Growing gardens

Local food activists promote planting fruits and vegetables to ensure healthy eating, food security

Pamm Larry gets dirty in her mission to increase food security.

Pamm Larry gets dirty in her mission to increase food security.

Photo by Kevin Fuller

Learn more:
The Butte County Good Food Network is hosting Feast or Famine, a short-film festival on Sunday (Oct. 22), 2:30-5 p.m., at the Chico Guild Hall (2775 Nord Ave.). Films revolve around the topics of soil health, urban farming, community gardening and food security. Free entry, donations accepted. Local beer, wine and snacks available.
Get involved:
The Butte County Good Food Network meets on the first Monday of the month. Find it on Facebook for more information. To learn more about the Good Food Brigade, or to register your farm or garden, go to

Pamm Larry says she doesn’t have the greenest thumb. But that hasn’t stopped her from planting a garden. In fact, she can often be found in a garden these days, whether it be her own, her neighbor’s, or one of the local community plots.

“It’s empowering,” she said of growing her own food. And though it took her multiple attempts to start her own garden, the reward, she said, was worth the effort.

Harnessing that feeling of empowerment, Larry helped start the Good Food Brigade, a national networking organization for home and community gardens and farms. Closer to home, she launched the Butte County Good Food Network, which shares similar ideals: “revitalizing and empowering local food systems.”

Along with sharing information about the positive health effects of growing and eating locally, the Good Food Brigade also is pioneering an effort Larry refers to as “Victory Gardens 2.0.”

Few alive today will remember the first victory gardens—then called war gardens—planted on public and private lands during World War I. Decades later, during the second World War, when rationing meant less food—and less variety of it—many households and communities started their own gardens. By 1944, victory gardens accounted for more than 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States—8 tons of produce—according to

Aside from filling bellies on a daily basis, victory gardens also would “provide a measure of insurance,” Larry said, against “zombie apocalypse-type events.”

“I like to don my tinfoil hat sometimes,” she said jokingly while discussing possible threats to food security, from climate change to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that could affect food production and delivery.

Despite Larry’s light-hearted approach (she’s even created “Zack the Zombie,” the Good Food Brigade’s mascot), she says food security is a very real issue.

Jenny Lowrey tends to agree. As executive director of From the Ground Up Farms, she works regularly to help people plant their own gardens so they can lead healthier lifestyles.

“Affordable food is all high-calorie, low-nutrition,” Lowrey said. It can be hard to afford healthy foods these days, she said, but everyone can afford to eat healthy if they can grow it themselves. Plus, she added, “It’s yours; no one can take it from you.” That’s food security in itself.

“We used to grow so much more of our own food,” Larry said. She thinks we can do so again. She set a goal of registering 1 million gardens and local farms with the Good Food Brigade by 2020. (In 1944, there were 20 million victory gardens across the United States.)

Maria Giovanni, assistant professor of food science at Chico State, says she thinks the goal is reachable. As a part of the Butte County Good Food Network, she said, she’s on board with the idea of reintroducing victory gardens. “It emphasizes providing for yourself, and not having to worry about a big truck bringing in your food,” she said. “Chico is a very viable area—we can grow all year long here. I think it’s definitely possible.”

Larry can already envision it: “We would be eating more healthy food, being more active, sharing more with our community,” she said. “Instead of walking down the street and looking at people’s lawns, we could see what they’re growing, and strike up a conversation. It automatically creates community when you have a garden.”