Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Marketing Self-Sufficiency

There’s no denying that more and more people are interested in doing things like growing vegetables and raising chickens in their backyard, reducing their energy usage, and playing with fire so they can tell their wives they’re working on alternative fuel sources.  And most of them, like my husband and me, are total wannabes.  May as well face the facts. Last year we mostly grew weeds.   We’re not moving out to the weed farm anytime soon.

The raised bed is now (mostly) planted.  Pole beans are in the very back.  Peppers and tomatoes will fill in the middle.

BUT.  But, you will never see us purchasing cedar raised bed kits or “authentic vintage” copper garden tools.  I’m seeing so many unnecessary products being sold through mass retailers to the self-sufficiency wannabes it’s laughable.  Does nobody else see the irony here?  Self-sufficiency is all about using what you have and buying less.  It’s the antithesis of the mass retail chain.  

Most ludicrous was an antique French washtub being marketed as a planter.  Of course it was very expensive.  Apparently people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars to look like they’re cool using old junk.  But not just any old junk!  French junk!  It’s silly.  
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The marketing of “vintage” has been going on for quite some time now.  A lot of people are nostalgic for “the good old days” without ever having known them.  That sort of unfulfilled, ill-defined void in people’s souls is exactly what marketers look for.  
Last year's unmanagably massive space. Ryan's going to experiment with "The Three Sisters" (corn, beans, and squash) as companion plantings once the weeds under the plastic cook a little longer.
They also exploit our desire to see ourselves as a certain image.  We all want to be the cool kids.  And right now all the cool kids are growing tomatoes.  What they don’t want you to know is the ones actually doing it are more likely to be using old sour cream containers than their hydroponics for dummies kit.

You can’t buy self-sufficiency at Williams-Sonoma or Lowes.  It can only be bought in what my dad calls “sweat equity.”  Our consumer culture is really, really bad at it.  So far I’ve been bad at it, too.  But it’s good for the soul.  
More like mammoth popsicle stick.

The thing about vegetable gardens and such is that they require you to stick with it consistently, if you want anything edible out of them.  They don’t care how fancy your set-up is.  If you don’t put in the work, you won’t get results.  Mother Nature doesn’t negotiate, regardless of extenuating circumstances (We just had a baby, it’s just too hot out, whatever.).

All the actual plants are in our front yard. I got impatient waiting for the raised bed to be ready.

I’ve done enough to know, however, that even modest successes are extremely rewarding.  Stick with it! 

I’m definitely pep-talking myself here.  If it helps you at all, dear reader, great!  And I must confess I was agog over a dehydrator I saw in the Williams-Sonoma catalog.  Maybe to reward myself when I have enough produce to require drying it for winter…
Thank goodness for mesclun mix.  If the world falls apart, we'll probably have to live on mesclun.


  1. How about we get together when the world falls apart? That way we'll have mesclun and zucchini. :)

    Our garden is doing fairly, though there are a few disappointments so far. It seems every year, once it's too late, I think of some things I wish I'd done differently. Like remembered to plant okra. Or planted peas, and spinach.

  2. We don't even have a yard anymore, so our "gardening" is very limited this year. I started a bunch of seeds (some flowers, some veggies) in little planters, but something ate them all as soon as they came up. The only things that have survived are the flowers in the hanging pots....oh, and morning glories. They must not taste good.

    But yeah, I agree about all the unnecessary stuff some people are tempted to buy...when I needed little labels for all my seeds, my first thought was, "oh man - I'll have to go buy some". Then I realized that it was stupid, and I just cut out strips out of a plastic milk jug and wrote on them with Sharpie. Just as good!