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What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?


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Home vegetable gardens are often promoted as a way to cut household costs by providing low-cost access to fruits and vegetables. How much can gardeners expect to spend and recoup from their efforts? An analysis of published data suggests that home vegetable gardens are profitable, if the fair market value of garden labor is excluded from calculated costs. On average, home vegetable gardens produce $677 worth of fruits and vegetables, beyond the cost of $238 worth of materials and supplies. Local environmental conditions, gardening practices, and crop choices will influence the actual net value realized by individual gardeners.
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April 2014
Volume 52
Number 2
Article # 2RIB5
Research In Brief
What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home
Vegetable Gardens?
Home vegetable gardens are often promoted as a way to cut household costs by providing low-cost
access to fruits and vegetables. How much can gardeners expect to spend and recoup from their
efforts? An analysis of published data suggests that home vegetable gardens are profitable, if the fair
market value of garden labor is excluded from calculated costs. On average, home vegetable gardens
produce $677 worth of fruits and vegetables, beyond the cost of $238 worth of materials and supplies.
Local environmental conditions, gardening practices, and crop choices will influence the actual net value
realized by individual gardeners.
Introduction and Need
Vegetable gardens allow families to produce their own food organically. This is a huge benefit for
consumers who recognize the benefits of organic foods, but are wary of paying an added cost at the
grocery market (Raab & Grobe, 2005). Vegetable gardens may be particularly advantageous for low-
income groups, who don't identify fresh fruits or vegetables as a staple food (Parker, Pinto, Kennedy,
Phelps, & Herman, 2007), perhaps because of perceived costs.
Extension professionals have noted resurgent interest in vegetable gardens (Miller & Arnold, 2012),
perhaps due to the recent economic recession. In fact, "recession gardens" is the new term for
"victory gardens" (Higgins, 2009; Horovitz, 2009). Extension professionals are commonly asked
about the costs and benefits of home vegetable gardens. Even though very little data exists on the
economic costs versus benefits, Extension home horticulture professionals often recommend
vegetable gardens as a way to access fresh, healthy foods at a relatively low cost. However, while I
was working on a SNAP-Ed-funded curriculum ("Growing Healthy Kids," 2013), my Extension
colleagues who work with low-income individuals, families, and groups regularly questioned the
economic costs and benefits of home vegetable gardens. They asked for more data before we
recommend that gardens can be used to supplement the family food budget.
Gail Ann Langellotto
State Coordinator
Master Gardener
Oregon State
Corvallis, Oregon
One estimate of the economic value of vegetable gardening found that the average vegetable
gardener in Newark, NJ could expect to net $475 worth of produce, with only a $25 investment in
their garden (Patel, 1991). However, the costs incurred and the produce harvested from New Jersey
gardens were estimated, rather than rigorously tracked.
Solid data on the economic costs and benefits associated with vegetable gardening is needed in
order for Extension professionals to confidently promote gardening as a way to supplement the
family food budget. I thus searched for references that rigorously detailed the economic costs and
benefits of home vegetable gardens.
I searched the Google and Google Scholar databases, as well as the Journal of Extension,
HortScience, and HortTechnology archives for various combinations of the keywords: home,
community, garden, economic, value, cost, yield. I only included those reports that rigorously
detailed the economic costs and yield from each garden. Non-peer-reviewed sources were included
only if they reported an exhaustive and detailed list of the economic costs and yield from a home
garden. I found a total of four journal articles and two blogs, which reported 10 observations of the
economic costs and yields for 11 vegetable gardens.
Utzinger and Connolly (1978) reported the average costs and benefits across four replicate 150
square foot gardens in Columbus, OH. Hours of labor were tracked. Costs incurred included
equipment, seeds, plant starts, pesticides, soil test, land rental, fertilizer, mulch, and water.
Stall (1979) reported on a 600 square foot demonstration garden in Homestead, FL. Hours of labor
were not tracked. Costs incurred included soil, blocks, hardware, water, stakes, mulch, fertilizer,
seeds, and pesticides.
Stephens, Carter, and Van Gundy (1980) reported on a 1400 square foot garden in Tallahassee,
FL. and a 638 square foot garden in Jacksonville, FL. Hours of labor were tracked. Costs incurred
included equipment, seeds, plant starts, fertilizer, pesticides, water, and stakes.
Cleveland, Orum, and Ferguson (1985) reported on two vegetable gardens (829 and 624 square
feet) in Tucson, AZ. Hours of labor were tracked. Costs incurred included seeds, plant starts, soil
amendments, fertilizers, mulch, tools, water, and the cost of hauling compost.
Doiron (2009) reported on a 1500 square foot vegetable garden in Scarborough, ME. Hours of
labor were not tracked. Costs incurred included seeds, supplies, water, soil test, and compost.
Roth (2011) reported on a single 878 square foot vegetable garden in Portland, OR, where costs
and harvests were tracked across 3 years (2008, 2009, and 2011). Hours of labor were tracked.
