Are Gardeners Better Equipped For The Great Recession?



One of the wisest things I've ever heard about gardening came from C.R. Lawn, the founder of the wonderful Fedco Seeds, who told me, "In the long run, your work is rewarded if you pay
attention to details.  In the short run, you never know."

Even professional growers are stymied in certain years, like this last one when late blight wiped out tomatoes and potatoes up and down the Hudson.

Of course, the tomato-less summer was particularly cruel in that it also coincided with the Great Recession. 

I don't know about you, but I know a lot of people for whom "in the short run, you never know" says everything that needs to be said about their professional life right now.  These are not people who were calmly laid off, but people who were fired in strange, emotional ways after what had been a beautiful work relationship.  There seems to be a lot of barely suppressed hysteria in the world right now.

So, what do you think?  Do gardeners have a leg up psychologically in interesting times, just because they've had so many lessons in their own powerlessness in the short term–and ability to transform the world in the long-term?

Are you better equipped to shrug off anything life throws at you, just because you've presided over so many dead plants, failed crops, and color schemes that don't work?    


  1. I don’t know if gardeners are necessarily better prepared for a crisis like loseing a job. I have always believed that gardeners tend to be nice people who are more considerate than the average dude. I have assumed if someone gets pleasure from raising plants it is tough to be a SOB. I’ve always wondered if far right republicans are gardeners.

  2. No. I do know some far right republicans who are both nice people and gardeners and, they would not even consider pondering that last question which is not considerate.

  3. Jeff, unfortunately I know lots of far right Republican gardeners. After all gardening can be expensive. However, they tend to be the far right Republicans I actually enjoy. Living in one of the hardest hit areas by the recession I can assure you no one is ever prepared for having their entire life’s work torn out from underneath them. What is true is that gardeners have an understanding of life and death and giving to get. They also know how to see beauty in things for what they are, even if they are plants, people, situations, or things with which they disagree. As for “preparation”, I like to think if you spend all or your time preparing for life you aren’t living it. However, I do think that gardeners are better grounded because they have an intimate connection to the earth and even tend to wear it wherever they go.

  4. Gardening is an activity. I doubt it solves many problems but it probably does help form your “man’s place in nature” viewpoint. I know plenty of gardeners that struggle to control nature, follow every rule ever written, gardening without any flexibility. The folks with the “go with the flow” attitude have it in all aspects of their lives and I suspect they always did. There are rewards to gardening but I approach it from the opposite side, I think that the activity attracts a certain type of person not that it changes the people it attracts.

    Human Nature includes a lot of components and one of those is the capacity to nurture. It doesn’t matter if you’re nurturing a child, a puppy, or a bean in a dixie cup – the rewards are the same. This isn’t true for all people, some just don’t have it. I think the reason gardeners bond as a group is because we have a heightened sense of that nurturing component, the same way people that work with animals or children have a common bond. I think that an artistic eye is another component that draws in another group of gardeners.

    A side effect of mingling with other gardeners is the sharing, sharing advice, sharing seeds, sharing plants, etc. If I lost my job and the only thing I could do with my time was work in the garden, I could gather enough plants to make a dent in the food bill thanks to the sharing relationships that have developed over time with other gardeners.

  5. Reading the headline I thought your post was going to take the tack that we are prepped foodwise, resourceful, etc., this take is interesting – are we better MENTALLY prepared from our garden experiences? I’d say yes in that gardening is meditative, therapeutic and does teach patience, long-term thinking, and to appreciate the PROCESS over the end results

  6. Depends on the gardener. You would think that they’d be more flexible and resourceful, but some gardeners are very rigid “by the rules” people who take protocol to a crazy extreme.

  7. I’m both a gardener and someone who has lost their job in this “Great Recession”. Has this made me better equipped to cope with the situation? I’m not really sure. It does gives me something to do so I don’t go crazy (blogging helps as well) It does helps financially.

