Gardening is labor of love—and now food cost savings, consumers hope

Articles
June 12, 2009

Gardening is labor of love—and now food cost savings, consumers hope

Figure in the costs of seeds, plants, gloves, fertilizer, pest repellents, mulch, rakes, screens, and other tools and materials. Add in a modest hourly rate for the time spent raising a home garden, plus the annoyance and lost productive hours of achy backs and knees. Then there’s the iced tea, sun hats and sunscreen—and logic would dictate trips to the local store’s produce section instead. But that’s until the recession changed everything, including the historic love of Nature that largely drove growth of the gardening habit. Today, people are gardening with an economic purpose. Some 43 million households in the United States now plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries in 2009—up a stunning 19% from 36 million households in 2008, reported the Impact of Home and Community Gardening Survey of the National Gardening Association, co-sponsored by the Garden Writers Association and Scotts Miracle-Gro. This anticipated rise is nearly double the 10% growth in vegetable gardening activity from 2007 to 2008 as more food gardeners emerge this year. In 2008, NGA said, gardeners spent a total of $2.5 billion on plants and kindred gardening supplies to grow their own food. The productive annual yield of a well-maintained food garden is $500, net of costs, NGA estimated.

Figure in the costs of seeds, plants, gloves, fertilizer, pest repellents, mulch, rakes, screens, and other tools and materials. Add in a modest hourly rate for the time spent raising a home garden, plus the annoyance and lost productive hours of achy backs and knees. Then there’s the iced tea, sun hats and sunscreen—and logic would dictate trips to the local store’s produce section instead.

But that’s until the recession changed everything, including the historic love of Nature that largely drove growth of the gardening habit. Today, people are gardening with an economic purpose. Some 43 million households in the United States now plan to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries in 2009—up a stunning 19% from 36 million households in 2008, reported the Impact of Home and Community Gardening Survey of the National Gardening Association, co-sponsored by the Garden Writers Association and Scotts Miracle-Gro.

This anticipated rise is nearly double the 10% growth in vegetable gardening activity from 2007 to 2008 as more food gardeners emerge this year.

In 2008, NGA said, gardeners spent a total of $2.5 billion on plants and kindred gardening supplies to grow their own food. The productive annual yield of a well-maintained food garden is $500, net of costs, NGA estimated.

The Obama garden at the White House was announced after this survey was taken. However, saving money was a primary motivator (cited by 54% or respondents). It trailed only better-tasting food (58%), and came in ahead of better quality food (51%) and grow food they know is safe (48%).

“As in previous recessions, we’ve seen increased participation in and spending on food gardening as people look for ways to economize,” said NGA research director Bruce Butterfield. “That said, these results suggest the interest in food gardening may continue to increase, even after the economy improves.”

Some 21% of U.S. households said they plan to start a food garden in 2009, according to NGA. Another 11% already active in food gardening plan to expand the amount and variety of vegetables they will grow this year; 10% also anticipate spending more time in the garden, the survey found.

Separate research from the Pew Research Center indicates that nearly 1 in 4 younger adults plan to plant a “recession garden”—showing their need to save today and planting seeds for what could become a lifetime habit. 

Not to bust up the garden party, but SupermarketGuru.com believes people will find it unrealistic to think they could meet their families’ complete fruit and vegetable needs from their home gardens—or have the activity make economic sense when weighing in the value of the time it takes to successfully grow the food.