Costs incurred included seeds, plant starts, pesticides, fertilizers, potting soil, hoses, compost,
mulch, and soil amendments.
Four out of the above six sources are 25 or more years old. Although these references may seem
Research In Brief
What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?
JOE 52(2)
©2014 Extension Journal Inc.
dated, the information that they contain is extremely valuable for my analysis. The gardening tools,
supplies, and methods reported in these papers are still used today, although the costs associated
with starting and maintain a garden were substantially less than they are today. To correct for this
disparity, I adjusted all economic costs and values to current prices (i.e., 2013 value) using an
online Consumer Price Index inflation calculator (Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d.). This allowed data
to be compared across studies.
Yields were reported as pounds per crop harvested. Authors estimated the dollar value of garden
yields, based upon the cost per pound for each crop at a local grocery store. In addition, authors
tracked and reported material and supply costs. Although equipment depreciation or land rental
costs were included in the costs of maintaining a garden in some studies (Stephens et al., 1980;
Utzinger & Connolly, 1978), these costs were excluded from this analysis.
Most authors also reported the number of hours worked in the garden and the fair market labor
costs associated with these hours. If no labor rate was quoted, I calculated labor costs using the
Federal- or state-mandated minimum wage rate for the year the study was published.
I then calculated the difference between yield and cost to estimate the net value of each garden.
The net value of each garden was calculated with and without labor costs. A net value per square
foot of garden was also calculated with and without labor costs.
Overall, gardens were profitable if the fair market value of labor used to tend the garden was
excluding from the costs (Table 1). Excluding labor costs, gardens yielded an average $678 ± $515
worth of fruits and vegetables, over and above the costs of irrigating the garden, as well as the
costs of buying seeds, starts, soil and other materials. When scaled to garden size, the average yield
per square foot of garden space was $0.88 ± $0.64. However, when labor costs were included in the
cost-benefit analysis, the net value of home vegetable gardens declined to an average of -$81 ±
$499 per garden, or -$0.11 ± $0.67 per square foot of garden space. Although the yield and net
value across gardens varied quite a bit (note the large standard deviations), costs of materials and
supplies were relatively consistent across gardens, at $237 ± $85.
Table 1.
Summary of Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens
Cost Net Value
Cost of
Net Value
/ square
Net Value
/ square
Utzinger $115 39 $149 $322 $58 $208 $0.39 $1.39
Research In Brief
What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?
JOE 52(2)
©2014 Extension Journal Inc.
1979 $306 NR NR $1585 NA $1279 NA $2.13
et al.,
$162 23 $201 $1082 $720 $921 $0.51 $0.66
et al.,
$200 68 $594 $1172 $379 $973 $0.59 $1.53
et al.,
$187 153 $1104 $333 -$959 $145 -$1.16 $0.17
et al.,
$217 111 $800 $385 -$633 $167 -$1.01 $0.27
2009 $305 NR NR $2072 NA $1767 NA $1.18
2011 $343 54 $463 $651 -$155 $308 -$0.18 $0.35
2011 $380 72 $650 $876 -$154 $496 -$0.18 $0.56
2011 $158 48 $421 $678 $99 $520 $0.11 $0.59
Mean $237 71 $548 $916 -$81 $678 -$0.11 $0.88
Deviation $85 40 $293 $546 $499 $515 $0.67 $0.64
Median $209 61 $528 $777 -$48 $508 -$0.11 $0.66
*All costs and values reflect dollar values in 2013.
In each garden, tomatoes ranked among the top five most profitable garden crops. Leafy green
vegetables made the top five most profitable crops in all but one garden (Roth, 2011, for the garden
grown in 2008). Other profitable crops that appeared in the top five lists of multiple gardens
included peas, strawberries, squash, and eggplant.
Research In Brief
What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?
JOE 52(2)
©2014 Extension Journal Inc.
Extension professionals can confidently recommend vegetable gardening as a way to save money on
fresh fruit and vegetable purchases. Although the fair market cost of labor can add a substantial
cost, most people do not hire help to tend their vegetable garden. In addition, the benefits of
gardening extend well beyond the potential financial benefits. For example, vegetable gardening
promotes healthy eating (Alaimo, Packnett, Miles, & Kruger, 2009; Langellotto & Gupta, 2012),
stress relief (Rodiek, 2002), and physical activity (Park, 2007). Gardening has also been linked to a
decreased risk of dementia (Simons, Simons, McCallum, & Friedlander, 2006) and may be more
effective at treating childhood obesity than other therapeutic interventions (Braet, Van Winckel, &
Van Leeuwen, 2008).
Although I attempted to standardize costs and yields by excluding equipment depreciation estimates
from reported costs, and reporting all costs and yields in terms of 2013 dollar values, there was still
a fair amount of variation in the net value of home gardens (note the large standard deviations).
This is likely because each garden reflects the local conditions, gardening practices, crop choices, and
skill of each gardener. For example, see the following.