  8. I agree with all the comments about gardening being good for our spirits (psyche, whatever).

    And Jeff, I love that through gardening I’ve gotten to know a lot more Republicans than I would have otherwise (there being none in my neighborhood or circle of friends). And as someone else said, they’re the Repubs I seem to like – not like the ones pissing me off on TV.

  9. A study, from Scotland, came out last year stating the single most important factor to a long life was seeing a garden or nature from your home windows.

    Not working in a landscape. Only seeing it.

    Another study (read about in the NYTimes), this year, stated the most unlikely person to not default on their credit card bill? Those buying premium birdseed.


    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  10. Being a gardener has certainly helped find my “zen” place amid the many, many times my husband and I nearly lost our jobs in the last year and a half. In fact, it’s helping now while we wait for the next round of layoffs. The only thing that makes it worse for gardeners is the prospect of losing the garden itself when we finally do lose our jobs and the house goes to the bank.

  11. I am dubious of any claim that gardening makes one more able to cope with bad things life throws at you. Gardening is, itself, a process. I’ve had little herb gardens since I moved out of my parents house, but I’ve only been doing a serious vegetable garden for the two years since I left school. I’m just not old enough to have the life experience you’re referring to. Two years doesn’t get me the years of variously failed crops you’re causally linking to emotional strength in the face of disappointment. I haven’t had a serious gardening fiasco. I managed to prune ahead of the blight this year and kept my tomato crop. My biggest disappointment has been my brussels sprouts, which are huge and lush and show no sign of forming sprouts. But that’s not exactly a disaster on the scale of losing one’s job.

    I’ve been unemployed since leaving school. I’ve been looking, but there hasn’t exactly been any work unless I want to leave the country. My partner works and my garden makes me feel like I’m contributing something to the household. He might pay for milk, eggs and flour. But I put every single vegetable we eat throughout the year on the table. That has been better for my emotional well being than anything else I spend my time on.

  12. Gardenring as therapy is cheaper than the real thing. Or a lot of hobbies (think sail boating, golf, skiing, for example), and it can provide food, so gardeners are better equiped for a recession because their relaxation = food?

  13. Gardening teaches the ability to trust in tomorrow. There will be a buds, blooms and harvest in the future and if not, there is always next year. Gardeners are good at perseverance. Although I have been a gardener all my life it wasn’t until I spent two years in Panama with the Peace Corps that I really learned how to roll with the punches. There was so much out of my control that I had no choice but to accept. Sure I could have gone home at anytime, but the challenges of learning a new language, eating strange food and adapting to a different culture in general made me a much more relaxed person. Also gardening in tropical soil is a test of will power. I had to really push my problem solving skills and use all my horticulture knowledge. I am and we as gardeners are a pretty resilient crowd.

  14. Intriguing questions. Gardening can teach one to learn to let go, to accept and not obsess over things beyond one’s control, to work with the hand you’re dealt and make the best of it. Whether those lessons can be translated to other aspects of one’s life, I don’t know.

  15. “I believe that the Amish will inherit the earth” presumes both that the Amish are gardeners and that they are somehow noble or superior in how they do this. They are gardeners in the same proportion as any other culture; and having grown up among them, I can attest that are no more wise, moral or environmentally astute than the next guy. Those who farm (not the same as gardening) use the same chemicals that other modern farmers use.

    Practically speaking, it matters little if someone can grow food to help them through a recession. What matters is the skill of preserving food.

  16. I use the Trouble game to make sed mixs. Just put different seed varietes in each hole, let it pop, and voila–a seed mix. More fun than saking in a jar or bag.

  17. RE: three of the first four posts … My parents are far right Republicans. Maybe even a little further right than that. They are also – literally – lifelong gardeners ( nearly 80 years each ). And they have no money. They have land ( bought cheap by Mom’s parents in the midst of the Great Depression, & gifted to my parents on their wedding day ), determination & knowledge of seeds & plants & land management. They also take pleasure in growing for food and for beauty. That’s what gets them through tough times. It’s not a Repub/Demo/Con/Lib thing. It’s a frame of mind.

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