Note: For the sake of this post, I’m going to fall back on an old, clichéd joke:

Setting: a Southern Diner –

Waitress: Can I get you something to drink?

Customer: A Coke, please.

Waitress: What kind?

Customer: Dr. Pepper.


How many of you remember the old glass Coke bottles that you could buy, then return to the retailer and get a few cents back for your empties? Years ago, the distributors would charge the retailers a ‘deposit’ on every bottle that was sold. The retailers, in exchange, would allow customers to return their empty bottles, give them 1-3 cents for each one, and in turn, return them to the distributors to get their deposit back. The distributors did this to help insure that they got the bottles back, so they could wash, refill and then resell them.

To a lot of folks, it wasn’t worth the effort, so they would just toss their bottles out the window of their car or otherwise dispose of them. My friend AJ took advantage of that wastefulness, and used to go around and retrieve the discarded bottles, then take them to a retailer for the deposit. It’s amazing how much money we ended up getting from just a little bit of work. Back then, both of our parents didn’t have a lot of extra money, so some of that deposit money went to a hamburger, fries and Coke at a fast food place. It was something we just didn’t get to do much at all, so it was a real treat for us. Our goal was to turn in enough to net us $2.14, which bought two meals. It may not sound like a lot now, but back then we felt rich.

As time progressed, we began to see the decline of deposit/return bottles, and I noticed the other day an older bottle that read, ‘No Deposit, No Return’ (NDNR). In a way, I found it a little sad that kids of today won’t get the enjoyment of such a simple way to earn money. Instead, soft drinks come in plastic bottles and aluminum cans – which can and should be recycled, but there is usually not a lot of money in that to make it worth most people’s time and effort. As my thoughts about all this kept flowing, I realized that I could take that NDNR in a slightly different context, and apply it to the farm.

No matter what project you start on a farm, you are essentially paying a ‘deposit’. We start seeds in the greenhouse each year, and use the plants in our garden. The concept is that the seeds are the deposit, and the harvest is the return. We cannot preserve the corn, tomatoes, green beans and other fruits and vegetables without first sowing the seeds, working the garden and harvesting the produce. This year, we are paying an additional deposit by purchasing seeds in bulk. Our thoughts are that we can net a good return by selling those herbs and vegetables as plants.

The same goes for any project. If we don’t purchase and breed the cows, we won’t have calves to sell or harvest for beef. We just recently made another deposit on purchasing bee hives and equipment in the hopes of netting a better return on our garden by using the bees to pollinate. An added bonus is the honey the bees produce, which in turn will help our bottom line. Even the chickens have turned out to be a good way to pay a deposit on the farm. We get a nice return from the eggs, meat and the selling of chicks and large birds.

As with the collecting of the bottles, you sometimes get lucky with a bunch of unbroken bottles, and sometimes, you lose out by finding ones that are chipped, cracked or in pieces. In that case, the deposit is completely lost. With our greenhouse project, the unexpected snow, ice and colder weather wreaked havoc on our starts. Even with a heater that ran all day long most days, there were still cases of extreme ‘freezer burn’ on over half our seedlings. We did our best in salvaging what we could, but ended up still having to re-seed quite a bit. Now it’s getting awfully close to planting time, as we here in the South count Good Friday as the harbinger of Spring. It rarely, if ever, frosts from Good Friday until October or November around here, so you will find most gardeners out in the dirt. With Good Friday being THIS coming Friday, I’m not sure how well this will fly, but we are going to try with what we have. Still, our initial deposit has been made, and it is worth it to us to continue working this new venture until the return is realized. It may take several years, but that’s okay. We want our deposit back, and then some.

Life in general is the same way. No matter what you do, you first have to make some type of deposit if you expect to get any kind of return. The deposit translates into just getting a project started, planting the figurative seed, watering it, nurturing it and working it until you finally see a harvest. Whether you are starting a new job, building a house (or, in Jacquelyn’s case, restoring it), getting married, learning a new craft or making a complete change in lifestyle (like Randy and I did when we moved from the city to a farm), you are going to have to first pay the deposit in order to see a return. You can even make a deposit on non-tangible things, like kindness, serving others and love. Of course, those are the things in life that make the best return of all.

What kind of Deposit have you made on your life? Has there been anything that has netted you a better return than you ever expected? Always keep in mind – if it’s worth paying the Deposit up front, it must be worth what you’ll get back. You might have to collect a lot of empty bottles, but just imagine what you can do with all that Return.