Stephens et al. (1980) note that the larger, Tallahassee garden (1,400 square feet) yielded less
than the smaller, Jacksonville (638 square feet) garden, due to less efficient use of space (i.e.,
wider row spacing).
Roth (2011) noted that better weather and acquired skills led to better yields in 2009, compared
to 2008.
Cleveland et al., (1985) report irrigation costs for their two desert gardens that are far greater
than irrigation costs in the other gardens included in this analysis.
Doiron (2009) had the most profitable yield of all of the gardens. He is also the founder of Kitchen
Gardeners International ( and is widely recognized as an expert vegetable
The three Florida (Stall, 1979; Stephens et al., 1980) gardens yielded the next highest harvest
value ($1585, $1082, and $1172), after Doiron (2009). This perhaps reflects the longer growing
season and more favorable climatic conditions for productive vegetable gardening.
It is thus not fair to promise home gardeners that they can net $678 worth of fruits and vegetables
if they start a home garden. It is not fair to suggest that one square foot of a home vegetable
garden is worth $0.88. The standard deviations associated with these averages are just too large.
Nonetheless, this analysis demonstrates that vegetable gardening can help a family save money on
their food budget, particularly if household members (rather than hired help) maintain the garden.
In addition, the relatively small standard deviation associated with start-up materials and supplies (±
$85) suggests that it is fair to tell prospective home gardeners that they can expect to spend a
couple hundred dollars to start and maintain a home vegetable garden.
It is important to point out that these studies noted the value of fruits and vegetables that were
harvested from home gardens, rather than the value of produce that was actually used in meals and
Research In Brief
What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?
JOE 52(2)
©2014 Extension Journal Inc.
in snacks. It is not uncommon for home gardeners to grow more food than they can use at the time
of harvest. However, the same could be said for perishable food items purchased at a grocery
market. Food waste in the United States has increased by more than 50% since 1974 (Hall, Guo,
Dore, & Chow 2009).
Nonetheless, the potential to learn more about food preservation or using garden-grown produce in
home-cooked meals represents an opportunity to build stronger collaborations between Extension
Master Gardeners and Extension Family and Community Health professionals. Master Food Preservers
and SNAP-Ed educators are experts at low cost food preparation and preservation. Working together,
we could maximize the family food budget by encouraging home vegetable gardening and the use of
garden-grown produce in family snacks and meals.
Alaimo, K., Packnett, E., Miles, R. A., & Kruger, D. J. (2009). Fruit and vegetable intake among
urban community gardeners. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior , 40, 94-101.
Allan, D. (2012, May 3). Don't start a veggie garden to save money [On-line]. Retrieved from:
Braet, C., Van Winckel, M., & Van Leeuwen, K. (2008). Follow-up results of different treatment
programs for obese children. Acta Pediatrica, 86, 397-402.
Cleveland, D. A., Orum, T. V., & Ferguson, N. (1985). Economic value of home vegetable gardens in
an urban desert environment. HortScience, 20, 694-696.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (n.d.). CPI inflation calculator [Website]. Retrieved from:
Doiron, R. (2009, March 2) What's a home garden worth? Retrieved from:
Growing Healthy Kids (2013). Retrieved from:
Hall, K. D., Guo, J., Dore, M., & Chow, C. C. (2009). The progressive increase of food waste in
America and its environmental impact . Public Library of Science ONE 4(11): e7940
Higgins, A. (2009, June 15). Demand for vegetable seeds is rooted in recession. Washington Post.
Retrieved from:
Horovitz, B. (2009, February 20). Recession grows interest in seeds, vegetable gardening. USA
Today. Retrieved from:
Langellotto, G. A., & Gupta, A. (2012). Gardening increases vegetable consumption in school-aged
children: A meta-analytical synthesis. HortTechnology, 22, 430-445.
Miller, J., & Arnold, S. (2012). Produce your own: A community gardening program. Journal of
Extension [On-line], 50(2). Available at:
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What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens?
JOE 52(2)
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Park, S. (2007). Gardening as a physical activity for health in older adults. (Doctoral dissertation).
Retrieved from:
Parker, S., Pinto, V., Kennedy, T., Phelps, J. A., & Herman, J. R. (2007). Food choices and coping
strategies during periods of perceived food shortage: Perspectives from four racial/ethnic groups
Journal of Extension [On-line], 50(2). Available at:
Patel, I. (1991). Gardenings socioeconomic impacts. Journal of Extension [On-line], 29(4) Article
4FEA1. Available at:
Raab, C., & Grobe, D. (2005). Consumer knowledge and perceptions about organic food. Journal of
Extension [On-line], 43(4) Article 4RIB3. Available at:
Rodiek, S. (2002). Influence of an outdoor garden on mood and stress in older persons. Journal of
Therapeutic Horticulture, XIII, 13-21.
