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Food Sustainability Starts at Home

Food Sustainability Starts at Home

Residents transform backyards into mini-farms 

It is estimated that of the 200 million metric tons of food produced annually in the U.S., 60 million metric tons go to waste. Of the waste that reaches landfills, 47% is from the residential sector. Further complicating matters is the United Nations’ prediction that a food crisis could affect the global population by 2050 when 9.8 billion humans will inhabit the planet. 

It’s a potentially bleak picture of what humans could face in the coming decades as it relates to food availability and consumption.

Some locals aren’t waiting for crisis mode to prepare. At-home gardens and other food sustainability measures, like raising backyard chickens, are rising in popularity in Brevard County. 

Danielle and Joseph Joseph of Indian Harbour Beach are parents to three children, ages 3 and under. This spring, they welcomed five new additions — chickens who live in the backyard. Chicken ownership has already offered some great life lessons in responsibility and sustainability. 

“The chickens require daily attention. They need daily fresh food, water and bedding. They have different personalities,” Danielle Joseph said. 

It will still be some time before their hens lay eggs, but the chickens are just one step in a larger family goal to approach food in a sustainable way. Danielle and Joseph have been composting their food for more than 10 years, ensuring nothing is wasted, and recently purchased a “bee box” that encourages bees and butterflies to pollinate in their yard. 

“There’s no such thing as food waste. Food scraps, even the waffle that falls on the floor can be reused as either chicken feed or compost,” Danielle Joseph said. “We think it is important to do our part in reducing our consumption and teaching our children the same.”

The Josephs’ approach to starting the food sustainability conversation with their children is part of a larger trend toward a return to food growth and consumption roots. 

Erika Maier is a mom of two and a local elementary school teacher and 4-H leader. In 2006, she took up gardening when her daughter was interested in butterflies.

A butterfly garden project sparked a passion for planting and gardening of all types. Maier even earned certification as a master gardener from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences extension office. 

Fast forward to today, and Maier has helmed an award-winning school gardening program at Surfside Elementary that includes class-level crops, chickens on campus and other animals like goats that live at Wickham Park. 

Her own front and back yards offer a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables year round, including summer favorites like mulberries, papayas and winter crops such as lettuce, kale, broccoli and peas.

It has taken more than a decade for Maier’s own yard transformation but she encourages all families to do what they can to eat more sustainably.

“Start small, start now. Even a tiny container garden on your balcony or patio can produce lettuce, herbs and tomatoes and give you a greater appreciation for what it takes to create food,” Maier said. 


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