'Backyard Economist' has unusual advice: Don't save for college


I'm an eager member of a group in Portland called the "urban homesteaders." We meet to discuss ways to utilize our assets better; gardening, preserving, buying from local farmers and generally finding ways to get off the grid a bit, while still living in the city. One of the group's founders is Harriet Fasenfest, a vibrant expert in a variety of things, ranging from canning tomatoes to economics theories.

Recently, she published a response to the current money crisis with a fascinating look into the history of currency. What I found most interesting was her practical response; she's selling CDs and paying off her mortgage, investing in the little plot of urban soil, her pantry, the roof over her head. We got into a discussion about college savings for my three little boys and I wondered whether my money might be better spent on a wood stove and some fruit trees. Harriet wrote, "I've been reading what the world will need it urban farmers and lots of them. I'm not sending the boys to school to learn it - just hoping to teach them some stuff right here in the backyard."

I have half (or two-thirds?) a mind to follow her lead, forget saving for college and invest all my education money in our little urban homestead. Instead of a 529 savings plan, perhaps a few beehives and a compost shed. Instead of SAT prep courses, an extra mortgage payment. Not only could it pay off in a sustainable family, but also I could support something I believe in, instead of throwing my money blindly toward corporate execs who don't care a whit about my children's future (through stock funds, money management fees, and the like). What do you think of this advice?