Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

The issue of financial gain with regard to an allotment

September 5, 2006

My neighbour Sidi ElGouche is smokin’ again.

Yesterday my dear colleague (from the Dott07 CityFarming project) posed the very good question of how much one could earn from one’s kitchen garden. Apparently he had read two disparate studies and the numbers varied ten-fold as to what a garden allotment yields in terms of produce. As per usual, my answer was blunt and wordy:

From my UNSCIENTIFIC, culiblogish research into the matter (in the form of having an allotment for 2 years), I can say that in pure economic terms, these will be the most expensive tomatoes and lettuces I will ever eat. I can buy 3 head of lettuce at the organic farmer’s market for 1 euro.

Why is my allotment produce so expensive? Because time is money, honey. In order to have an allotment, I have to reorder my life, and in a rather extreme way. My kitchen garden is one big black hole of very expensive time.

But the amount of pleasure I get from my garden, even when I am away from it, is UNSPEAKABLY LARGE. What does that mean financially for my physical and mental health, aside from free access to the potentially healthy veg? What about the relationships that I have to build up to be part of an allotment group? What are those worth? These relationships nourish me and improve my quality of life. In my unique situation, they offer me access to a diverse culture. My garden gives me a place in the community and some people know me and like me simply because I have a garden. Suddenly I’m a nice person.

To get to my garden I ride my bike down a country lane with astounding views and watermills and clear views of all the town’s farms. My heart is racing because of the sheer physical beauty. I am smiling. I see what the farmers are growing. I see the geese that Monsieur Caizergue just bought to raise for an Xmas slaughter. I have something to talk about with everyone along the road. Hell, the garden was the reason that I was invited to a dazzling Berber wedding last April!

And the garden keeps me a bit physically fit.
And the garden yields some vegetables, soft fruit and some flowers.
Big whoop.

If someone were to say to me, ‘Here’s ¬£3.000,- (or ¬£300,- for that matter) of high-quality free veg, flowers, herbs and soft fruit spread out over the course of a year,’ I’d accept, but I don’t see that as being the only benefit of having a garden. To cite financial gain as a potential benefit specifically or separately from a multitude of other factors is to not truly address what a garden allotment really is. Or what a garden allotment can do to you.

If you want:
- warm relationships with a new set of inspiring friends

- a positive sense of who makes up your community

- more conviviality in your life

- knowledge about the flora and fauna in your environment

- a grasp of your area’s weather

- a role in increasing bio-diversity in your region

- a taste of yer own dang terroir

- expertise in the art of preparing traditional foods from your turf

- a connection with the history of your small corner of the world in cultural as well as geologic terms

- a sense of accomplishment for growing your own food

- a role in decreasing pollution and your area’s reliance on petrol products

- a regular supply of endorphin

- £ 300,- (or £ 3.000,-) worth of fresh veg, fruit and flowers in season

- the smug feeling of self-righteousness

- an excellent ass

Get an allotment.

debra at 15:41 | | post to

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