Why garden?

We put in a garden this past weekend. Our friend Daniel worked alongside Alice and I and, in fact, dedicated part of his yard to the effort. We got sunburns and sore muscles and an 8x24 patch of local vegetables and herbs.

Why do it yourself? It's tempting to say: money. Certainly with tomatoes going for $5 a pound--for specimens that would barely pass for tomatoes in a lineup--there's an argument to be made there. But people DIY for a lot of other reasons. Pride and a sense of control and connectedness rank high. Enjoying the process is another.

A big one for gardening is quality. I was stunned by the flavor of the broccoli I grew at our last house. Our neighbor became obsessed with our cucumbers. The flavor of the produce we can buy--even at $5 a pound--has been falling steadily for decades, a victim of the demand for perfect appearance and no bruises. The result is a tomato you can use as a softball.

What is it about the money explanation, though? Some of the guys I know who brew their own beer say that's what it's about ... but who's willing to do the math and then say they drink so much beer that they can't afford to pay for it? And who really stops buying beer after they start brewing it? No, I think it's an attractive explanation because it's the most socially acceptable one. Everybody understands the value of a buck. It's harder to put value on virtues like craftsmanship, being connected to nature, and self-sufficiency. For my part, I think anything I can do to bring this vocabulary into more regular usage is worth doing.