The Story of an Abundance Challenge

What is abundance? Have you ever experienced abundance in a way that you have noticed it? What would happen if we see the world through the eyes of abundance? Come and join Olivia Saunders and me for our Abundance Challenge! 

In Olivia Saunders’s book, Tomato Economics: Shifting Economies from Scarcity to Abundance, she wrote that she was a pretend gardener because she grew whatever grew naturally in the garden. Since then, she has moved on to become a precarious gardener, producing a variety of plants, including a variety of tomatoes. By her standards, she has been successful although she eventually does something that annoys the plants, and they become uncooperative. But she starts over (again and again). The most important lesson learnt though, is that notwithstanding the thin soil of The Bahamas, the production of an abundance of food is possible even when treated shoddily. She has grown sufficient for her personal use and enough to share with neighbours, friends, and family. The gardening foibles only confirm that we have to work very hard (and be very ignorant) to hinder abundance. The lack and scarcity, especially with respect to hunger and food shortages in the world, result from human-designed economic systems that ensure the few have plenty and most have a little or none. The economic system that leads to the destruction of the earth, to the reduction in crop diversity, and restrictions on seeds’ reproductive capacity guarantees there will not be enough.

Every time we eat a fruit, we should be aware of the potential and possibility of that fruit. In the book, Olivia gives the results of a ‘non-experiment’ she did with cherry tomatoes that pop up every so often in her yard. She counted the seeds from one tomato. Each seed represents the potential of a new tomato plant. If each plant produces a certain number of fruits over its lifetime, the possibility of one tomato is immense. The number of tomatoes per plant depends on its environment, whether it is determinate or indeterminate, and the type of tomato. For example, the soil in South Africa is rich compared to the soil in The Bahamas. Chené can expect a much larger harvest than Olivia. Determinate varieties will produce once, while indeterminate varieties will produce repeatedly. All things being equal, the larger the tomato, the lower the yield. So, more cherry tomatoes can be expected than beefsteak tomatoes on a single plant.

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Abundance Challenge

An Abundance Challenge

The challenge we are putting out to you is to think of the tomato and its potential, its inherent abundance, by doing your own non-scientific non-experiment.


  1. Get a tomato from the store, your neighbour, or your garden.
  2. Cut open the tomato and count the number of seeds. Write this number down. This is the number of potential tomato plants.
  3. Assume each plant produces (conservatively) 20 tomatoes.Or, if you have tomato plants, then approximate a number from your experience. 
  4. Round 1 multiplication. Multiply the number of seeds by the number of tomatoes. Write the number down. E.g., 20 seeds x 20 tomatoes = 400 potential tomato plants.
  5. Round 2 multiplication. Multiply the number of plants (from 4.) by the number 20 (assumed number of tomatoes per plant) by the number of seeds found in 2. Write the number down.
  6. Round 3,4,5, … You can continue until you get tired. For each round, write the numbers down.

Reflection questions:

  1. Reflections: What happened for you as you counted the seeds of the tomato? What caught your imagination as you started entering the multiplication of the seeds? What did the tomato teach you about abundance? What becomes possible when abundance lives closer to our daily lives?

Share your findings and reflections:

  1. On LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram by tagging us and using the hashtag  #abundancechallenge.

LinkedIn- @Chené Swart

Facebook- @TransformationsSA

Instagram- @transformations_sa

Twitter- @CheneSwart

Olivia’s reflection.

The underlying assumption of the scarcity of goods, services and resources of the economics profession haunted me for a long while without even realising why it was such an enigma. After all, it was the mantra I recited from my high school years. I repeatedly instruct my students – “Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources”.

But, the tomatoes on the tomato plant that arose from ‘nowhere’ in my yard shattered the myth of scarcity for me and, at the same time, the religious fervour I held for economics.

One little wild cherry tomato, no more than 3cm in diameter, held 65 seeds! Yes, the counting of the seeds was tedious, but at the same time, astounding. 65 possibilities in one tomato for future plants. Each of those plants an opportunity for many more tomatoes, which have further potentials for future plants! In that instant, the mystery was solved. The myth of scarcity was exposed. How I looked at every plant, every fruit, every animal was now different. Each, in their own way, represents potentials and possibilities; each a revelation of abundance, a revelation that there is, in fact, enough. None of them is lesser, and therefore none is more than another in their capacity for expressing abundance.

Because abundance is the natural order of things, so is generosity, so is neighbourliness. So are so many other qualities that were once stultified by an acceptance of scarcity.

You can read more about our story here:

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