Roth, J. D. (2011). The year-long GRS project: How much does a garden really save? Retrieved
Simons, W. M, Simons, J., McCallum, J., & Friedlander, Y. (2006). Lifestyle factors and risk of
dementia: Dubbo study of the elderly. Medical Journal of Australia , 184, 68-70.
Stall, W. M., (1979), Economic value of a home vegetable garden in South Florida . Proceedings of
the Florida State Horticultural Society 92, 213-214.
Stephens, J. M., Carter, L., & Van Gundy, C. V. (1980). Economic value of vegetables grown in North
Florida Gardens. Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society, 93, 70-72.
Utzinger, J. D., & Connolly, H. E. (1978). Economic value of a home garden. HortScience, 12, 148-
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... Research on residential food gardening includes efforts to map the spatial distribution of residential food gardens (McClintock et al., 2013;Smith et al., 2013;Taylor & Lovell, 2014) or to describe the social or economic benefits of home food gardens (Albaladejo-García et al., 2021;Dubová & Macháč, 2019;Gray et al., 2014;Langellotto, 2014;Schupp & Sharp, 2012). Broader investigations into residential gardens, not tied to food production, have documented the social and ecological drivers of the diversity of insects (Fetridge et al., 2008), birds (Lerman & Warren, 2011), or plants ( Avolio et al., 2018). ...
Small‐scale, residential food gardens are arguably the most common form of urban agriculture (UA) in the world. Despite their ubiquity, we know relatively little about the characteristics of UA soils, in general, and of residential food gardens specifically. We thus sampled soils from 27 residential‐scale vegetable gardens in two western Oregon cities to describe the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of residential‐scale UA soils. We distinguished growing sites by bed type: in‐ground beds (IGs) and raised beds (RBs). We assessed the proportion of soils that fell within published recommendations for vegetable production for various soil parameters. We found residential‐scale UA soils frequently exceeded recommended ranges for many fertility parameters. We also found differences in carbon/nitrogen ratio, active carbon, and sulfur, with RBs significantly higher than IGs. The excesses likely are due to routine overapplication of compost, soil amendments, and fertilizers by growers across their intensively managed urban spaces. Such overapplication and excess is likely to be exaggerated in RBs compared with IGs. Urban vegetable garden soils are overenriched in organic matter and some nutrients. Soil characteristics of in‐ground garden beds are distinct from raised beds. egularly importing soil or media to create gardens can contribute to excess fertility.
... If you can grow vegetables for less money than it would cost to buy the same vegetables at the grocery store, you gain a financial benefit (cost savings). Langellotto (2014) reviewed several studies of gardening costs and yields. She found that in most cases the value of food produced was greater than the cost, especially when no labor cost was counted. ...
Home vegetable gardening has numerous documented benefits, including savings on the family food bill. How can a gardener calculate cost savings from a garden? Which vegetables cost more to grow in the garden and which cost less? This 10-page fact sheet written by Kevin Athearn, Hannah Wooten, Liz Felter, Catherine G. Campbell, Jessica M. Ryals, Matthew C. Lollar, Juanita Popenoe, Lorna Bravo, LuAnn Duncan, Christa Court, and Wendy Wilber and published by the UF/IFAS Food and Resource Economics Department helps home gardeners estimate the costs and cost savings from vegetable gardening
... For example, the proper harnessing of climate-smart farming technologies can increase energy stock through crop residuals [45], and simultaneously increase food stock (through fruits and vegetables) and earn sustainable community livelihoods by selling excess produce [46,47]. A cost-benefit analysis of the economic viability of vegetable and fruit gardening by Langellotto [48] revealed that this activity can produce fruits, nuts, and vegetables worth over USD 677 annually, with the value mainly depending on THE local environmental and socioeconomic context and choice of crops. From the water side, climate-farming systems can improve soil conditions and ground cover that allows better water infiltration and reduces surface water runoff and rates of evaporation experienced in the bare lands [49,50]. ...
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The objective of this study is to evaluate the contributions of ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) practices to the water–energy–food (WEF) nexus balance, design practical pathways, and analyze barriers towards achievement of EbA-WEF balance. An area case study and descriptive methods were used to analyze data collected from 50 community forests (CFs) spread across three regions in The Gambia. Extensive information from relevant literature sources was also referred to in this study. Fourteen priority EbA practices were established and categorized into four major groups based on their application similarities. Among the anticipated ecosystem services were enhanced water resource conservation, food and feed production, enhanced energy supply, and improved community livelihoods to enhance their resilience. Pathways on how each practice under the broad category contributes to water, energy, and food were developed to demonstrate how they individually and collectively contribute towards the nexus balance. Key enablers identified included a conducive policy framework, institutional support, diverse incentives, information, knowledge, and technology transfer, and climate and non-climate barriers were cited as impediments. The paper concludes by outlining recommendations to overcome the established barriers.
