Young soybean plants on the Kontz family farm.

Finding the Similarities Between Gardening and Field Crops

Many of us are taking advantage of the last few warm days of the year, and getting our hands dirty in our own backyards. You may be surprised, but gardening shares a lot of similarities to raising field crops.

Even though the growing season is typically from spring to fall, gardeners and farmers alike understand that raising healthy food is really a year-long process. Much like a gardener spends time preparing and planning for things like which variety of tomatoes to plant, a farmer is doing the same with their crops throughout the year. When they’re not planting or harvesting, farmers are researching what seed technology will perform best in their soils and what products will help their crops succeed.

South Dakota family farmer Morgan and her husband, Jason, raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and beef cattle. Morgan started her own garden in the spring of 2009 when she realized she could produce a bountiful harvest throughout the summer while spending less at the grocery store.

The Kontz family walks through their cattle barn.

Morgan’s garden is impressive; filled with green beans, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, peppers, celery, lettuce, cucumbers and watermelon. She has more than enough for her family, so she shares her harvest with friends and neighbors. Morgan also uses canning and freezing practices to keep her food ready to eat all year long.

“Just like farmers, gardeners need to provide lots of tender loving care to their crops and soil. Practices like tilling, applying fertilizer and spraying for weeds keeps all crops healthy,” Morgan said.

Morgan incorporates pesticides into her gardening practices to control weeds, diseases and insects, which can be devastating to a backyard garden or a cornfield alike.

“One misunderstanding that I frequently hear is that farmers spray as much pesticides on crops as possible,” Morgan said. “That’s not true. Pesticides are regulated by the USDA, and they’re expensive. Using pesticides in my garden helps make my job easier and helps my plants reach their full potential.”

A South Dakota farm field with black cattle and a blue sky in the background.

Gardening allows growers to not only grow their own healthy produce, but for many it is a way to relieve stress, improve mood and get blood moving. For those who might not have a lot of space to grow a huge garden, there are endless options to start small with houseplants or by planting container gardens.

“I find a lot of happiness in growing a garden by simply being able to enjoy what we’ve grown at the end of the day and pass along healthy produce to my family and friends,” Morgan said.

Read more about Morgan and her stories as a first-generation farm wife here.