Saturday, September 2, 2017

Cheaper to Grow Your Own?

First of all, I can't recall if I've already covered this topic or not, but here it goes anyway........

A question I get asked a lot is, "Is it cheaper to grow your own food?" My response, "That depends."

... Do you already own enough land that can be used for food growing? 
... Do you already own the necessary tools and equipment? 
... If your equipment requires an energy source, have you factored in the cost of electricity, gasoline, propane, etc? 
... Will you need to buy your seeds, plant starts, and fruit trees? 
... Will you need to buy fertilizer, lime, and chemicals? 
... Do you plan to maintain your equipment yourself or will you need to pay for repairs and maintenance? Have you factored in routine maintenance costs? 
... Do you plan to be a DIY gardener or will you need to buy garden things, such as trellises, irrigation set up, etc.
... Do you already know how to grow stuff? Or will you buy books, magazines, sign up for courses, etc? 
... Do you have the time to do it, or will you need to hire a helper at times? 
... Are you planning on storing your excess? Will you need a freezer? Canning set up? Dehydrator? 
... Are you in a location that needs a cold frame, poly tunnels, or greenhouses? 
... What is the food costs you are using for comparison? Organic? Non-organic? Commercially prepared foods? Restaurant meals? 
... Are you the type of person that wants to factor in your own per hour wage? 
... Are you REALLY going to eat the foods that you grow? (Surprisingly, many people don't!) 

I'd venture to say, that for beginner gardeners, there is no cash savings the first couple of years. The initial investment in buying garden tools and setting up the garden will negate any savings. That's how it worked for me. And as the years go by, I'm seeing more savings because I now don't need to purchase more equipment, much of my seeds, soil amendments. Less cash out, more food in.

I didn't have a goal of cash savings when I started this farm. I was looking for independence and self satisfaction of doing it myself. But I'd say that my costs for growing my food now is lower than if I were buying it. But I'll let you in on a secret........I could improve tremendously if I fix one important failing that I have. I'm abysmal at caring for some of my gardening equipment. Though I pick much of it up at yard sales and thrift stores, I could save a lot of money if I did a better job of caring for my stuff. Yeah, we all have our failings. Maybe, before I die, I'll learn to put a shovel away when I'm done with it. 

Now for the nitpickers of the world......... If you factored in the cost of buying my farm land and assuming that I'll die before it sells, then of course there is no way in heck that I ever save money growing my own food. Or if you factor in the hours of labor I put in, then again, I'd be better off buying food. But nitpickers of the world begone! I'd have this farm anyway because my quest was to make my own house, create a farm, and farm it. Being able to grow my own food is what I want to do, regardless of cash savings or not. 

But getting back to the home gardener, if you already own the land or have free access to land, then you might actually save some money growing food as long as you take time to learn about it and don't go overboard buying equipment and supplies. But it may be wiser to focus upon the rewards of freshness and variety, of non-contaminated foods, of the joy of gardening, rather than worry about pinching pennies. And depending upon where you live, you may indeed see savings far quicker than other people. 

One final word......if you can sell some of your excess, then it could quickly push you into the plus column. Ten small bags of fresh green beans (believe me, it's easy to end up with this sort of excess) can easily pay for a brand new shovel! 

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