Emotional Currency

Your relationship to money

The Garden Provides More Than Food

The personal economics of growing vegetables.

The garden provides more than food.

I didn’t plant my vegetable garden to save money. In fact, there were expenses: the raised beds, the planting soil, extending the watering system, a simple wire fence to keep the deer out, and of course the plants and seeds. I planted my vegetable garden because I like to garden and I like to eat.

When we use money to buy something or to have an experience there’s no telling what the return will really be. We can think that the new clothes, the new computer, the course, or the vacation will be worth what we paid for it, or we might be anxious about whether we will get our money’s worth. I didn’t know if I would keep up the garden or if the plants would thrive but I spent the money on it in the hope that it would provide fresh food for us to eat.

And it has. But not only has the garden produced edible results, it has also brought unexpected financial and emotional benefits. Before I had the garden I would stop at the market to buy produce, sometimes not remembering whether I already had enough at home. While at the market, I’d often be seduced into buying even more—I’d go in for lettuce and potatoes and come out with avocados and tomatoes and cheese and ice cream as well. I was buying more than I needed and more often than I could admit to myself, wasting food.

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The average number of items in a grocery store is 38,718. It’s no wonder that I—along with many if not most other people—end up buying more than I go for. With the garden, I no longer worry about whether we will have something to eat for lunch or dinner because I know there is enough. (Living in California makes this possible year round.) Not going into grocery stores so often, I seem to do just fine with what is already on our kitchen shelves.

This experience has produced a shift in my consciousness. I have a heightened appreciation of having enough—a rare feeling in our consumer culture. Even before the food I’ve grown touches my lips, my garden has provided me with far more than my money’s worth: the joy of working with the plants and the soil, the delight in seeing things grow, and the beauty of the fresh produce. I love the sound of the bees as I pick the snap peas.

 

Kate Levinson, Ph.D., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Oakland, California. She is the author of Emotional Currency: A Woman's Guide to Building a Healt more...

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