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  • Writer's pictureMissy Blankenship

The Fruits of my Labor, and the Case of the Missing Chicken

I've finally had the first "real" harvest from my garden. I dug up some potatoes on Sunday and made mashed potatoes. Yum.

I posted this pictures to social media and was asked about the cost per pound. So, I thought, in the interest of economics, let's talk about it.

There are two measurements we can explore: average total cost (which would be what most people consider to be the cost per pound) and marginal cost. Quite frankly, I haven't kept good records on the total cost of building my garden this year, but I can assure you, the average total cost of a pound of these potatoes would be astronomical. But as economists, we like to think more about the margin. Marginal cost is the additional, or extra, cost of the last unit of a good that is purchased or consumed. We also consider marginal benefit, which is the additional, or extra, benefit of the last unit of a good that is purchased or consumed. As long as the marginal benefit of something is higher than the marginal cost, we are getting more out of it than it is costing us, and we should continuing buying (or consuming) that thing. So we like to say that optimal decisions are made at the margin, or where MC = MB. So here's where it gets interesting. The total fixed costs of building my garden beds and filling them with soil and setting up the irrigation don't really matter to my decision. The only costs that affect marginal cost are the variable costs. So that would be the cost of the seed potatoes, water, and fertilizer. Plus, of course, my time. So the marginal cost of these potatoes, if I actually calculated it, would probably be quite low. And the marginal benefit I got out of them was quite high. Those potatoes made really yummy mashed potatoes. And there were also some intangible benefits associated with consuming produce that I had grown. I am darn proud of those potatoes. So for me, the marginal benefit still far outweighs the marginal cost, and so I'll keep harvesting my potatoes, and I'll definitely plant them again next season!

Now, on to the case of the missing chicken.

We looked outside this afternoon, and saw Thelma, Louise, Lucy, Ethel, and Princess Laya all lounging on the back porch. They like it out there. But where was Bertha? It's not like them to not all be together. Lee and I went outside and looked everywhere for Bertha. We called her name - nothing. We even looked for evidence of her demise (feathers). Nothing. Finally, as we were about to give up, Lee walked into the garage, and there she was! Mind you, this is outside the fence. Big Bertha must have managed to fly up to the top of the fence and then fly down on the other side (she left some "evidence" on the concrete at the base of the gate). Oh she gave us a fright! Hopefully she's had enough excitement and exploring for a while.

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