Sunday, April 24, 2011

Your tax dollars at work

I'm moving the post below slightly because of consistent hack attacks on it.

Editorial: Community garden helps in tough times

Community garden in Alpharetta, GA
I love the community-garden concept. It brings people together to build community and improve the environment while providing better food and teaching self-sufficiency skills to young and old. Had the editor focused on those values, he'd be munching a nice cookie right now. Instead heruns down a rabbit trail that has to be amusing for every home gardener, and shows pretty clearly that the editor understands neither gardening nor its economics or larger values.

The editor comes at it from the angle of high food prices, implying that gardens like this provide cheap food, and apparently concluding that a third of an acre of vegetables can have a significant economic effect.

I imagine home gardeners all over Prescott having a deep chuckle over this. The editor seems to imagine that growing your own food is free.

I sincerely doubt that anyone growing less than an acre of single crop in this area is producing anything for significantly less on average than they could get it in a store, even if they don't account their hours of labor. The water, the seeds and seedlings, the compost and other soil amendments, the critter barriers and repellents, the support structures, the weather barriers, it adds up fast if you want a nice tomato.

Ask a family farmer. Those folks aren't exactly rolling in dough lately.

No, editor, if it was about cost we'd all be picking over the trash bins at Wal-Mart. Growing your own is about knowing where it comes from, exactly what's in it, and the satisfaction of making something beautiful and tasty. These are values you can't buy, so there's no way to compare the pricing.

When you fold in the amount of time it takes, a garden absolutely cannot compete with agribusiness on a dollar basis. The idea is ludicrous.

A community garden is a great place to learn and share, and I have no doubt that for the 70 or so households able to participate in this one, it'll be fun and rewarding. For the rest of us the project can serve as an example and inspiration to spur similar projects elsewhere in the community. We have underused plots of land all over town that could be in production right now, cultivated by neighborhood groups, churches, schools and businesses.

Many of our neighbors actively participated in the wartime Liberty Garden effort not so long ago, designed to help reduce retail demand and therefore transportation and labor costs in response to labor* and fuel shortages. Need I point out that current conditions are economically parallel?

Gardening is a great idea in many ways. It's too bad the editor fails to see them.

[Addendum] Note *:  Referring to the shortage of agricultural workers as we scare off Mexicans, of course.


Anonymous said...
Steven, Gotta disagree, we have about a 150sf of garden, and we probably save $150, a season. It ain't much,but it helps. But, truth be told we'd do it anyway.
Have a great day.
Steven Ayres said...
And how many unaccounted hours of labor are you putting in?
David said...
Steve: The amount of labor cannot be counted as a cost of the produce raised unless a person ACTUALLY taking time away from gainful employment to work in the garden. That is as bogus as including in the cost of raising children the hourly wage the wife (or husband) would make if they were working (unless they ACTUALLY WOULD BE working at gainful employment.)
Steven Ayres said...
Everybody's got their own ideas of self-worth. For me, all my time has value.
birther t. bagur said...
My wife grew a 200 sf garden the last 2 years we were in Prescott, and it probably cost me at least $200 more than simply buying vegetables. Cost included a drip system, timers, compost-bone meal-manure-soil-etc. (we made some compost, but we didn't produce enough ourselves to properly work the soil), fencing to keep out javelinas, more fencing to keep out javelinas, various sprays like coyote urine to keep out javelinas and rabbits, and of course a bigger water bill.
Growing a small garden in a dry and warm place with expensive water like Prescott isn't a money saver, it is a hobby that costs money. I was fine with this, given that my wife likes doing it, but I had no illusions that we were being thrifty.
I think if you grew a couple tomato plants in those upside down things or 5-gallon buckets, or planted a couple herbs you like (our basil was one thing that grew well and was fabulous) you might be able to save a few bucks, but if Prescott was meant to be an agricultural area there would be more farms already.