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HOMEGROWN Life: The Finance of Farming






Diversification.  Saving.  Investing.  Building a portfolio…

No, I’m not blogging today about actual finance.  That would be such a snoozefest!  Instead, this post is about the finance of farming, and I’ll serve as the Suze Orman of seed saving.  Get it?  No?  You will…

Seed packets

With farming, seeds are currency, and financial jargon can be used to help teach ways of success.

One lesson to be learned is the importance of investing.  When Justin and I first started urban farming, we incurred a myriad of expenses (building materials, compost, feed), and one of our largest expenditures was seeds.  We doled out several hundred dollars our first year in fruit, herb, and vegetable seeds.  But thankfully as with most smart investments, our initial expense was rewarded with a profitable return.  See, if you grow heirloom produce, the seeds can be saved year after year – so one packet of seeds costing $3.50 can easily turn into several hundred seeds, and save you hundreds of dollars as well.

Which brings me to the second tip, saving.  With every variety of heirloom produce you grow, you should make a point to save some seeds to plant again the next year or share with other avid growers.  Why order again from a catalog, when you could take a couple minutes to save enough seed to supply the catalog?! This means carefully chopping your tomatoes during dinner one night, for example, and taking care not to discard the seeds – instead rinse them, set them aside to dry, and store them away for the following year.  This also means you can feel free to neglect little patches of lettuce or herbs and let them go to seed as well.  I happen to spend many lazy days in the heat of summertime gathering and spreading chamomile seeds.

Another point to keep in mind is the value of cultivating a diversified portfolio.  For instance, at YellowTree Farm we grow several dozen different types of tomatoes not only because we have trouble making up our minds, but also because we always budget for failure.  (We typically grow several varieties of every category of produce we offer.) Bad weather, lackluster soil, or a plague of pests could wipe out our crops in a flash.  The benefit to growing varying varieties of items is that different species wind up being more or less resistant to disease and pests than others.  By growing different types of a kind of vegetable or fruit, we’re taking steps to actively minimize our risk.  It’s one of the smarter moves a gardener can make to ensure success.

Though winter may not officially be over yet, this is the time of year most pros get their seed orders in, and if you’re really on top of things, you’ve already got some seedlings started.  Regardless, it’s never too late to think carefully about these “financial” approaches to farming, and hopefully this post helps you think of ways to save both seeds and money!


Danielle Yellow Tree

“I’m half of YellowTree Farm, an urban homestead that I founded with my husband in late 2008. Together, my husband and I grow vegetables and raise animals on less than 1/10 of an acre in St. Louis, Missouri. We speak publicly about urban farming, sew, and make our own toiletries.  I don’t have children. I have animals, which is kind of the same thing as being a parent, except I eat my babies.”

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4 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Life: The Finance of Farming”

  1. you eat your babies…that is hilarious!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Farm Aid, HOMEGROWN DotOrg. HOMEGROWN DotOrg said: Living HOMEGROWN: The Finance of Farming. Danielle of @YellowTreeFarm is the "Suze Ormon of seed saving!" […]

  3. Thanks for the reminder! If you grow such a wide variety, how do you deal with cross pollination?

  4. Thanks for this. This will be my first year saving seeds, and I’m feeling inspired!

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