[permaculture] Urban Farming

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Wed Apr 23 13:45:05 EDT 2014


Since I'm working on the livelihood chapters of my urban permaculture book, Paul's post has triggered a couple more thoughts about the cost of growing your food (and I don't mean this as criticism, just an expansion of the ideas):

It's one thing if you are a market farmer, selling produce for money; then your labor and land are part of cost accounting. But if you are growing some food strictly to eat, then I don't think monetizing—commoditizing—your home produce make sense, from either a practical or an ethical stance. Figuring the "cost" of that food, to me, is a different kind of accounting.

Unless growing your own food reduces your income from a job, or you have the kind of job where you can add billable hours whenever you want (I wish!) AND you do gardening instead of doing billable work, then your home labor isn't convertible into paid labor. But if you have a fixed salary or a limit to your billable hours, counting your labor as part of your food costs doesn't make sense, because working (or playing) in your garden cannot change your income. But it does reduce food expense. 

And (to dive even deeper), perhaps this work is now a source of exercise that replaces a costly membership in a gym or avoids a coronary bypass. So there are net benefits, but no real convertibility into income lost or gained. The only costs that honest accounting could weigh against the reduction in your grocery bill would be the actual cash expenses of seeds, tools, etc. But not labor, taxes, or land costs; those occur whether you grow food or not, so the act of gardening doesn't magically move them into a new accounting category.

All in all, I'd avoid putting home-grown food and other non-income home production into a monetized box unless the only reason you do it is to save money, and even then, I think it still saves you money.

Fun for me to think about. Thanks.

Toby
http://patternliteracy.com


On Apr 22, 2014, at 10:11 AM, Jay Woods <woodsjaya at gmail.com> wrote:

> The cost accounting is very important.
> 
> It is likely that stable, bulk foods are far cheaper in the market.
> However, specialty crops, perishables, and processed foods are likely to
> come out cheaper from your garden and kitchen.
> 
> 
> On Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 12:25 PM, Paul Cross <charybda at newmex.com> wrote:
> 
>> One of the best ways to discover how incredibly inexpensive food is in
>> supermarkets is to start an urban farming project with very careful
>> accounting. Keep track of the harvest and taking into account the land
>> costs, labor, inputs, distribution, taxes, benefits, etc. I imagine you
>> will find that rising food prices in supermarkets are not solved by urban
>> farming. There are a host of other benefits, though.
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
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