The topics explored were as diverse as the audience, and included seed saving tips, gardening philosophy, and information about how to raise animals within city limits. A 100% local lunch, catered by Chef Aaron Chamberlain of St. Francis, sealed the deal for us.

If you missed it, don't worry -- Grow Phoenix is planning another summit for Fall 2015, and have plenty of opportunities to learn about urban farming on the docket between now and then.

Here are a few cool things we learned about growing food in the desert.

See also: Maya's Farm in Phoenix Now Selling Plant Starts for 11 Organic Heirloom Tomato Varieties

Phoenix-Grown Food Can Be Delicious Our favorite part of growing food is eating it -- duh. The lunch served at the summit was catered by Chef Aaron Chamberlain of St. Francis. It was comprised of 100% Phoenix-local ingredients, and moreover, it was absolutely delicious. Hayden Flour Mills wheat berries, assorted root and springtime veggies from Maya's Farm, and a McClendon's Select Honeybell Tangelo vinaigrette formed a salad that was sweet, tangy, smoky, and hearty- without being too heavy. Chef Chamberlain also included a macaron in each box, flavored with fresh herbs (basil and lavender) from his own garden.

Saving Seeds Is Easier (and Way More Important) Than You Might Think. Did you know that 3 companies own over 78% of the world's seeds? That's pretty disturbing. But husband-and-wife seed superduo BIll McDorman and Belle Starr have some thoughts about how we can preserve our local food traditions. The first step towards accomplishing this goal? Preserve local seeds. McDorman and Starr run Seed Save, a non-profit dedicated to teaching residents of the Rocky Mountain West (hey, that's us!) how to - you guessed it - save seeds. They taught the audience how to save seeds from three easy plants - tomatoes, beans, and lettuce - and how to naturally select for preferable traits for future generations. If you're interested in learning more about how to do this in your own home, the couple will be hosting Seed School in a Day on March 28th. For more information, visit seedsave.org.

Developing A Strong Local Food Supply Is Critical. Greg Peterson of The Urban Farm delivered a great talk on the importance of developing local permaculture. Peterson shared some pretty shocking statistics about our food system. For example, most Metropolitan areas have a food supply that would last only three days - so if our current system breaks down, we're in trouble. According to Peterson, over two-thirds of our fruits and vegetables come from overseas, and the US imports 4 billion pounds of food from China each year. This food has to travel over 7200 miles to get to us. The fossil fuels burned to move food from China to the United States pollutes the environment, and the food itself may also be polluted. Peterson stated that 20% of Chinese Farmland and over 90% of China's water supply is contaminated with heavy metals. Yikes. For more information about joining the movement to create a more independent food supply, consider taking advantage of the Urban Farm's books and classes.

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