What Are The True Economics Of Growing Our Own Food On An Allotment Or In A Garden? See My Review Of Huw Richard’s Experiment.

Huw Richards recently carried out an exercise on the Economics Of Growing Our Own Food where he built a half size allotment plot, erected a polytunnel on it, built raised beds and produced crops. He videod the results and presented his figures.

Huw’s work is very interesting. He has produced a beautiful looking garden with healthy crops and has produced a lot of food. It has however cost him over £4000 with savings of around £3000 should he have purchased the food he produced. So in year one he made a loss of around £1000. By year two he predicts a profit that will make the overall venture economically viable.

But could he have made a profit in year one? I believe he could have. Instead of buying new tools, polytunnel etc he could have cut those costs. There are often low cost tools on Marketplace, free ones on Freecycle and the opportunity to borrow from others is always worth considering. I know this is viable as a few years ago I collected a free greenhouse on Freecycle. I know it would have cost me £thousands, but all it cost me was the time to dismantle it (less than a morning) and the time to ferry it home (just a few trips from a mile down the road).

Another huge saving could have been raised beds. I don’t want to enter the raised beds debate here but its clear from the video that Huw didn’t need raised beds on the plot, he choose to build them. In 90+% of situations it is a choice and it is totally up to the gardener which they choose. In this case Huw could have chosen to grow at soil level .. and perhaps added raised beds in later years if he felt it necessary. He made a personal choice.

So in my view all the items in the spreadsheet I show below, that are marked in red and contribute to the total £4100, could be cut. In some cases to zero or deferred to later years.

In the next section I provide the key data on yields, economic values, costs and time investment. They are based on Huw’s own words in the video. But let’s not forget the value of home produced food when it comes to it being a leisure activity with physical and mental health benefits.

Key Growing Information with Economic Considerations:

Yield When Considering The Economics Of Growing Our Own Food

The half-sized allotment plot produced 586 kilos of vegetables, exceeding the initial goal of 1 kg/day for 2 people (6 servings/day). This translates to roughly 5 servings of vegetables per day for the entire year.

Economic Value

  • The vegetables grown would cost around £2,955.11 if bought from a supermarket.
  • The compost produced is valued at approximately £350, offsetting some grocery costs.
  • Combining vegetable and compost value, the total yield is estimated at £3,305.11.

Costs

  • Setting up the garden with raised beds, tools, compost, etc. cost £4,100 (significant upfront investment).
  • Huw suggests cost-saving techniques for a similar but less expensive setup. I’ve included some of his and some of mine in my comments.
  • Maintaining the garden in subsequent years is estimated at £100-150 for seeds and potential replacements.

Time Investment

  • The average time required to maintain the garden is 4 hours per week (excluding harvest time).
  • Succession planting helps to streamline tasks and save time.
  • Huw assigns a value of £15 per hour to the time invested, considering the food and compost produced.

Conclusions

While a significant initial investment is required, the potential savings from growing your own vegetables and compost can be substantial in the long run. The economic viability depends on factors like the cost of store-bought produce and the time you can dedicate to maintaining the garden. the careful control of costs and being as biointensive as possible can make a huge difference to the overall figures. Many people tell me they get good yields, but when I look a them I know they could get much higher tasty yields at no greater cost or time effort if only they understood how to grow the crops more efficiently. Learning the skills is part of gardening and has a huge impact on the economics.

Garden Annual Income Expenditure

ItemYear OneYear TwoYear 3
Expenditure
* Raised Beds (if purchased)£
* Wood for Beds (alternative)£
* Tools£
* Compost£
* Polytunnel£
* Seeds£100
* IBC Water Tank£
* Perennial Plants£
* Other Costs £
Total Expenditure£4,100100
Income
* Grocery Cost Equivalent£2,955.11£2,955.11
* Compost Value£350.00£2,955.11
Total Income£3,305.11£2,955.11
Profit/loss-£795£2,855?

Notes:

  • Replace the individual cost estimates with actual figures for your specific setup.
  • Consider adding specific items from the video under “Other Costs” (e.g., hot bed materials).
  • Year One reflects the initial setup and harvest.
  • Year Two estimates assume no significant yield increase but consider ongoing seed and maintenance costs. But as you improve your growing techniques your yields should increase and the value of the crops will increase due to inflation.
  • Seed costs are a rough estimate and may vary depending on planting choices. Heirloom seeds are lower cost and send the test of time.
  • Maintenance costs represent a range to account for potential tool replacements or repairs.
  • Time value is not included in the net gain/loss calculation as it’s subjective and depends on individual circumstances.

Additional Considerations:

  • The spreadsheet doesn’t factor in the value of homegrown produce’s freshness and potential health benefits compared to store-bought options.
  • The time investment might decrease slightly in year two due to established planting patterns and experience.

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Tag: Economics Of Growing Our Own Food

2 thoughts on “The Economics Of Growing Our Own Food On Allotments & In Gardens

  1. Gordon Reid says:

    Is the grocery cost equivalent figure fo ordinary shop bought veg or is it for organic veg? Big difference in price ( and flavour). By the At even including sec potatoes and onion sets I don’t spend anywhere near £100 on seed pa

    1. Stefan Drew says:

      It’s the supermarket price for ordinary veg. Organic would be even more expensive.

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