I used to keep track of my garden expenses. It was a labor of love and it was not all vegetable gardening. I had a garden allowance of about $200 a month. I grew more than I ate or gave away.
These days, I don't have the luxury of a garden allowance so I have cut back a lot. I save seeds and friends give me seeds and produce and I give away some of my extras. I did 4 soil tests and found out I was really over fertilizing so I cut out a lot of the fertilizer. I only fertilize complete fertilizer for potted plants and I actually have been starving my orchids and they are declining. I need to feed them more. I still buy seeds and compost, potting soil, and tools, but my out of pocket expenses are about $80 a month. Most of of that is for water.
My community garden plot costs $80 a year to rent.
I do sell herbs at the garden, but all of that money goes to the garden. I put out about 20 trays a month. Mostly $1 herbs, some $3 gallons of mostly peppers. Some plants like the super hot peppers and bay leaves and specialty items like pandan are higher. I sell about 50% but most of the herbs will keep another month. I sell a few vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, Japanese cucumbers. They do not keep so I only offer a few and I do experiment with some new things but most vegetables do not sell well so I only offer 10 of each at most. What doesn't sell goes to the volunteers or goes into the herb garden. the pots and potting soil are recycled. The garden allows me to buy perlite, peat moss, and fertilizer when they put in their order. That way, I get their discount so it is better than retail. I bring my used potting soil to the garden and have it sterilized in the steam sterilizer to kill the weeds and then I bring it back home again. I do get reimbursed for seeds I order and they buy the pots, media and most of the fertilizer. I am using some of my fertilizer, media and water growing plants for them at home. When I did keep track the herb sales between $2000-$3000 a year and expenses were about $1000. 10 hours a week for 11 months. I'd say way below the minimum wage. It is probably higher now because the sales are more established and we have a regular customer base that come to our one day a month sales. I am not the only one bringing plants to the sale. Someone brings a truckload every month and the other garden volunteers in the nursery also grow a variety of landscape plants, trees and edibles so there is a good variety.
I do not sell my plants or vegetables, I either use them myself or I give them away or I get something in trade. Now days, I try to grow what I will eat and less to experiment to see if I can grow it. With the rising cost of food, I think I am saving about $100 a month. I grow most of my herbs, eggplant, hot peppers, green onions, ginger, fresh beets, tomatoes (90% - I still buy a few when I don't have any, but I do feel guilty), fresh corn, Meyer lemons, calamondin, figs, Satsuma mandarin, chayote and shoots, squash, most of my cucumbers, daikon, and some seasonal Asian vegetables.
My friends give me avocado, papaya, eggplant, limes, basil (I can't grow it because of downy mildew, but my mom can), more daikon, some lettuce, lychee, mountain apple, pomelo, dragon eye, some bananas, and more eggplant.
I can get lettuce, watercress, cucumber and some fruit from work. Sometimes they give it to the workers.
At the garden we have an orchard. Most of the fruit is given to the food bank now, but occasionally I can get some mango, grapefruit, cannistal, guava, and I have a variety of different hot peppers and herbs that I grow in the herb garden and the Brown Turkey fig. Sometimes if I have vegetable starts left over from the sales, I will put it in the herb garden if I have an empty spot or give it to the other volunteers rather than wasting it.
I do agree that nothing compares to the taste of fresh picked fruits and vegetables. Corn on the cob just picked doesn't even need cooking, crisp young asparagus spears, fresh beets and greens, watercress. There can be too much chayote and eggplant. Sweet currant tomatoes, crisp cucumbers with spines still attached, fresh herbs snipped right before they are added to the pot, and ripe figs.
All this for about 16 hours of my time a week. I think I am still making less than minimum wage after costs.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.