A Google News search for the phrase â€œvictory gardenâ€ turns up 145 stories over the past month alone. Evidently, Americaâ€™s intrepid Trend Journalists allege, the economic crisis has hit many families so hard that they are now cultivating their own fruits and veggies, as a way to â€œcut costs.â€ How compelling! How heart-warmingly American! I practically just Norman Rockwelled all over myself thinking about it.
Except, of course, that the entire concept of a â€œrecession gardenâ€ is totally bogus. In purely economic terms, you could hardly make a worse investment than growing your own food. Even if you are blessed with a reasonably large yard full of rich, fertile soil, the cost of irrigation and basic gardening tools alone vastly outweighs the cost of buying a rutabaga at the supermarket, and thatâ€™s to say nothing of the often several-month delay between planting and harvest. Yes, itâ€™s great that youâ€™re expecting a fantastic crop of kale in June, but what are we having for dinner tonight?
Then, of course, thereâ€™s the cost of labor. Large-scale farming exists for a reason: Itâ€™s more efficient for a few people to devote 100 percent of their time to farming than for everybody to spend a little bit of time on it. Thatâ€™s why we also donâ€™t make our own soap, sew our own clothes or even change our own oil. It pays to specialize.
And spare me the bourgeois drivel about reconnecting with the earth and the spiritual value of growing your own food. You live on a cul-de-sac, for chrissake, youâ€™re not Alexis de Tocqueville.
Thanks to advances in biotech and economies of scale, foodâ€”even fresh foodâ€”is cheaper than ever before. If you want to get your hands dirty cultivating your own beets, go right ahead, but save the piety. Any consumer really interested in cutting costs would trade the weekly trip to Whole Foods for one to Wal-Mart, or even 99 Cents Only.
Now THAT would be revolutionary.