The Grow Grow Years

The Great Financial Meltdown of 2008 has left investors and politicians stupefied, collectively scratching their heads in the absence of real explanations or solutions. Pundits sagely call for greater “transparency,” so investors, regulators and the public might better assess an offering’s underlying value.

What we really want is VISIBILITY. Wall Street’s savvy insiders basically couldn’t see what they were buying. They were driving well over the speed limit with their eyes closed—and crashed. In this case it’s the innocent bystanders who are injured and pay the price.

Today there is one place left where the prudent capitalist can invest in confidence. In this investor’s oasis, there is full WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) visibility. Here is an investment that operates in full sunlight, offering a real time, 360 view of the investment landscape, so you can continuously fine-tune your strategy.

American Capitalists, don your jeans and straw hats and join me in the Great American Garden. You have nothing to lose but your losses. This is the only place where your investment yields, at least, a 25-to-1 return.

This astonishing garden-grown ROI is not modern-day speculative sleight-of-hand, but real, tangible and fungible. The pragmatic, prudent, down-to-earth principles and values that made this country great still work–and can put delicious food on your table and green in your wallet.

In the garden you reap what you sow, and can watch your assets grow before your eyes. And, unlike any stock you ever bought, you can enjoy your returns sautéed, boiled, braised, broiled or served raw. This is interest worthy of the name.

Skeptical? Let’s look at the numbers. In January 2009, our company, W. Atlee Burpee, will offer a collection of six packets of vegetable seed ($20.00 if purchased separately) for $10.00. This $10.00 investment in seed–tomatoes, carrots, green beans, lettuce, peas and bell peppers—can produce up to $1,500.00 worth of vegetables on a mere tenth of an acre.

Compared with the produce at your local supermarket … quite simply, there is no comparison. Your garden-grown vegetables offer flavor and freshness that, literally, money can’t buy. These are tomatoes that take pride in being tomatoes, carrots that exemplify a noble heritage of taste and quality.

Today butterhead lettuce is on sale at my local grocery for a $1.75 a head. Burpee offers a packet of 350 butterhead seeds for $3.00, each seed producing one head of lettuce. Making allowances for germination failure, we’re talking one cent per head. So, conservatively, the garden yield will have a supermarket value of about $500.00 for a $3.00 investment.

There are additional cost factors. Let’s estimate at a maximum five dollars for water and a bit of compost. Labor cost: if you don’t garden yourself and hire a gardener, figure 2 hours each week for a month @ $10.00 per hour: a total of $80.00. You’re still saving $415.00. Incredible, eh?  No wonder, then, that our beloved new friends, the French, call money, “lettuce”.  When you parlay the labor costs across all six crops, the labor gets proportionately cheaper. The bottom line? We’re talking about a return that guarantees $150.00 earned for every $1.00 invested.

Yet this ratio fails to factor in the abundant and tangible non-financial returns: flavor, freshness, a nutritional bonanza for your family. The transcendent pleasures of growing things, watching them grow, being self-reliant and self-sufficient. Replacing the banal gyrations of the marketplace with the elements of sun, earth, and water, and reducing the need for costly anti-depressants.

Over the years my sharp-eyed Wall Street friends have regarded the seed business as hopelessly naïve and outmoded, as if we were selling detachable shirt collars and spats, or music for player pianos. They’ve talked to me as if I were in a dream world, and needed to wake up. Alas, they were the dreamers, and their avaricious dreams are now everybody’s nightmare. I look forward to visiting their gardens.


This entry was posted on Monday, December 8th, 2008 at 10:30 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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25 Responses to “The Grow Grow Years”

  1. George, All I can say is “Amen”! You also sell everything anyone would need to have a real “hedge fund”–at least of hydrangeas.

    Elisabeth Ginsburg

  2. Marcella P Sullivan said:

    thank you for your comments

  3. Steve Lindholm said:

    Overall, I agree with your ideas on $$ return with vegetable gardens. However, there’s a difficulty for most of us with spacing out the crops. If you get 300 heads of lettuce all at once, it’s nearly impossible to avoid massive waste. But it’s very difficult to time your plantings to get 6 heads per week. Of course, you can share, but many perishable crops end up wasted. Any ideas?

  4. krpchem said:

    $10 per hour for a gardener!! You have to either be kidding or totally out of touch for wage requirements for household help. The teenage kids in my neighborhood (New England) won’t even rake leaves for less than $15 per hour. Regardless of offered $/hour, they won’t do physical labor–like digging and soil preparation. So called Garden Services appear to have limited knowledge of gardening and horticulture–reall, all they wnat to do is mow lawns weekly whether the lawn needs it or not is unimportant and inconsistent with their fee structure if you decide a mowing should be done every other week!!

