WHY GROW FOOD? (Or rather, why not?)

I was on the Internet recently looking for mushroom growing kits, figuring it would be fun to have a go at it in the garden. Doing so I came across an article by Sarah Brealey on The Telegraph’s website, highlighting findings by Which? magazine that growing your own mushrooms with kits can cost about 20 times more than just getting them in the supermarket. These findings were probably supported by the Ministry of the Bleeding Obvious, though this is just an assumption from my part.

The article is somewhat flawed in that it gets off on the wrong foot from the very start:

“Mushroom-lovers seeking to beat the credit crunch by growing their own should think again – it could cost more.”

First of all there’s no ‘could’ about it. From mushroom kits that I have seen in shops, the instructions on the side of the box make quite clear the quantities one can expect to produce, and comparing this with the price tag on the box should pose no problem for the average customer: Yes, mushrooms grown with kits will most likely be more expensive. That’s a given.

If mushroom lovers really want to beat the credit crunch, they can start by not eating mushrooms, as mushrooms are a luxury with not much nutritional value (although admittedly delicious).

The revelation that mushroom growing kits won’t save you money should come as no surprise to anyone who has been in a supermarket and understands the concept of economies of scale. In seeking to buy a mushroom growing kit, I never imagined for a second that a 6 by 8 inch tray would ever equate the economies of scale found on a farm, and I seriously hope that no one else would.

And here is another exclusive: growing vegetables in the garden is also usually more expensive than buying them from a supermarket (yes indeed, stop the presses!). If you add in the initial resources, the time and effort involved in growing vegetables at Common Ground, and compare them to the hit-and-miss results that come out, the final price tag would often be the kind you’d expect to find on a menu in a restaurant. 

So why do we do it? I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that the motivations of our members are varied. But speaking more generally, why would anyone want to grow their own food when they can get it more cheaply and easily at the shops?

Food growing is an activity for people who don’t want their food to just come out of a plastic tray on a shelf, people who want to be less dependable on the economy, people who want to learn something about how it is done and how they can do it themselves, gaining practical life skills, and (best of all) people who just want to discover new things and have fun in the process.

Growing food is fun, it’s healthy, it’s an education, it’s a challenge, it makes you appreciate the value of food. On that note, another study by the Grocer magazine also revealed that food prices in the UK are over ten times cheaper than they were 150 years ago (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16450526). This is not to deny that there are serious and growing problems across the world related to food prices, causing famine, strife and political dissent in parts of Asia, Africa and South America. It should, however, serve as a reminder for people in developed countries to ask themselves whether food prices where they live really are comparatively high or whether they just seem so because we keep spending our money on useless and over-priced crap we don’t really need or can’t really afford.

While the banks may have been responsible for starting the credit crunch, we all played a part in the economic downturn that followed, spending money we didn’t have, believing the gospel of everlasting economic growth.

It’s just a thought, feel free to disagree. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to growing mushrooms this year.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: GROWING FOOD: A No-nonsense Beginner’s Guide (part one) « Common Ground Community Garden
  2. Az
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 15:23:04

    A good article on the “why’s” and “why nots” of growing mushrooms, good insight , there are good sites with little info on growing mushrooms and there are good sites with a lot of info, came across one myself, wanna share with you – http://www.mushroomsource.ca


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