... Land size and number of years of cultivation are the typicalparameters used for estimating the values (Mohan et al., 2006). Economic values also quantify the benefit provided by home gardens (Galahena et al., 2013;Langellotto, 2014). According to the literature, the following multiple regression model was used to estimate the economic value of KHG production destroyed by the landslide (Eq. ...
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The concept of landslide vulnerability to a given location is hard to quantify. Few studies have been carried to determine susceptibility using social and physical factors. This study is the first attempt in Sri Lanka to quantify level of vulnerability by integrating major physical and social indicators to map the spatial distribution of vulnerability. Considering the limitations of traditional weight evaluation method in calculation of the multiple indicators and ignorance of the associations among evaluating indicators, a new weight evaluation process, entropy method was introduced in this study. This improved method for determination of weight of the evaluating indicators was applied to estimate weight for the 14 selected indicators. The primary data were obtained from a comprehensive questioner survey (n = 402) of households or buildings (elements) with their coordinates based on a spatially balanced approach for ensuring spatial coverage of the entire landslide distribution. The spatial distribution of vulnerability was mapped using Kriging interpolation. According to the map, landslide vulnerabilities in the study area demonstrate notable regional specifications. Besides, the spatial distribution of vulnerability has shown a close relationship with rural and urban settlements. Results of spatial vulnerability reflect discrimination and inequalities in the development of the study area. According to landslide vulnerability analyses, 14.6% (247 km²) of the entire area is found to be the highest vulnerable zone for a landslide and 39.8% (675 km²) of area categorized under the lowest zone to vulnerability. Further, the study revealed a reasonable contribution by entropy method on analysis of social and physical indicators, which is useful for other vulnerability assessments.
... Land size and number of years of cultivation are the typicalparameters used for estimating the values (Mohan et al., 2006). Economic values also quantify the benefit provided by home gardens (Galahena et al., 2013;Langellotto, 2014). According to the literature, the following multiple regression model was used to estimate the economic value of KHG production destroyed by the landslide (Eq. ...
Full-text available
Background Landslides area controversial issue worldwide and cause a wide range of impacts on the socio-economic systems of the affected community. However, empirical studies of affected environments remain inadequate for prediction and decision making. This study aims to estimate the direct impact of a massive landslide that occurred around areas with Kandyan home gardens (KHGs)in Aranayake, Sri Lanka. Results Primary data were gathered by structured questionnaire from residents of the directly affected regions; the questionnaire data were combined with spatial data to acquire detailed information about the livelihoods and hazards at the household level. Satellite images were used to find affected land use and households prior to the landslide. Further, secondary data were obtained to assess the recovery cost. A multiple regression model was established to estimate the economic value of the home gardens. Field surveys and satellite images revealed that land-use practices during the past decades have caused environmental imbalance and have led to slope instability. Conclusions The results reveal that 52% of household income is generated by the KHG and that the income level highly depends on the extent of the land (R² = 0.85, p < 0.05). The extent of destroyed land that was obtained from the satellite images and the age of the KHG were used to develop a multiple regression model to estimate the economic loss of the KHG. It was found that the landslide affected region had been generating approximately US$ 160,000 annually from their home gardens toward the GDP of the country. This study found that almost all houses in the area were at risk of further sliding, and all of them were partially or entirely affected by the landslide. Among the affected households, 60% (40 houses) had completelycollapsed, whereas 40% (27 houses) were partially damaged. Because of these circumstances, the government must provide US $ 40,369 to recover the fully and partially damaged households. Finally, a lack of awareness and unplanned garden cultivation were the main contributing factors that increased the severity of the damage.
... Notable exceptions include efforts to map the spatial distribution of residential food gardens Smith, Ng, & Popkin, 2013;Taylor & Lovell, 2012) or to describe the social or economic benefits of home food gardens (Gray, Guzman, Glowa, & Drevno, 2014;Langellotto, 2014;Schupp & Sharp, 2012). ...
