Home Ec: The Value of Growing Your Own Vegetables
Home Ec: The Economic Value of Growing Your Own
More than ever homeowners and renters alike are highly interested in growing their own vegetables. There are as many reasons to plant an edible garden as there are types of backyard edible gardens out there. Some gardeners do it for access to healthier and fresher fruits and vegetables. Others choose to grow their own vegetables because they feel it’s important to be able to provide food for their families without having to rely on someone else. Some do it for fun, physical fitness and stress reduction, a big payoff for the investment in time and labor.
Others keep a financial mindset going into the garden. These are the gardeners who understand the economic benefit of having a home vegetable garden. In study after study, the numbers show us that growing your own fruits and vegetables is cheaper and more cost effective then buying them from a grocery store.
A recent Rutgers University study showed that, on average, every dollar spent on home vegetable gardening yields a return of $6 worth of produce. Who would have ever thought that a vegetable garden could give a 600% rate of return on your investment? Let’s take it a step further. In theory, for $600 worth of produce purchased at the grocery store each month, you could instead spend just $100 at your local nursery.
This six-to-one ratio is looking at the garden as a whole, but there are some vegetables that have an even higher rate of return. A home gardener has the potential to gain $75 of green beans for every $1 spent. Potatoes fall in the lower rate of return, giving only $5 back on each $1 spent.
Of course, starting a vegetable garden incurs an initial cost. I hear from a lot of would-be gardeners who see this onetime cost as a reason not to even try. While raised garden beds are increasing in popularity, keep in mind that purchasing the Mercedes of vegetable gardening equipment is not going to ensure your success. A gardener can be just as successful growing in the native soil, with limited initial cost.
Another barrier? Not knowing how to get started. Since vegetable gardening has become so popular, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips. The first source of information to utilize is LSUAgCenter.com along with your local extension agent. If you are beginning to encounter problems in your garden, just shoot us an email with your questions and a photo of the problem. Your local extension agent will give you a more relevant and thorough answer than an online search engine ever could. Also, don’t be afraid to contact any of the great local nonprofits in town, such as Recirculating Farmers and Parkway Partners. Both entities conduct excellent workshops to teach and guide the novice.
Unless you can find a stock that is going to consistently pay you $6 for everyone $1 you invest, I would highly suggest trying your hand at vegetable gardening. Even if you get a one-to-one payoff, you’ll still be learning a valuable skill that you can hone over time. Moreover, the financial gain doesn’t take into account what is invaluable: the incalculable amount of health and enjoyment you will receive from growing and eating your own fruits and vegetables.