  5. Mike said:

    Hey krpchem, I hear ya. You can not get kids to work now a days for anything, you are lucky to find them for $15/hr. Blame it on the parents though. I bet if you found children of gardeners they would work for $10 or less, it seems that the value gardeners pass to their kids is that of work and reward. My family was into gardening and if a neighbor asked me for help I would have done it for nothing.

  6. Kathy Tedford said:

    That was inspiring! I love to see my vegatables go from seed to table and I really liked this monolog. Thanks for the newsletters.


  7. Tiffany said:

    This is the best bit of advertising I’ve seen in a long time…I will be using it in my math class next week:-) Long live the green thumb!

  8. Adriana said:

    I currently have 112 vegetable seed packets. December in S. CA means I’m still harvesting tomatoes. Along with greans, lettuce, cilantro, basil, beets, onions… on and on.

    Like I say, “sticking it to the man one tomato at a time.”

  9. ariel malek said:

    You didn’t mention the other amazing fact that food from your garden is much, much better for you than “food like substances” from the grocery market. The store food has been processed, stored, refined and well… It tends to make people sick. I recommend reading Michael Pollan’s books for more details; eg, In Defense of Food.
    So thank you for promoting seeds and eating from gardens again. It’s essential. Good for our bodies and good for the eco-system.

  10. Becky said:

    What a great analogy and rationale-thanks! I loved the “hedge fund” comment too – very clever. Wish I had thought of it!

  11. cris said:

    Well said! There needs to be a paradigm shift to the garden!

  12. Brian Vaughan said:

    The solace I receive from spring preparation, through summer maintenance and harvest, and then putting the garden to sleep in late fall, followed by a winter of planning for the next season, is an experience I can put no price on!!!I’m smiling just thinking about it.

  13. Steve said:

    Is there a variety of viburnam called Korean Spice?

  14. Marlene Policastro said:

    You are RIGHT ON with everything you’ve said. Enjoyed the reading. In these times of craziness, my garden is spiritual to me. If we did not live in the “snow belt”, vegetables would be the headliner for sure, but that won’t stop me from trying in this upcoming year. Thanks for the inspiration. Let’s all get back to our roots so to speak.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Marlene (Central NY)

  15. Marianne Duggan said:

    I have been growing a garden for 31 years now, and its a wonderful experience. My garden space is not real big, but it really yields plenty for me and my family, and other families as well. I guess I’m really blessed to live where I can grow a garden, and pick plenty of wild blackberries in the summer.

  16. Richard said:

    Soooo right on! My freezer is full of last summer’s bounty and even the frozen fruits and vegetables taste better than the supermarket stuff.

  17. Roy McGinnis said:

    Hello George,
    What a great essay. Sill, I can hear the bigwigs saying, “Just wait, things will pick up. We’ll get back in the saddle and make a bundle again.” As a teacher, I’ve been telling my students for years that we (as a people) couldn’t keep indebtng ourselves and chasing stuff. Turns out it’s true. This year, I’m expanding my garden–again.
    Thanks again,

    Roy McGinnis

  18. Pat Morgan said:

    Hey I agree, only I believe it is harder than a little bit of compost, in my area, since I need to constantly adjust my soil, and with the weather changes, you never know what is going to happen next. But.. I will continue to garden and will try and grow more veggies this coming year. Since I
    love to have my hands in the dirt!!! Thank you for your wonderful work! I have learned
    a lot from you! Sincerely, Pat M

  19. Dawn said:

    Great posting and great comments by everyone. I think this posting should be connected to the Community Garden Forum Listserve as well.
    By the way, I am a 41 year old stay at home Mom and I was working all summer doing gardening work for $10-15.00 per hour under the table. There is still a few people around willing to work, that appreciate the value of a dollar well earned.

  20. Susan said:

    Dear Mr. George Ball,
    I am a fan of your heartfelt and intelligent columns. I actually look forward to picking it out of my bloated email box. As a kindred spirit, it makes me feel good to hear another person write so elegantly about how I feel about certain topics.
    I am a gardener and garden columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and will send my readers to the Heronswood Voice.

    Thanks again for sharing,
    Susan Randstrom

  21. Rosalyn Rhea said:

    You are so right. Even with the dismal weather we had this year, I was still able to enjoy a couple of months of wonderful tomatoes – unlike the dry, tasteless things from the supermarket. Am hoping for better weather next year and a chance to see more crops even in my limited space

  22. marylou said:

    I am having trouble with my habiscus that I brought indoors what do I have to do to make them bloom again. Do I get artificial sun or sunlamp or what?

  23. Your Wall Street friends will not be the ones planting lettuce in their back yards. Their former employees will be looking for ways to eat. Hopefully, they will enjoy the process and its beneifts as much as we do.

    I love the idea of the 6 packets of seeds for $10. I’ll put it in my garden blog in January.
    Shipping costs make finding seed bargains a necessity for many.

  24. Jessica said:

    This gets me fired up to do some garden planning myself. Thanks! Too bad all I can do right now is plan. But soon, soon …

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