Urban agriculture (UA) is defined as the production of food crops or livestock within urban areas. Despite its popularity in the United States, research into UA systems suffers from a general underrepresentation of commercial urban systems. As a result, urban growers often have unique technological needs that are unmet by research and extension. I worked with a particularly ubiquitous group of urban growers, home gardeners, to better understand the current status of urban agricultural soils. Specifically, this study had three parts. First, I documented the current extent of research and knowledge related to urban agricultural soils in the United States (Chapter 1). Second, I noted the characteristics of residential-scale vegetable gardens in Corvallis and Portland, Oregon, to better understand current growing conditions and needs (Chapter 2). Third, I characterized the biological, physical, and chemical characteristics of these same gardens (Chapter 3). Finally, I conclude with potential directions for further research (Chapter 4). In Chapter 1, I reviewed the academic literature on urban soils and found research which directly analyzed urban agricultural soil to be lacking. Only 17 studies directly addressed the characteristics of urban agricultural soils in the United States. Heavy metals were the subject of the vast majority of these articles, with about half thestudies investigating chemical fertility parameters, and even fewer examining biological and physical qualities of agriculturally productive urban soils. Nearly all studies were conducted in residential sites, which potentially limits data-driven urban agricultural policies focused on commercial urban agriculture as a means to supplement locally grown foods. In order to better inform management recommendations, I recorded garden characteristics of trained urban food growers. In Chapter 2, I report on a survey of surveyed 27 residential food gardens (including two demonstration gardens) in two Pacific Northwest cities. All site managers were trained Oregon State University Extension Master Gardeners. I found 132 unique crops were tended across all gardens, and a variety of management approaches were used. The most noteworthy concern I noted from the site managers was a desire to reconcile the mechanics of crop rotation within a small production footprint. In Chapter 3, I examined the composition of urban garden soils from those same 27 sites in Corvallis and Portland, Oregon. In addition to recording the physical, biological, chemical fertility, and heavy metal parameters of urban garden soils, I tested for differences between garden sites based upon bed-type (e.g. raised beds versus in- ground beds). Raised beds were significantly different than in-ground beds for nearly one-third of the soil parameters recorded. Further, the mean soil fertility values across all sites were 2-8x above the recommended range for one-third of the parameters examined. I believe excessive applications of organic matter to be the source of this nutrient excess. Excessive organic matter, annually added to small garden spaces, likely promotes soil nutrient imbalances. However, the message many urban growers are given is that adding organic matter to soils is good. My data suggests that urban growers need more nuanced recommendations which account for the unique constraints of small garden spaces. Further, the recommendation to build raised beds to avoid contamination did not hold in this investigation. The matter seems more complicated, and I suggest greater scrutiny be applied to discover the source of contaminated soils in raised beds.In Chapter 4, I suggest how policy, training, laboratory procedures, and management goals can be adjusted in light of these findings. It seems that the excessive nutrient levels in raised beds is a waste of both economic and environmental resources, with the potential for nutrient leaching as well. I believe that a well-informed site manager can quickly alter the productive capacity of an urban soil. Researchers who wish to contribute to urban agriculture should search for alternative management options which confer the benefits of compost while balancing the varied nutrient content therein. This likely involves using alternative fertilizer sources as well as novel bulking agents which can build but not imbalance a newly productive soil.
... There remains considerable discussion around the potential capacity for UA to support urban food security and reduce the cost of living for households [7,9,14,49,53]. A survey by Butterfield [7] reported that 54% of American households were growing food in order to save money on their food bills. In Australia, 91% of the home and community gardeners in Wise's [9] study slightly or strongly agreed that they save money by growing some of their own food. ...
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In our visions of the future, urban agriculture has long been considered an integral part of the ‘sustainable city’. Yet urban agriculture is an incredibly diverse and variable field of study, and many practical aspects remain overlooked and understudied. This paper explores the economic sustainability of urban agriculture by focusing on the physical, practical, and economic aspects of home food gardens in South Australia. New data from the Edible Gardens project online survey is presented on a broad range of current garden setups, including a figure illustrating the statistically typical South Australian food garden. The differences between the survey data and a recent optimized garden model further highlight the gap in knowledge regarding existing home food gardens. With regard to the financial accessibility and economic sustainability of home food gardens, there is also still much more work to be done. Although saving money is a top motivation, with many survey respondents believing that they do succeed in saving money, it remains to be seen whether their current gardening practices support this aspiration. Measurement of the full costs of different gardens would allow for better predictions of whether growing food can save household’s money and under what circumstances.
... As a result, homeowners frequently apply more water than necessary, which leads to water loss as subsoil drainage [21]. Another major problem for urban growers is the labour invested in watering which may conflict with other activities [22]. In some regions, those interested in growing crops are not able to do so due to the presence of legacy contamination [23] or a shallow water table [24]. ...
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A wicking bed (WB) is a plant driven system where plants receive water through capillary rise from a self-contained coarse material-filled subsoil reservoir. WBs have been widely promoted as a water-efficient irrigation solution for small-scale and urban food gardens. However, little published research exists to support popular claims about their effectiveness. In this study, the performance of WBs was compared with best-practice, precision surface irrigation in terms of water use efficiency (WUE), fruit yield, fruit quality and labour input, using tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) as the experimental crop. The influence of WB design variables (reservoir depths and soil bed depths) was tested. Results showed that WBs performed as well or better than precision surface irrigated pots, showing statistically significant improvement in WUE, yield and fruit quality. The results also suggest an optimum design exists for soil depth (where 300 mm outperformed 600 mm) but not reservoir depth (no difference between 150 and 300 mm). The WBs were more labour efficient, requiring significantly less frequent watering to achieve the same or better WUE. WBs are inherently low-tech and scaleable and appear well-suited to a variety of urban agriculture settings.
