Return on Investment: Defining the Value Added…

I realize that my post title sounds like it belongs on a LinkedIn profile and is quite uncharacteristic for me. However, I have a purpose in this rather corporate sounding set of buzz words.

I was on Facebook the other day and I saw a meme. It was a sea of bright, luscious red tomatoes with bits of vine still on them. The punch line, in bold white all-caps block text read, “Growing your own tomatoes is the best way to devote 3 months of your life to saving $2.17.”

I am told, frequently, that I see too far into things and miss the joke and perhaps this is another incident of the same behavior. However, I couldn’t help but think about the meme, the sentiment, and the jesting cynicism. I chuckled, but I pondered the deeper meaning much like I always do. Why do we do the things we do? How do we measure the value of our endeavors.

Many of my extracurricular activities leave people asking “why.” Sometimes “because, it makes me happy,” isn’t an answer which satisfies the asker. “Why the effort?” and “Wouldn’t you rather spend your time doing this?” are common refrains.

I sew many of my own clothes, which impresses and confuses many people I meet. Why do I do it? It is an expression of who I am, my creativity, and I find it emotionally fulfilling. None of these thing is monetary or quantifiable.

I raise my chickens and I’ve seen about a half a dozen eggs since I got them in November. The coop and hens were a gift from my parents, but we’ve purchased at least three bags of chicken feed, countless treat squares, and other little items to make them happy. If one measures the chickens in a budgetary sense, they have been a loss. Their value-add isn’t the eggs, although they are certainly welcome, their value comes in the joy and humor they bring to our lives with their quirky little personalities.

This returns me to my estimated $2.17 dollar return on the 3 months of labor from the beginning of the post. Why do I garden? The reasons are as many and varied as the plants growing in my beds. I garden for the connectedness I feel to the soil, nature, and my past. My family have always been farmers and gardeners; gardening allows me to feel a sense of kinship to those who came before me. There is also the spiritual sense that comes from watching things grow, from tiny seeds, which you planted in the ground or in little pots. The feelings of accomplishment from work done well. The pride that comes from sharing what you’ve grown. Few of these are tangible, none of them are monetary, yet all have value.

I understand the joke, but what I understand is that the true value of the three month tomato is what is measured in one’s soul and not one’s pocketbook.