Cultivating A $37 Tomato

almost ripe
istock

A novice tomato grower, I bit earlier this week into the first of what promised to be a juicy crop of tomatoes.

I was surprised to discover it wasn't that tasty. Kind of bland actually. Like something I could buy for maybe a dollar at my local grocery store.

Then I started thinking about how much this tomato had cost. The plant itself was a gift back in May, but flush with the excitement of my new farmgirl ways, I had run out and bought a $20 no-rust stand for it. The organic fertilizer was about $9, and the bugspray $8. That made it a $37 tomato.

That estimate doesn't even include my time. I spent hours watering, applying fertilizer, spraying for bugs, monitoring soil conditions, and generally hovering over my plant like an anxious parent.

When the first yellow flower blossomed, I was delighted; when the first speck of a tiny green tomato appeared, I was ecstatic. Naturally, I was anticipating my progeny would taste well above average. But like so many parents, I was forced to accept rather mediocre results.

Let's not forget the opportunity cost. Assume I spent 12 hours total tending to my tomatoes. Had I spent those 12 hours on journalistic endeavors, even on low-end writing wages I could have earned enough to keep myself in tomatoes for months.

To be fair, there are still about a dozen tomatoes on the vine. Let's be optimistic and assume they all ripen and that I get to them before the birds and raccoons. Let's even assume they are delicious. That's still $3.08 per tomato.

The moral: Money-saving exercises often aren't money-saving at all. Next year, I'll go back to buying tomatoes from the store. And I might even go heirloom.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.