89: Is it really worth it to raise and grow your own food?
A Farmish Kind of Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. You can view our full affiliate disclosure here.
As more people consider self-sufficiency and self-reliance, I am asked the question, “but is it worth it?” I find the question often comes when people realize it requires some money to step into this lifestyle. If you’re gonna get chickens, you need a coop. If you are getting baby chicks, you need a brooder and heat lamp. If you’re gonna have a raised garden you need supplies to build that. An acquaintance asked the other day, “with all the stuff you have to invest to get started, is it actually worth it?”
**My thoughts were also recorded more in depth in a podcast episode, which you can find by pressing play on the black bar at the top of this post, or by finding episode 89 of the Farmish Kind of Life podcast in your favorite podcast player/podcatcher.**
The reality is that at some point you realize it’s going to cost something to do this self-reliance thing—be it time or money—and you may end up questioning if it’s worth it to raise/grow your own when you can get it at the store for way cheaper and way less work.
I took the words out of your mouth, right?
So is it worth it? It really boils down to where you’re coming from and what your goal is. Here are my thoughts.
The first year of anything new is usually the most expensive year.
Whether we’re talking about a building a chicken coop, fencing a pasture, or building raised garden beds, getting the infrastructure in place will cost money. But, once it’s done, that part is done—until you decide to expand or improve or change something. So yes, the first year is expensive, and you should be honest about that going in.
Deciding to raise your own means you’re switching from a conventional diet.
I can’t raise a chicken for cheaper than I can buy a conventionally raised chicken in the store. I go to the store and see a 5 lb chicken for 5 or 6 bucks and I’m like how can you do that? Last year it cost me over $8 to raise a 5 pound bird—and that was only the cost of the chick and the feed. And that’s just regular ol’ feed.
I remember a couple years ago when a dozen eggs at the store were 88 cents a dozen. At the time, I was selling mine for $2.50 a dozen because to sell for any less than that wasn’t worth my time.
So when you get caught up in stuff like that, it can feel like it’s not worth it.
But, sidenote: the fact that larger corporate farms can sell their stuff for that cheap should make us stop for a second and say hmmmm.
Another side note: I get that some people are living a really really frugal life out of necessity, and they have to make choices based on that. They’re either scraping by because that’s what their income dictates, or they’re scraping by because they are trying to reach some goal and they’ve cut out a lot of stuff to get to that goal. And I can’t fault people for buying the cheapest thing possible because friends, I have been in that place. And I can’t fault people for making the economic decisions they have to make when they are in a place where they’ve got to make those decisions. That’s called being responsible. So if you are someone who is scraping by and I tell you hey, raise your own meat birds, it only costs $8 or $9 a bird to grow them out (not including heat and your time or any processing costs if you don’t do it yourselves..) you’re gonna look at me and say, “I can get a whole bird for $5 at the grocery store.” And you’re not wrong.
But if you are in a position where you’ve got some wiggle room, I think it’s important to look at your options. Because here’s the thing. When we’re talking about cost and if it’s “worth it”, we have to…
Compare apples to apples when talking about if it’s worth raising and growing your own food
Deciding to raise your own food puts your food in a different category than what you might be buying at the store. So you have to compare those prices accordingly.
Y’all, I couldn’t afford to buy the sort of pork that we raise if we didn’t raise it. I couldn’t afford to buy the kind of beef that we get in trade for one of the pigs we raise. And so on and so forth.
So is it worth it to raise my own? Yes. I get a better quality product that tastes better for less than what I could buy the same caliber of product at the store.
Why do I bake bread when it takes time and it’s not cheaper than what I can get at the store? It tastes better. It’s more filling.
Why do I bake a cake from scratch when I could just go to the store and buy one or make one from a box?
Why do I grow my own tomatoes and peppers and make my own salsa when I could just buy a jar from the store?
Why do I make my own mayo when I could just buy it from the store?
Why did I homeschool my kids when I could have just put them on the bus?
Is it just because I like to do everything the hard way?
No. It’s about quality. It’s about freshness. It’s about a lot of things, like being involved in the process and not being a passive bystander in your own life.
But the most important reason it’s worth it?
Many folks went to the store recently and found the meat sections cleaned out.
That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about. At all.
When you’re seeing things in the news about how the pork processing places and the chicken processing places are shutting down because of Covid, that sucks, but it doesn’t affect you if you raise your own meat.
When you go to the store and see there aren’t any eggs on the shelves—or when there are eggs on the shelves but you can only buy a dozen at a time, and the cost is almost three times as much as they were last week—that doesn’t affect you if you have your own eggs.
In times like these, raising and growing your own is important because it means you have it and you’re not depending on someone else to have it for you.
Some people think I’m crazy for raising 50 meat birds, 12 turkeys, 2 pigs and some ducks for our family every year. They ask what do you do with all that meat? And what I think people fail to realize is we don’t go to the store for meat. Ever.
There is power in that, you guys.
But is it worth it on a small scale?
“But is it worth it, Amy, on a small scale? What if I’m urban and I can only have four chickens so if I’m lucky I’m maybe going to get a couple dozen eggs a week. And I can walk to the grocery store three blocks away and get eggs. Is it even worth it for me to have my own?”
I guess it depends how much power you want to have.
I understand there is a difference here in me—who can raise all the meat for my family for a year—and someone urban who can’t even dream of that. The question ends up being should you even attempt to do it at all? You know, the whole “all or nothing” thing we can fall into. I hear this from people who say, “what is it worth putting a couple tomato plants on my front step when I’m still going to have to buy most of my tomatoes for the year?”
Or, “what is it worth trying to grow my own lettuce in a little window box when it’s only going to produce enough for one salad a week and I’m going to have to buy the rest of the lettuce I want?”
Or, “If I can only raise 12 chickens for meat and I can’t raise all the chicken my family will eat in a year, is it worth raising any?”
But, you guys, hear me now: every step away from the system is a step away from the system. Every tidbit of stuff that you do for yourself is shifting the power from the system to you.
Now, there may be some things that it doesn’t make sense for you to do yourself. There may be things you don’t WANT to do yourself. I don’t see myself planting a field of wheat so I can have my own flour. But every little bit that you can or will do, helps.
So is it worth it to raise and grow your own food?
If I didn’t think it was, I wouldn’t be doing it.
If there wasn’t some payoff for me that was bigger than the work and money I’m putting into it, I wouldn’t do it.
Yes there are costs involved, but there are also ways to be frugal about it. And yes, there is work involved, but it’s work that matters and moves you ahead.
My opinion is that anything that moves you ahead and puts you in a better place is worth it. There is power in self-reliance and self-sufficiency, and don’t you want some of that power back?
I think so. Even if it’s just by way of a dozen eggs a week.
Subscribe to my Farmish Kind of Life podcast at iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, PlayerFM, or other popular podcast players. All episodes of the podcast will also be linked under the podcast tab that you can find way at the top of this post in my menu bar.