#92: Price out a home vegetable garden

Seven or eight years ago, my sweetie and I purchased half a share of produce from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We liked the idea of supporting an up-and-coming local business, especially one committed to sustainable and organic food-production methods. We also appreciated the notion of knowing where our food was coming from, reducing our carbon blueprint, and having incredibly tasty/fresh/healthy vegetables to enjoy from late spring to early fall.

What we didn’t realize, however, was that the quantities and varieties of produce we were to receive over the summer would fluctuate rather dramatically.

Our first delivery from the CSA contained a few leaves of salad lettuce, a small onion, and three baby potatoes. Okay, so the farm was just getting started – we can be patient. And we were. Over the next few weeks my sweetie and I received more lettuces, more onions, and more potatoes…all nice things to get, but nothing from which we could make a full meal. Then summer arrived, and the farm started sending a plethora of tomatoes and zucchini. We received more of these two vegetables than we could possibly eat – and didn’t receive much of the other foods we were hoping for (i.e., green beans, broccoli, asparagus…). As fall arrived and my sweetie and I assessed our experience with the CSA, we realized we were kind of disappointed with how things had turned out – and we choose to let our membership lapse the following season.

So my sweetie and I resumed noshing on California/Florida/Chile/Mexico-grown fruits and vegetables. Then two years ago, one of my colleagues at work and I were chatting over lunch, and our conversation wandered to gardening. When someone mentions that they garden, I always ask if they grow flowers or vegetables. He replied that he had a booming vegetable garden, and showed me a picture. His plot of earth was small-ish but mighty; he was producing enough food to have a decent serving of produce at both lunch and dinner, and his variety was impressive as well. I admit that I was more than a little jealous – and I told my colleague as much. He then clued me in on his ‘secret’: He had hired a local business to come and install the garden for him. The professionals planned the plot of land, built the raised garden bed, planted all the seedlings, and came weekly to monitor plant growth and harvest the crops at just the right time. They even installed a rabbit-proof fence and a plastic dome covering to protect the fruits and veggies when the fall frost came. I was very impressed, and asked for the name of the business – which my colleague generously and happily shared with me.

The following spring I contacted the business, and asked if they would come to my home to see if our yard could support a garden (as well as get more detailed produce and pricing information). The owner and I set a time to meet – but then the day before our appointment, she called and canceled (she had come down with a bad sinus infection). Okay, I understand, illness happens. I re-arranged my schedule, and the owner and I agreed on a new appointment to occur exactly one week later. Seven days passed, and the time for our meeting arrived – but no one came to my door. Ten minutes passed, then twenty. Growing increasingly frustrated and impatient with every elapsing second, I finally called the woman – and she was genuinely surprised to hear my voice. She thought we were meeting at 2 pm, not 1 pm. She said she could hop right in her car and be over in 20 minutes; but by that point, I was too annoyed to be able to give her a fair shot – so I told her no thanks, maybe I’d try again later. But later never came.

So last summer my sweetie and I continued to consume mass-produced, low-flavor produce.  😦  Sad.

This winter I searched to see if I could find another help-me-establish-a-garden alternative; but the business that I declined to engage last summer is really the only such game in town. So I let go of last year’s resentment as best I could, and contacted the owner to see if she and I could try to connect. We set a date for last Thursday; and then last Wednesday I received an email asking if we could reschedule – she had just come home from the clinic, and was diagnosed with strep throat. Feeling like history was repeating itself, I very hesitantly agreed to a new meeting. (And truth be told, if this item had not been on my 101 list, I would not have entertained a second [fourth] attempt to connect.) But the item is on my 101 list, so I felt committed to trying to see this thing through. So I set aside a newly-building resentment as much as possible, and agreed to a new meeting: Thursday at 1 pm.

