By Tracy Sweely
I’ve been a DIY fan as far back as my teen years. I distinctly remember my fascination with replicating, as close as possible, the taco salad I enjoyed at a certain mexican fast-food chain. I remember the immense satisfaction with nailing the flour tortilla bowl. Oh the joy of achieving the exact flavors! Well actually, it tasted BETTER! Most recently I tried my own DIY whitening toothpaste. Simple, inexpensive ingredients, a great taste, and I love the feel of it on my teeth! A friend of mine fixed her broken oven door by watching a YouTube video last year saving hundreds of dollars. Who hasn’t saved a boatload using the internet to find DIY options?
From household repairs, to cosmetics, to our favorite restaurant items, the DIY universe is there for the taking! Of course my taco salad, in the end, had to have cost a bit more than the one from the fast food chain. Scaling down clearly can have a down side. But is cost the most important measure? Depending on your income it sure can be! But, in my mind, there are many other things that increase or decrease the value of something. Is the quality better? Are the company’s workers treated well? Has it been made sustainably?
Aside from these, the essence of DIY value is in the freedom it bestows upon us. Freedom from built-in obsolescence, or paying too much for a service or item. Equally valuable, is the sense of freedom from a market system that, despite warm fuzzy advertising, has profit rather than anyone’s best interest in mind. The far reaching profit-driven market system in which we participate seems to have every possible human need (or want) covered! Sure you could go to the extremes and either go all in, or go off grid, but most benefit by some level of participation in the greater market economy.
Tellingly though, when that market system became compromised after the pandemic hit, outside of the irrational run on toilet paper, some innate wisdom in many people honed in on food and it’s production as the most basic form of self-preservation. The result was a boom in interest in household gardening, local farms and Community Supported Agriculture programs.
In an interview, farming teacher Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm said, “We can't fundamentally have freedom and autonomy and dignity and community power without some measure of control of our food systems, I think this gardening interest arises from a visceral understanding of that truth.”1 From the teachings of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, Pennimean says her farm's mantra is “to free ourselves, we must feed ourselves.”2
Here at Fantastic Farm we feel the ultimate DIY is GYO, Grow Your Own! Whether you want a small hobby garden to supplement your market purchases or a large home garden to feed your family for a year, we’ve got the planning tools you need. Our Fantastic Garden Calculator and accompanying planning tools can help you get started fast while avoiding many common mistakes that lower the costs of “scaling down.” With our planning tools we hope to soften the steep learning curve of anyone’s desire to become free of the market food production system at any level. Our tools are designed so that you can get the most out of the growing space you have, and make your DIY efforts pay off!