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Savor the Taste of Independence, Grow Your Own!

Savor the Taste of Independence, Grow Your Own!

Growing your own tomatoes can be rewarding far beyond the sweet taste of your crop.

The traditional extra benefits keep bringing many of us back season after season. If you’re a gardener, you know the great feeling of acting directly on nature to produce the food you eat. Raising tomatoes gets you outside and sweating, and usually provides a sense of accomplishment. It encourages discipline and planning and demands a bit of knowledge and a ton of patience.

And when you finally harvest those juicy edibles and carry them into your home—without once leaving your property—you can almost hear the fife and drums. You’re gripped by a feeling virtually unknown in today’s world: independence. This is what our ancestors fought for!

Any extras you have you can give away with pride. If the haul is sufficiently large, you might even can some for off-season. Gardeners everywhere have done this for ages.

Recently, though, I’ve taken pleasure in what gardening doesn’t involve.

What it doesn’t involve is the government, at least not in the meddling, bleeding sense. The tomatoes I grow are as valuable to me as money if not more so, since it is so hard to find good ones. Yet I have no intention of reporting them as “income.”

I take great satisfaction in not needing a license or any kind of certification to create a garden. I don’t have to join a union or seek some bureaucrat’s zoning approval to devote part of my land to raising vegetables. I don’t have to devise, then get blessed, any sort of warning label for my tomatoes. If I get sick when I eat them, tough. If the wage I pay myself is the market value of the tomatoes themselves, then I stand guilty of running a sweatshop. Even the most bountiful harvest doesn’t translate into a living wage.

If bugs are attacking my Better Boys, I can kill the pests without having the government jail me for murdering insects.

Most years I have by far more tomato plants than any of my neighbors, yet I live without fear of prosecution for my monopolistic tactics. They are free to grow more or grow none as they wish, and I am free to harvest as many of the red devils as I can or let them all rot on the vine.

Not one of my tomatoes will be confiscated for “social” needs. I give some to others as an act of volition, not an act of Congress. And I give them from a sense of pride, not pity; to share, not from my “duty” to serve others.

No official will seize any for my future well-being. If I want to eat my homegrowns after my plants have died, it’s up to me to can some. I can limit myself to grow tomatoes of a single cultivar and not worry about charges of racism or lack of diversity. If I choose to grow some of every variety, no beefsteak supremacist can stop me.

I don’t have to tolerate congressional double-talk of a gardener’s bill of rights, allowing me to sue any and everyone for lousy vegetables. The only right I have is the freedom to grow them or not. If I have a poor crop, I can blame whoever and whatever I want, but nobody’s going to listen except me.

Despite a friend’s comment that garden-fresh tomatoes are almost as good as you-know-what, there are no interns around to wipe sweat from my brow. The most sensational event of the previous growing season happened when the handle of my shovel cracked after hitting a rock.

But in every personal undertaking there’s always the state to consider.

Gretchen’s Decree

Deeply concerned for the safety of her state’s residents owing to a presumed virus invasion from a Chinese lab, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a short-lived decree in early April, 2020, that prohibited “all stores larger than 50,000-square feet to cordon off their garden centers and plant nurseries, blocking customers from shopping in those sections through April 30.” (Michiganians were still allowed to buy necessities such as liquor and lottery tickets, of course.)

In short, home gardening was put on hold for many people. But Governor Whitmer, a reflective politician, canceled that order a week later in the name of “economic re-engagement.”

What possible threat could home gardens pose to public health or politicians who seem eager to do away with them?

Perhaps Governor Whitmer and others have heard of what happened in Vietnam. In a May 2024 Reason article, author Rainer Zitelmann reports,

In 1990, with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $98, Vietnam was the poorest country in the world, behind Somalia and Sierra Leone. Every bad harvest led to hunger, and Vietnam relied on food aid from the United Nations and financial assistance from the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries. As late as 1993, 79.7 percent of the Vietnamese population was living in poverty.

By 2020, the poverty rate had fallen to 5 percent. Vietnam is now one of the most dynamic countries in the world, with a vibrant economy that creates great opportunities for hardworking people and entrepreneurs. Once a country unable to produce enough rice to feed its own population, it has become one of the world’s largest rice exporters, and a major electronics exporter too.

What happened? A communist miracle? You know better.

Like Lenin before them in the 1920s Soviet Union, the Vietnam communist regime decided to back off from their ideology somewhat. Their reforms in the early 1980s amounted to making legal certain “spontaneous developments” that had been long ongoing in several villages. “Farmers refused to work in collectives and concentrated their work on the little land they owned themselves, because they could sell the goods they produced here at market prices.”

Farmers were giving CPR to the market: “‘Without such illegal or pilot procedures,’ Tran Thi Anh-Dao wrote in the 2022 book Rethinking Asian Capitalism, ‘there is evidence that market mechanisms could never have emerged so rapidly.’”

The market movement gradually mushroomed:

The reforms adopted in the next couple of years included permission for private manufacturers to employ up to 10 workers (later increased), abolition of internal customs checkpoints, elimination of the state foreign-trade monopoly, reduced restrictions on private enterprise, elimination of virtually all direct subsidies and price controls, separation of central banking from commercial banking, dismantling major elements of the central planning and price bureaucracies, the return of businesses in the South that had been nationalized in 1975 to their former owners or their relatives, and the return of land seized in the ’70s collectivization campaign if it was “illegally or arbitrarily appropriated.”

Moral for American home gardeners: Keep at it.

Even if you live in an apartment or a condo, you can grow tomatoes in big pots on your deck, but be sure to pick the right variety. This year, treat yourself to some good eating while savoring the taste of independence—and remember those brave Vietnamese.

This article appeared first on the Mises Institute under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.

Image credit: Unsplash

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