Can you guess what happened next? I’ll give you a hint: history really does repeat itself. No lie. At 1:10 pm on Thursday when the woman hadn’t rung my doorbell, I gave her a call – and she said, “Oh, I thought we were meeting at 2 pm.” (I swear to goodness, this is the truth.) She then said, “I can get in my car right now and be there in 20 minutes – will that work for you?” I wanted to scream, “NO! 1 pm is when we agreed to meet, damn it – so be a responsible business owner and get your ass over here NOW!” However, I refrained from using both those words and that tone, and instead replied tersely, “I have a meeting at 3 pm [which was true – I had to take our puppy to the vet to get his owie bum looked at], so our appointment will need to be finished by 2:15 pm at the absolute latest. If you can work within those constraints, you may come over now.” She assured me that she would be at my home by 1:30 pm, and than 45 minutes was ample time to discuss garden options. With that, we hung up, and I waited.

And waited. And waited.

Care to guess what time her truck pulled in to my driveway?

2 pm.

Seriously.

Of course the woman was incredibly apologetic – but by then I was beyond frustrated. I calmly-but-firmly informed her that she had 10 minutes to tell me everything I needed to know in order to make an informed decision about her garden process – and then I was silent. I think the woman was genuinely surprised by how very serious I was about the statement I just made – and she proceeded to prattle information as quickly as her mouth could form words. At 2:09 pm, I asked her if there was any other piece of critical information I needed to know before we parted ways, and she said she didn’t think so. I nodded my head once, said, “Okay,” and turned to walk toward my front door. The woman called after me, “I’ll follow-up with you next week…”, and I nodded in her direction as I re-entered my home.

The next day (after my annoyance and poor attitude had some time to dissipate), I shared the garden information with my sweetie. Both he and I agreed that the concept was really cool – but that the pricing was quite high. If I had more confidence in the business owner’s ability to do what she says she will do (i.e., arrive on time, build/install what we ask for, produce what we want without drama or issue), or if her prices were more reasonable, I might have been inclined to give her a try. But high prices + unreliability (real or perceived) = no business from us.

I’m a little disappointed that our family won’t have a vegetable garden this summer; but at least I now know what the going rate is for a professional to come out and set us up. If in the future I decide I *really* want home-grown veggies, I might give container gardening a go. In the meantime, I’ll score my produce at the farmer’s market (see 101 list item #5), or the grocery. Though they may have traveled many miles to reach me, plums in April are kind of nice to have…

Stef

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About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
This entry was posted in 101 in 1001, day zero project, postaday and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to #92: Price out a home vegetable garden

  1. rutheh says:

    Unbelievable but true. I hope you share this post with the woman. Seriously. How can they have a business with kind of customer service? I think your container gardening is going to be great. I just ordered a hanging basket of cherry tomatoes and a lettuce planter bowl from my granddaughter’s school which I would never have done otherwise and am thinking of the possibility of salads. Fresh and tasty salads.

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    • Stef says:

      If a child rang my doorbell selling produce as a school fundraiser, that would totally be the kick-in-the-pants I need to start a container garden. Alas, I just don’t want to spend my free time fighting with rabbits and trying to establish fledgling fruit and veggie seedlings…. but who knows, maybe one day I’ll get it going. πŸ™‚

      As for sharing this post with the garden woman…. I’m torn on that one. I’m not opposed to giving feedback to people – but I’m only willing to do so when I think it will *really* help them. (Otherwise, why expose myself to the hassle?) In this case, I kind of doubt that she would make any changes to her current state of functioning… so I’m inclined to just let it go, let it be.

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  2. and this person is still in business? wow. As I got to the end of your post I was getting ready to suggest you try container gardening. heh heh. You could always start that this year with just tomatoes and see how you like it! We have a huge garden – bigger than some people’s house lot by bro tells me and we feed ourselves all year from what we grown. It’s a lot of work but a lot of fun. Plus it’s great knowing what we are putting in our bodies has not been sprayed with anything except mother earth’s rain!

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    • Stef says:

      I was also surprised by this individual’s lack of, um, organization with regard to her business. But, it’s not for me to judge. Interestingly, I had a friend comment on facebook that he has heard of others of his friends experience similar issues with the service… so I guess I’m glad it’s not just me? The facebook friend has a home garden that he constructed – and he offered to help my sweetie and I get started with a small plot of our own. So…maybe a veggie garden is in my future after all! πŸ™‚

      And I completely agree with you – I love eating food whose origins I know. It’s healthier, but it also just tastes better!

