By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
Vegetable gardening has many highly desirable benefits. These range from it being a good source of exercise, an opportunity to produce fresh produce which may be hard to find in retail establishment, and being able to assure it is produced in a specific way.
In many cases it is difficult, and sometimes tedious, to place an accurate assessment of the economic value on producing vegetables for home consumption. Household budgets in 21st century Wakulla County are problematic enough without literally bean (or some other vegetable) counting to measure profit or loss in the home garden.
As part of an effort involving UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Master Gardeners some popular vegetable categories have had their production assessed. All were grown in the demonstration garden at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office on Cedar Avenue and Master Gardener Bill Osborne coordinated the project.
Several pepper cultivars and an heirloom squash cultivar was chosen to assess. They were selected based on their potential for producing over a long period of time during the summer months.
For the home gardener this means the potential for of eating fresh produce as it matures all season long. It minimized or eliminates the need for preservation expenses which add to the cost of home production.
Each plant was grown under identical conditions in mushroom compost. The production would qualify as organically produced, but this was not part of the original assessment objective even though it would raise the end value of the useable vegetables.
The cost of the raised growing beds calculated out to approximately $15 per plant, but the expense could be spread over several years. This would reduce the annual expense to about $5.00 per plant for necessary growing inputs to establish the garden.
Values are always a tricky component to establish. The prices used in this study were a composite of local grocery store and super market prices. Each was rounded to the nearest quarter dollar to keep calculations simple.
The results are reported on the chart included with this story. The big winner economically was the lemon squash with a retail squash prices averaged $2.25 per pound.
If consumed fresh, each lemon squash plant produced a $65.25 value with $5 of expense. The home gardener netted $60.25 saved in their food budget
Conventionally-grown specialty peppers averaged $4.50 per pound, with organic receiving a much higher price. The big economic winner was the Giant Marconi cultivar producing 10.5 pounds. When expenses were removed, the plant produced $42.25 of retail value.
Close behind was the Mesilla cultivar with 10.12 pounds of production. Its production value netted to $40.50 per plant.
In Wakulla County, as everywhere, eating fresh vegetables is a healthy practice. Growing them can be a helpful practice for the family budget.