American Dream

Living Green: One Mom’s Story of Feeding Her Family With Food She Grows

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If you care about the environment and want to do your part to make a positive impact, then start changing some of the ways in which you live. One way to live green is to grow food in your own backyard to feed your family. We interviewed Donna Thompson, a mom from Oregon, who shared with us her passion for backyard farming.

Learning About Living Green

Donna adopted a green-focused lifestyle in her home state of California even before the first Earth Day in 1970. This date is often noted as the beginning of the modern environmental movement.

“Some of my fondest memories are of gardening in the backyard on the Mendocino coast with my sisters, brother, and mom,” recalls Donna, who also remarked that there was no place for TV dinners at her house.

Feeding Family and Neighbors

Today, Donna feeds 12 people who live with her or close by. She raises peas, summer squash, carrots, lemon cucumbers, beets, and onions, among other vegetables and fruits. “Some of my favorites are tomatoes,” she says. Donna grows Sun Gold, Sweet 100, Mortgage Lifters, and Green Zebras.

She also grows herbs in overflowing half-wine barrels. Her yard is filled with peppermint, spearmint, horehound, oregano, thyme, rosemary, chamomile, and calendula. Donna describes her herbs as “beautiful and practical.” She continues, “If I need some calendula flowers for an infused oil, I don’t run to the health food store. I go in the front yard with my scissors and cut some flowers for drying to go in the oil.”

Donna and her family get their eggs from the chickens she raises. As a bonus, she sells eggs by the dozen to people in the area. “The eggs in the stores are not fresh by a long shot,” she explains. Every couple of years, Donna also raises turkeys. Her last tom turkey weighed more than 30 pounds.

She also loves berries and eats them straight from the vine. “Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and thornless boysenberries are all on my menu,” she says. She freezes what she doesn’t eat to make jams and jellies for the fall.

Living Green Means Saving Green

Donna saves a lot of money by growing her own produce. Although she can buy Sun Gold tomatoes year-round at stores in her area, they cost $3.89 for a small tub that will only last one or two nights. “I buy plants for $3.50 a piece, and five plants produce enough cherry tomatoes for myself and my family all summer long,” she explains. Donna dries, cans, and freezes the overflow of large tomatoes for use throughout the year.

Overall, Donna figures she saves between $600 and $1,000 a year just in vegetables and herbs. Saving money is important to Donna, but the main reason she grows her own food is knowing what goes into it: “I know there aren’t any pesticides or other carcinogens going into my plants and, therefore, into my food.”

If you want to start a garden like Donna’s, the key is in the planning. Good luck!

Laura Agadoni is an award-winning writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appeared in her local newspaper. Agadoni has been published in Clean Eating magazine and in Dimensions magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. She has written for The, Huffington Post Travel, MapQuest, Modern Mom,, Motley Fool, Livestrong, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo! Shine, San Francisco Gate, Zacks, Opposing Views, Top5,, Global Post and AZ Central. Agadoni has also written for commercial sites such as Hidden Valley and Dremel. Agadoni has a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations. She also edits articles for online websites and for various clients. Her website is