The specific case of home gardening practices is particularly relevant when discussing lifestyle habits and ecological transition, due to the wide range of positive and negative environmental externalities private gardens may generate. However, existing studies usually focus on restricted areas, mostly at a city scale. We provide an original empirical contribution to the literature on individual and institutional drivers regarding ecological transition by exploring the variations of individual behavior between European countries with an appropriate econometric approach. Using a European database (Eurobarometer 83.4), we highlight several interesting results regarding Europeans’ adoption of sustainable gardening practices, more particularly on the role of socio-demographic drivers, urban or rural residential location and access to trustworthy biodiversity-related information. In conclusion, we provide recommendations for the design of dedicated public policies, specific to a national or local level of decision.
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Water use and the cost of water are key factors when considering the net value of urban agriculture (UA). This systematic review critically evaluates past and recent UA yield research from the perspective of water use efficiency. A systematic literature search was conducted using the databases Scopus, ProQuest Agriculture and Environment, and Web of Science for references from 1975 to 2018, with 25 articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Of these, only five articles had actively collected UA water use data, all on purpose-built experimental gardens. Considering the scarcity of UA water use efficiency and water measurement literature, South Australia is presented as a case study to demonstrate the considerable diversity of water pricing, water sources and irrigation methods available to urban food growers. The practical challenges of garden placement and the wide variety of cultivation techniques, water sources and irrigation methods are reviewed. Four equations to calculate the water use efficiency (WUE) of UA are proposed and demonstrated. Collection of additional UA water use data would support more robust evaluations of the water use efficiency and economic implications of different cultivation techniques. Further work in this field will enable a realistic understanding of the current and future contribution of UA to our society.
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Although a handful of published reports suggest that garden-based nutrition education programs are effective in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, many of these studies have low statistical power because of small sample sizes and lack of long-term data. In this study, we used meta-analytical techniques to examine the efficacy of garden-based nutrition education programs for increasing children’s nutrition knowledge, preference for fruit and vegetables, and/or consumption of fruit and vegetables. We confined our analysis to peer-reviewed studies that examined programs that were delivered to children in the United States. We looked at the relative impacts of garden-based nutrition education programs, compared with experimental controls (i.e., no nutrition education) and nutrition education programs without a gardening component. We compared the results of our meta-analysis with those of a vote counting analysis to illustrate the importance of repeated studies and quantitative analysis. In our vote counting analysis, the majority of the outcomes were nonsignificant in the control and nutrition education groups, but positive and significant for the gardening group. Our quantitative analysis of the impacts of gardening education programs on children’s nutrition knowledge, preference for fruit and vegetables, and/or consumption of fruit and vegetables was limited by the small number of studies that reported the full suite of descriptive statistics needed to conduct a meta-analysis. Nonetheless, one striking and robust result emerged: gardening increased vegetable consumption in children, whereas the impacts of nutrition education programs were marginal or nonsignificant. We suggest two nonmutually exclusive hypotheses to explain our results: gardening increases access to vegetables and gardening decreases children’s reluctance to try new foods. Our results suggest that gardening should be an integral component of wellness programs and policies. A historical lack of funding has impeded both the broader adoption of school gardens and rigorous research on the social, behavioral, and academic impacts of gardening on children. Recently, however, there has been an increase in federal support for gardening and garden-based research projects—a trend that we hope will continue and grow.
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Despite recent interest in healing gardens and therapeutic landscapes at residential care facilities, few empirical studies have measured health outcomes in elderly populations. This study explored methods for assessing psychological and physiological outcomes associated with natural environments. Seventeen residents ranging from 71 to 98 years of age (mean 84.7) engaged in the same activities at an outdoor horticultural garden or indoor classroom. Before and after the experience, subjects were assessed for positive and negative mood, anxiety, and salivary cortisol. No significant change was found in mood or anxiety level. Cortisol was significantly lower in the garden environment compared with the indoor settings, indicating greater reduction in stress level. This pilot study supports previous research finding health-related outcomes associated with brief exposure to natural environments.
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Food waste contributes to excess consumption of freshwater and fossil fuels which, along with methane and CO(2) emissions from decomposing food, impacts global climate change. Here, we calculate the energy content of nationwide food waste from the difference between the US food supply and the food consumed by the population. The latter was estimated using a validated mathematical model of metabolism relating body weight to the amount of food eaten. We found that US per capita food waste has progressively increased by approximately 50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 kcal per person per day or 150 trillion kcal per year. Food waste now accounts for more than one quarter of the total freshwater consumption and approximately 300 million barrels of oil per year.
