Last fall I planted rye in the disturbed ground around my house to act as a erosion control. Just this week my father helped my harvest the rye. We took it into the basement and, with the kids, danced around on it to thresh the kernels out of the heads. From about 3 or 4 hours of harvesting and about 2 hours of threshing and then winnowing, all this manual labor produced about half of a 5 gallon bucket’s worth of rye. That same 20lb of rye purchased from my local Agway would cost around $15. So clearly, economically there’s an indicator that I should be doing something else with my 6 hours that harvesting and threshing rye, because even if I flip burgers for minimum wage, I’d make more money in that time period that I’d spend on the rye.
That’s economics for you.
It’s so experientially clear to me from this threshing that I did with my dad, that the low price per pound I pay for rye at Agway includes massive unaccounted for externalities, and it’s also clear that the benefits I receive from engaging with the land directly are much higher than can be encoding using only one dollar measuring unit. But this is in no way saying that I think everyone, or even me, should go “back to the land” and eschew specialization. I just want to really be able able express all those forms of value, and see those externalities, and stop pretending that they can all be reduced to one price.
I’ll post later about the German “vollkorbrot” I plan to bake with the Rye…