Turning Your Home Into Your Main Food Producer – The New York Times

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Gardening has long been a hobby for Jason McCune, which at least partly explains why the coronavirus pandemic has turned him into a thyme farmer.

It started in early March, when coronavirus prompted a run on hand sanitizer and Mr. McCune, 39, happened across a YouTube video on the disinfectant qualities of thyme. He also learned, via a YouTube video sent to him by a friend, that the essential oil of thyme, an antiseptic, might help fight respiratory illnesses. (Although mixing your own hand sanitizer is not always so simple.)

“I thought, if I grow a lot of thyme and drink thyme tea, it certainly won’t hurt,” said Mr. McCune, an engineer at a compost heat-recovery company who lives in Richmond, Vt. He and his wife, Ellen, an early-childhood educator, run a preschool out of their home, but with the school now closed indefinitely, they’ve moved out the children’s dining and play tables and converted the dining room into a thyme greenhouse with a 4-foot by 10-foot bed of seeds.

“I’ll dry the thyme, share it with friends and we’ll make an apocalypse tea blend,” he said.

As isolation orders across the country stretch into their second month and grocery stores race to restock shelves, Mr. McCune has joined countless Americans who are making changes to how they cook, eat and source food to expand their food supply and connect to community.

“Stores weren’t anticipating the sort of stocking issues they were going to have,” said Joseph Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), partly because of hoarding, but also because so many people normally rely on restaurants to feed themselves.




“Fifty percent of what U.S. households spend on food happens away from their home,” Mr. Glauber said. “So all of a sudden, when they can’t eat away from home, they’re having to go to the grocery store and buy a lot more food.”

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The research institute has reported that Covid-19 does not pose a threat to the global food supply, but shoppers have been stocking up nevertheless — sales of consumer packaged goods rose more than $8.5 billion during the two-week period ending March 21, according to the Nielsen Corporation, the global market research company.

Whatever the method, many Americans are looking for ways to expand and enrich what they normally eat. Google searches for the term “home farming” jumped 50 percent in March; “how to raise chickens” spiked 75 percent.

“I feel like I no longer know the availability of things from week to week,” said Kate Bertash, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Venice Beach. An avid pickler, she now makes sure her regular C.S.A. box — a package of farm-sourced vegetables delivered each week — includes items that can be salted or preserved, and her “rot closet,” a dedicated kitchen cabinet for fermenting vegetables, is full. “Pickling and fermenting is really cool because you can be more flexible with what’s available,” she said.

Phyllis Davis, president of Virginia-based Portable Farms Aquaponics Systems, said its web traffic has doubled since the coronavirus outbreak. The company offers clients at-home farming kits, with online instructional courses on assembling its portable system and understanding aquaponics, a process of growing food using fish excretions as fertilizer. “Food security and sustainability are a very hot topic right now,” Ms. Davis said.

David Siegel, a dietitian who lives with his wife and 5-year-old son in a railroad-style apartment in Brooklyn, has begun hosting online chats about aquaponics. Mr. Siegel, 40, got a home fish tank a year ago, both to have something beautiful to look at and to fertilize herbs and vegetables. He initially tried tropical fish because of their bright colors, but found them too hard to care for. Now he has goldfish in a 20-gallon tank in the apartment’s central room, pumping nutrient-rich water into a multitiered system above with lettuce, basil, parsley and arugula.

Mr. Siegel said he doesn’t grow nearly enough food to feed his family, but as he has cut back on trips to the store, his fresh vegetables have made meals much tastier. “We say, tongue in cheek, that this is a pandemic hobby,” he said. “But right now we’re stocking up on frozen goods and canned and dry goods, and we’re able to supplement, especially with the herbs. It’s adding some much-needed freshness to our diet.”

For some, the pandemic has added a new immediacy to old hobbies. Stephanie Gravalese, a freelance writer in Del Mar, N.Y., is quarantining with her partner, Max Clement, who is immuno-compromised and not leaving the house. Mr. Clement, 32, has always dabbled in baking. Now he’s making sourdough loaves every day to share with friends who have lost their jobs. The couple is also producing homemade vinegar, pastas, ricotta and liquors, much of which they trade for other goods. The couple’s front porch has become a contact-free swap zone, where they put out their creations for local bakers and farmers, who in turn leave them fresh meat, raspberry bars and lemon bread.

“Baking, and creating anything we can share is creating community for us right now,” Ms. Gravalese, 36, said. “It’s also turned the kitchen into a very special place for us. Right now, the center of our lives is in the kitchen.”

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Source: Thanks https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/realestate/home-farming-tips-coronavirus.html