Monday, June 7, 2010

The Price of Home Grown Produce

I did not start gardening to save money, I did it to feed my passion. Every spring I feel a strong magnetic tug to pull weeds from the soft earth and plant seeds. There are many reasons why a gardener gardens, some more fulfilling than others.

The other day I was at Barnes & Nobel and I spotted an interesting book called, The $64. Tomato (excerpt) it got me thinking.... If I put a price tag on my garden, what would it read? I started to do some research and came across some very enlightening articles that would help me get an idea of its value. I really enjoyed reading an article by Roger Doiron from Kitchen Gardener titled Whats a Home Garden Worth? He spent six painstaking months weighing, calculating and recording all the produce he grew in his home garden. He then compared prices in a nifty chart of his produce with those he bought at Whole Foods,  his local grocery store and the farmers market. In his experiment he concluded big savings in growing his own vegetables.

Another interesting read was an article by Jane Thomas titled Can You Really Save Money on Growing Vegetables? Her article explains that if you garden "right" you can save money. I agree with her analysis, there are many ways to cut costs in the garden so that you don't end up with a $64. tomato. A few rules of thumb when gardening to save money are,
  • Grow from seed 
  • Make your own compost and pesticides
  • Grow produce that have an expensive price tag in the supermarket (see Jane Thomas's list)
  • Drip Irrigation
Jane Thomas also provides a handy list on common high price vegetables you can grow yourself.
Neal Templin from the Wall Street Journal wrote an article called How Much Green Can Growing a Vegetable Garden Save You? He writes about a study done by the nonprofit National Gardening Associations and they found that the average home vegetable gardener spends $70. a year on gardening and produces $600. worth of Veggies. Wow, now that is some serious saving.

 So, I have concluded that even though there is an initial investment in building a garden, the overall value of having a backyard vegetable garden is priceless. I could calculate how much my garden is worth but I know it is worth much more then the production of its vegetables. Here is a list of all the benefits that I did not see listed in these articles
  • Free therapy
  • Sustainable living
  • Fresh produce
  • More flavorful produce
  • Custom shopping list
  • Organic produce
  • Pride in growing your own
  • Education and connection to where food comes from
One can clearly see many pros of a home garden and yes there are some cons but once you have tasted your first homegrown heirloom tomato or sunk your teeth into fresh corn you will forget the cons. It is a lot like having a newborn baby, in retrospect those tough times are sort of a blur when you look into the eyes of your smiling child.