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The objectives of this study were to determine exercise intensity of common gardening tasks in older adults and to investigate if older gardeners meet the physical activity (PA) recommendations (intensity and time) through their daily gardening. Kinds of gardening tasks, body postures, and bodily pain while gardening of older gardeners were investigated and the possibility of gardening as a predictor for a physically active lifestyle and life satisfaction in older adults was determined. Older participants were randomly recruited from the community of Manhattan, KS. To determine the exercise intensity of gardening, the heart rates of older adults were measured by radiotelemetry during gardening or garden tasks, and then oxygen uptake and energy expenditure were measured via indirect calorimetry using a submaximal graded exercise test. Overall health conditions by the Short Form 36 Health Survey (SF-36), hand functions by hydraulic hand dynamometer and pinch gauge, and bone mineral density (BMD) by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry were measured. An observational study and weekly logs were conducted to study kinds of gardening, postures, and bodily pain of older gardeners. The Community Healthy Activities Model Program for Senior (CHAMPS) questionnaire was used to measure leisure-time PAs (frequency per week of all PAs and calories expended per week in all PAs). In conclusion, the nine gardening tasks were found to be low to moderate intensity PA in healthy older adults (1.6 ± 3.6 METs). Gardening observed was moderate intensity (3.8 ± 1.4 METs) PA in older adults and the subjects met the PA recommendation, which is at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity PA on most days of the week through their daily gardening (moderate intensity; average 33 hrs/wk in May and 15 hrs/wk in June and July). The older gardeners showed higher values for hand function and some SF-36 domains (physical function, bodily pain, and physical summary) than older non-gardeners. Gripping, stooping, lifting, stretching, walking, standing, kneeling, sitting, and squatting were observed while older adults gardened and lower back pain was the main bodily pain reported. Furthermore, gardening was found to be a predictor for leading a physically active lifestyle and high life satisfaction in older adults. The Kansas State University Center on Aging; the NSF ADVANCE program of Kansas State University Doctor of Philosophy Doctoral Department of Horticulture, Forestry, and Recreation Resources Candice A. Shoemaker
Oregon food shoppers' knowledge and perceptions about organic food were assessed in a statewide phone survey conducted 3 months after adoption of USDA's National Organic Program standards. Of the 637 interviewees, 77% reported household purchase of organic food in the past 6 months. Those with household members in environmental organizations were significantly more likely to purchase organic food frequently. About two-thirds gave positive word associations with "organic. " Forty percent were aware that the USDA standards had gone into effect. Trust in the accuracy of the USDA organic label varied. Environmentally minded consumers are a potential organic market if trust is maintained.
The study reported here aimed to develop a better understanding of ethnic differences in food choices during times of perceived food shortage. Eight focus groups were conducted with limited income women between the ages of 18 to 35 years-two each with Native American, Hispanic, African American, and White participants. Content analysis of transcripts indicated differences and similarities with respect to food choices and coping strategies. Results of the study have important implications for the development of culturally appropriate and financially realistic nutrition education programming with diverse populations.
Many County Extension offices offer an adult Master Gardener Program, which includes advanced gardening training, short courses, newsletters, and conferences. However, with the comprehensive training provided comes a large time commitment. The Produce Your Own program was created to introduce adults to gardening in a similar manner, but with shorter, less demanding, and less technical sessions. The outreach program consisted of a series of four interactive sessions focused on plot design, crop selection, garden maintenance, harvesting, and preserving. The content can be adapted in many ways for adults, seniors, youth, and other audiences, which allows Extension to reach larger audiences.
Many approaches have been tried in order to tackle the problem of obesity in children, but most of them have failed to achieve long-term weight loss. Cognitive behaviour therapy tends to predict good prospects. So far, no studies have investigated the surplus value of introducing a "healthy-eating" lifestyle program instead of a strict diet prescription, in combination with the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy. Therefore, a new program was designed. The second aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of different forms of therapeutic contact. The obese group consisted of 205 children seeking treatment, and a control group of 54 obese school children. The effects of the program were evaluated by means of a pre-test/post-test design with a 1-y follow-up. Subjects were assigned to different therapeutic conditions: group therapy, individual therapy, summer camp or "advice in one session". A progressive and significant loss of weight for all therapeutic conditions was noticeable. The reduction continued at least 6 months after completing therapy. The control group, however, showed weight evolution in the opposite sense. A replication of the positive effect of CBT was found in a broad sample of clinically obese children, even without strict diet prescription. Our hypothesis that group approach will result in a better outcome is borne out.
To identify risk factors for dementia in an elderly Australian cohort. A longitudinal cohort study conducted in Dubbo, NSW. 2805 men and women aged 60 years and older living in the community and initially free of cognitive impairment, first assessed in 1988 and followed for 16 years. Admission to hospital or nursing home with any kind of dementia. There were 115 cases of dementia in 1233 men (9.3/100) and 170 cases in 1572 women (10.8/100). In a proportional hazards model for dementia, any intake of alcohol predicted a 34% lower risk, and daily gardening a 36% lower risk. Daily walking predicted a 38% lower risk of dementia in men, but there was no significant prediction in women. The lowest tertile of peak expiratory flow predicted an 84% higher risk of dementia, the upper tertile of depression score predicted a 50% higher risk. While excess alcohol intake is to be avoided, it appears safe and reasonable to recommend the continuation of moderate alcohol intake in those already imbibing, as well as the maintenance of physical activity, especially daily gardening, in the hope of reducing the incidence of dementia in future years.