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Review: The $64 Tomato

I just finished reading The $64 Tomato. I found this story through a link of a link of a link and it sounded so apropos that I couldn’t help but hit up the library and see what it was about. Some days I wonder how much my tomatos are costing, especially when I get the tiny yields like this year, so I was hoping that reading an accounting of someone else’s struggle to keep gardening costs under control would give me a little enlightenment.
I agreed, and was entertained by, large chunks of this story. The crazy feeling of getting excited over having dirt delivered, the angst over fencing, the plotting and planning of vegetable placement in the beds; it all resonated with me. I do this these things, I add in the hope and the love of the hoe as a garden instrument. There’s something intoxicating about the prospect of spring and getting the garden ready to go.
I completely disagreed with the chapter on wildlife, and was nearly put off the whole book by his treatment of the local deer. I’ve heard enough complaints about our elk herds to be mostly desensitized by the frustration of people toward animals that undo their work, but seeing it in writing in a book got to me. I understand the frustration, I just don’t agree with the viewpoint that humans are any more entitled to live than any other species. But that’s a whole other argument.
After reading the whole book, unexplained accounting and all, I’m feeling a little better about my gardening habit. None of the improvements to the yard that I’ve made are single use, so their cost is reduced across multiple causes. I’m also not going to just count the costs associated with the garden, I’m going to work in the benefit of not spending money on other things while I’m puttering in the yard. Sure, some people might call that creative accounting, or maybe I’m just trying to justify it to myself. But I say that every hour I spend dreaming about seeds or playing with the hoe is an hour I’m not spending in a movie theater or bowling, or spending money on some other hobby. I have to cut myself a little slack, or what’s the point?

Originally published at my blog. You can comment here or there.


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I wonder how many people are growing gardens for cost-saving measures these days. Seems to me most of us do it for pleasure and to produce foods that we know the complete life story of. That's worth 64 bucks, to me.

I'm always seeing lists of the most cost effective things to grow in your garden on the web and in the paper. I have to admit, that's one of the reasons I've picked strawberries, arugula and fennel to grow. But it sure isn't the reason I grow carrots or broccoli.

We're mostly based on what sounds like it would be tasty, and tomatoes . . .well, there is no comparison between homegrown and storebought.

Frankly, for the small amount of garden space we have, and the minimal effort we put into growing things, I'd say we more than gained back the initial cost outlay. But even if we didn't, I somehow don't think it would really matter.

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