Could you grow food for your family for $25?

Much has been made of the second coming of the vegetable garden. Seventy years after the U.S. and British governments exhorted their citizens to grow food to feed their families, freeing up manufacturing and agricultural efforts to focus on war interests, the "victory garden" movement has resurfaced, this time with a whole new kind of security in mind.

While some victory gardeners are thinking green (growing your own food saves fossil fuels from transportation and commercial agriculture, protects genetic diversity, gives food for the bees, and saves resources formerly used for unproductive landscaping), in this economy, many gardeners are thinking only about cash, and saving it.

The gardeners-in-chief behind Kitchen Gardeners International found that, for a $280 investment, their garden yielded upwards of $2,000 in delicious, local organic produce ($2196.50 to $2548.93, not counting pumpkins they used for jack-o-lanterns, grapes that were made into jam, or snacks sneaked directly from the garden). That sounds like a lot of bang for your buck, yes? Yes!

But Joe Lamp'l, also known as Joe Gardener, went further. After making a bold statement on Twitter, he jumped in feet-first and backed it up with an entire challenge/campaign promise: he would grow a victory garden-style plot of vegetables, enough to feed his family of four for the summer, and he wouldn't spend more than $25 to get it going. On seeds, compost, fertilizer, the whole bit. He said he'd "charge" his home-grown compost to his $25 tab so as not to use anything a first-timer couldn't also use. (Here's the Facebook group if you're way into the concept.)

While this goal is admirable, I wonder if it's easily replicated. Joe has a lot of resources available to him that aren't available to the common man (for one, his large internet audience eager to give him some seeds; I don't know how using his platform to obtain things is any different than using something from his stash. But whatever!). But perhaps, through an impossible challenge, serendipity is found; Liz at Hyperlocavore has started a seed sharing group for the common, everyday, non-famous guy to get a few tomato and lettuce seeds from those whose seed stash overflows.

As for me, I'm definitely into the concept of growing food for my own family and saving big dollars. But I've already blown through $25 and then some this year; I think I'm up to $50 in seeds and plants, and I have $40 in seed potatoes and assorted other goodies circled in my favorite seed catalog. And my six-year-old is begging me for kiwi vines, which I'm averse to refusing (twice the vitamin C of oranges, dontcha know!). I'd be into the $250 victory garden challenge; still a huge savings over the $250 per month I spend in farmer's market produce during the summer in lean garden years.

Is a $25 challenge a worthwhile, inspirational goal? A punishingly simplified take on growing food? A reality given most Americans' terrifically insufficient consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits? What do you think? If you grow your food, how much each year do you spend?

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