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Growing a garden has benefits beyond fresh produce

ALISBURY — News reports reveal that our economy may be improving. However, homeowners are still trying their best to cut expenses and save money. For some, growing fruits and vegetables may be a way to help reduce spending and actually have fresh food to eat.

Research a few years ago from Atlee Burpee Seed Co. suggests that “home gardeners can realize a 1 to 25 cost-savings ratio, or in layman’s terms, $50 in seeds and fertilizers can result in $1,250 of fruits and vegetables purchased at the local grocery store.”
A recent article in the New York Times (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123983924976823051.html) about the value of home vegetable gardening revealed that an average family with a typical vegetable garden spends only $70 for seeds, supplies, etc., but produces an estimated $600 worth of vegetables in return. The article also revealed in another study that a dollar spent for green bean seed ultimately produced a bean crop worth $75.
With so many different vegetables grown in home gardens, seed companies, garden forums and universities delved further and wanted to ascertain which vegetables were the most profitable. The primary goal was to determine which vegetables are actually the most valuable in terms of dollars saved for the home gardener.
The results, as you can imagine, were quite varied. Ironically, salad greens (lettuce), tomatoes, strawberries, summer squash and potatoes were consistently ranked as the vegetable crops with the highest return in saving for home garden.
However, for every success story there are other, would-be gardeners who felt they had wasted both time and money in their endeavor. One home gardener spent more than $900 in equipment and supplies, only to net $159 in crop value for his summer-long venture.
Another person had actually lost money on their garden after calculating time, supplies, etc. Others conceded that they had lost money, but the intangible benefit of vegetable gardening, in their estimation, was positive. For example, one woman saved more than $2,500 in therapy fees when she adopted vegetable gardening as part of therapy. Other gardeners conceded the benefits of the family working together for a common goal were an immeasurable by-product of a vegetable garden.
Regardless of the capital outlay or time commitment necessary to garden, growing vegetables often satisfies our basic need to nurture and provide support. It’s a value that we all can appreciate and enjoy.
Darrell Blackwelder is the Rowan County Cooperative Extension director. Reach him at 704-216-8970.

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