is a great time to be in the seed business in America. Middlebury College economist Bill McKibben
reports that Burpee, America's largest seed company, sold twice as many seeds
this spring as it did last year. And
that members of the Seed Savers Exchange, a cooperative organization, sold more
packets to each other in the first four months of this year than they did in
all of 2007.
going on? Is the government giving away
land? Did some rock star turn gardening
into a fad? Or are food prices suddenly
so monstrous that Americans by the tens of thousands are getting out the old
hoe and work gloves?
high prices, all right. According to a
study by the Boston Globe newspaper, growing one's own produce has
become an attractive option to paying shocking prices at the store.
food costs are tied to exploding oil prices.
It's much, much more expensive to ship pineapples from Hawaii to
Georgia, blackberries from Michigan to New Mexico, and lettuce to New York from
California these days. Weather
disasters and the diversion of cropland to biofuel enterprises have jacked up
food prices, too.
consumers are slipping on their jeans and taking matters into their own
hands. The Globe reports that
hundreds of people are on waiting lists for community garden plots in the
Boston area. And no wonder. The newspaper calculates that 15 healthy
tomato plants can produce 45 kilos of luscious tomatoes in a season. At today's prices, such a bounty would cost
almost $400 at the store. Who has $400
to spend on tomatoes?
And if gardens are booming, it's not hard to imagine at
least a modest revival ahead for small, financially struggling family farms —
long the heart of American life but now growing less than a fifth of the
nation's food bounty.