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Some turn to home gardens as grocery prices rise

The latest government inflation numbers showed year-over-year costs for fruits and vegetables was up 7.8% in April.
Posted at 9:17 PM, May 23, 2022

Eat your fruits and vegetables is good advice. They're naturally low in fat and calories and provide nutrients vital for your health, like vitamin A, which helps keep your skin clear and vitamin C, which can aid in the healing of cuts and wounds. The potassium found in things like sweet potatoes and spinach help maintain blood pressure. But getting nutrients the natural way is getting more expensive.  

The latest government inflation numbers showed year over year, costs for fruits and vegetables was up 7.8% in April. 

Many Americans are turning to their backyards for relief. The National Gardening Association said almost 17 million people started growing their own food last year.

"We saw traffic to our website double from 2019 to 2020 and we were already having like 7 million visitors a year to the sites. And it raised up again in 2021 and again in 2022," said National Gardening Association Executive Director Dave Whitinger. 

About a third of new gardeners say they saved money.  

Kenisha Richardson in south Florida is one of the new backyard farmers. She's looking to cut her grocery bills.

"We have some watermelons. This is the watermelons growing in here. We have some broccoli, we have kale, we have celery," she said. "I'm tired of spending money at the store. So, I would like to save money by growing my own vegetables."

Richardson also sells her own seasoning blend on social media. 

"Grow your own food," she said. "If you have just a little space — whether it's a patio, whether it's a big backyard — grow your own food."

In Milwaukee, Crystal Ayad is part of the Victory Gardens initiative that helps families grow their own vegetables, fruit and herbs. 

"We wanted an opportunity to have food right at our fingertips," she said. "A lot of the foods that we are getting out of the store may not be as nutritious as it would be if you grow it right here." 

In West Palm Beach, Florida, the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church distributes food grown in its garden to people looking to eat healthy and make ends meet.

Church member Dr. Florenzia Davis has a PHD in nutritional science. Eating well is at the top of her list. 

"With the increase in the cost of foods and you know, their incomes have not increased. So they sometimes have to make a choice of paying their rent or buying food or paying for their medicine," she said. "We harvest the vegetables on Saturdays and then on Sunday mornings, they are packaged and they are laid out on a table and whoever needs them are able to take what they need."

Inflation has hit the gardening world, too. The cost of fertilizer is up, the cost of shipping increased the price of some seeds and plants and tools made overseas are more pricey. 

"It's hit every single segment of gardening," Whitinger said. 

He says a basic garden — around 20 feet by 30 feet — pre-pandemic cost you about $88, depending on where you live. He says that cost has likely increased to about $100.   

If successful, Whitinger says the return in savings will be about $700 or more worth of food, roughly 350 pounds. 

"A lot of the greens are popular because greens are crazy expensive, as you probably know," he continued. "So in the summertime, we can grow things like swiss chard and kale — our two super popular onesAs the temperatures get a little bit cooler, you can grow things like lettuce and spinach."

You can even grow fruit in abundance. 

"Blackberries are super easy to grow," Whitinger said. "You can grow them almost anywhere, but especially in the south, in the north."

But Whitinger warns that it's vital to do your homework before starting your garden. For some vegetables, it may be too hot and too late in the season now. And potted vegetables, like tomatoes, will be more expensive than buying seeds early in the season.

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