Tomato Seedlings, Dave Ramsey, and Sustainability

Originally published Thursday, 17 May 2012.


The week we got our tomato seedlings and herb sprouts in the ground is the week I finally sat down and read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. Both things speak to me of the value of being self-sustainable in a nation underwater in debt.

Like a lot of people, my husband and I have school loans, and we’re committed to scaling them down to zero. I’m willing to get a little crazy like Dave Ramsey suggests to come out on top.

I’m grateful that my husband and I were raised similarly in the way we were taught to handle money, which makes it so much easier in our marriage to spend and save together. It would be difficult if we disagreed on this point, because we do a lot of weird things, such as making our own chicken stock and granola, choosing not to own a TV, going through a Christian non-profit for insurance cost sharing, and not owning credit cards. We both love to go out and try new restaurants and go to the movies, but we can do these things comfortably because we don’t have monthly bills for cable, smart phones, or stuff bought on credit.

In the past two years of marriage and learning to live within our means, I have noticed a few things about making, growing, and doing things by hand the slow way.

It’s empowering. Our backyard garden plot is small, but war-weary generations before us called it a “victory garden” for a reason. It is empowering to create something from scratch that costs pennies, that is fresh and free from a bar code. It’s empowering to know that we can feed ourselves on what we grew by hand, food that is not reliant on a system–farmers, factory workers, machines, airplanes and trucks–to find its way to my plate. And as a freelancer subject to nearly 40% self-employment taxes, guess how good those Italian green beans taste.

It teaches me to be resourceful. Our American concept of “need” is becoming more and more subjective. I’ve found that it is healthy to look within what I already have and ask, what can I use that is already within reach? I am proud when I can re-purpose a yard sale item instead of buying new. I am learning the difference between consuming and creating, and it teaches me to take a second look at things I already own and get creative, to see fresh possibilities.

It trains me in the art of cultivation. This was humanity’s first call–to enjoy and cultivate a garden. I love growing our own tomatoes, making my own peanut butter, and getting crafty to decorate my home because the process teaches me to better appreciate what has been provided. In these simple tasks, I get to participate in the divine action of creating, and it reminds me, better than swiping a card, that all of it is a gift from God’s hand.

Do you see value in being self-sustaining, financial, spiritual, or otherwise? How do you pursue this in daily, simple ways?