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      • it does taste so much better. how nice of your friend to offer to help you guys. that’s terrific. you’ll be making salads from your own produce in no time! oh and beans, don’t forget yellow and green beans.

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      • Stef says:

        Beans, tomatoes, carrots, squash, herbs, onions… Lots of goodies are possible. We’ll see what our friend has to say…

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  3. Touch2Touch says:

    I do know people who have commented that their homegrown tomatoes cost roughly $12 each, same for other veggies. Or that zucchini in season (in your garden) is in season in everybody’s garden and can be had for the hauling away. Try a container of tomatoes, especially littlies, people seem to have good luck with them. But the cheapest and easiest — and damn near to freshest — will actually be at your local farmer’s markets, what’s in season.
    (Of course I have a black thumb, so know where this advice comes from —)

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    • Stef says:

      I think heirloom veggies can cost a pretty penny – but the basics should be more reasonable. (At least that’s what my logical mind tells me.) But yes, farmer’s markets are a far easier solution than growing my own food. πŸ™‚

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  4. attemptinggreen says:

    I have had the same problem with landscapers, flooring installers, and carpenters.

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    • Stef says:

      I’ve had good luck with most other independent contractor-types (our landscaper was great, as was our flooring guy; the painters were a notable exception, though…). But certainly every independent business owner is different; so the face-to-face meetings can help determine who I want to engage, and who would be better to steer clear of…

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  5. Haha, I can’t imagine those people are still in business when they blow off very interested prospects. You know, you could at least start slowly and on your own. Some things are harder to grow but most veggies grow with very little maintenance. Of course you have to deal with bugs because it’s organic, but at least there are no pesticides. What the garden needs most is sunlight most of the day and enough water, especially on hot days.

    I don’t consider myself a green thumb but the produce I’ve had most success with are: sugar snap peas (they grow like weeds; I just shared some with my friend today as I can’t eat them all), lettuce, chard, cherry tomatoes (buy the plants, not the seeds, they take forever), zucchini and raspberries). My melons have always started well but squirrels would eat them up by the time they flowered.

    It’s not too late to try, especially since lettuce grows very quickly. If you buy seedlings at the store, you’ll also be able to harvest sooner.

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    • Stef says:

      I know some veggies are relatively easy to grow; and I think we have a decent plot in our yard (a nice sunny spot); but I need help physically building the bed. That was what I was mostly hoping the business could help me do… But I have a friend who read this post, and who contacted me to let me know that he would be willing to build a simple bed with me (he did so at his home a few years ago, and has great success with his garden). So I might give that a go…

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  6. barb19 says:

    Unbelievable! Can you imagine what their after-service would be like? You wouldn’t be very confident in them, would you? I think you were wise not to engage them Stef. I would encourage you to try container gardening – just a few different veggies to start with – you will be hooked – and it will be all your own work!

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    • Stef says:

      Yeah – my gut kind of said, “Nope, not them” last year; but since this was on my 101 list (and since they were the only local business I could find that does this), I decided to give them a second chance – and I got to affirm that my gut is usually right 99% of the time. πŸ™‚

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  7. Makes ya crazy, don’t it?! I say give it a go yourself. If your veggies are anything like smile of pretty produce, you’re good to go! Have fun and enjoy.

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    • Stef says:

      It does drive me a little bonkers. πŸ™‚ I suspect I could do the work myself; now I just have to be willing to invest the time. So we’ll see how far I get…. πŸ˜‰

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  8. Don’t give up now, you’ve come this far. I can see photos already. πŸ™‚
    Maybe you could get a local gardener to take on the project.

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    • Stef says:

      It’s funny/interesting: In the past two days, I have seen multiple pictures and articles promoting “unconventional” container vegetable gardens (i.e., using rain gutters, wood pallets, etc.). Some of those ideas intrigue me – I could raise veggies without building the garden at all. It’s a thought… πŸ™‚

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  9. Pingback: Day 577 | Three Daily Delights

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