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Amount of land per person?

Erin Newell


Joined: Jun 29, 2011
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver, BC
So. My family, some friends, and I have been looking into farming together. Does anyone have any idea if we could feed 15 people PLUS actually make some money (chickens, bees, pigs, goats, produce, tilapia?)? I'm looking for very (VERY) rough numbers, here. Does 5 acres sound doable, or hopelessly optimistic? We'll probably not have a mortgage, as we'll be selling houses to buy land together.
Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2155
Location: FL
    
  52
The FAO is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The minimum amount of agricultural land necessary for sustainable food security, with a diversified diet similar to those of North America and Western Europe (hence including meat), is 0.5 of a hectare per person. This does not allow for any land degradation such as soil erosion, and it assumes adequate water supplies. Very few populous countries have more than an average of 0.25 of a hectare. It is realistic to suppose that the absolute minimum of arable land to support one person is a mere 0.07 of a hectare–and this assumes a largely vegetarian diet, no land degradation or water shortages, virtually no post-harvest waste, and farmers who know precisely when and how to plant, fertilize, irrigate, etc. [FAO, 1993]


1 hectare = 2.47105381 acres
.07 hectare= .17 acres per person
about 7500 square feet per person

While this figure produces a result of around 5-6 people per acre, there are plenty of caveats to consider. If the soil is not ideal, increase the land. If the growing season is short, increase the land. If inputs are natural instead of industrial, increase the land. If conditions are anything less than optimum, increase the land. Bear in mind that the above figures are derived with global statistics that include much food production using mechanized/industrial methods. While these methods greatly reduce labor, they do not necessarily promote the most efficient production rate per unit of area. Intensive growing methods can produce a great deal more food per unit of area. Permaculture methods can take more area but deliver food while increasing the fertility of the land and reducing labor. The trade off is the time required to establish the systems. The biggest advantage is the promotion of a resilient ecosystem, capable of continuing indefinately.

Dr David Pimentel of Cornell University has come up with the figure of 1.2 acres per person in order to maintain current American dietary standards. This standard includes a great deal of meat, fat, and sugar in amounts that are probably excessive if obesity rates are any indication.

I've crunched some numbers of how much land is needed to support a large number of people working towards a common goal of a self-sufficient farm. While 5 acres is a fine start, if you are looking to make a living and produce all of your food, it's not quite enough space. Projects such as orchards can provide abundant food, but also take up a bunch of land. If the chickens are to be free ranged, this requires more space than chickens in a pen which are fed with purchased feed. Problems have to be accounted for. Drought, early/late frosts, bugs, rabbits, deer...the list is endless and all affect the success of the operation. It takes time to get a productive farm established and the bumps in the road are many. Once you do get it established, there is always another project that will require more land than you have. Dairy cows are awesome, but at a couple of acres per animal, that 5 acres got small really fast.

Too much land is another problem. You have land you can't get developed for a while, during which time you are paying taxes. It's fast and easy to put some goats out back to keep the space mowed and you get the goats raised for free. Put in an orchard, there is less room for the goats.

Down where I live, property taxes can be adjusted for agricultural land. The minimum area is 10 acres for an agricultural tax status. The county then cut out an acre for the residence. Those folks with 10 acres were out of luck as 11 acres are now needed for the exemption. There are also laws on the books for how many unrelated people can cohabitate on a parcel of land. This can sneak up to bite you if you have sold your homes. Be sure to look into it.

Your 5 acre plan for 15 people may be enough to produce abundant crops, and may well be enough to offer surplus for sale. There are lots of ideas for using more land but its the reasons I cant think of yet that would move me in the direction of more land per person.


Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
http://farmwhisperer.com
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6495
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
A factor that Ken failed to mention, is wood for heat. (Ken is in Florida. where it is not a priority.) Depending on your climate, and size/design of your home, you may need 1-5 acres of land to sustainably grow fuel wood...unless you want to pay either the electric or gas company for heat. Ouch!

Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
Regarding dairy cows - perhaps go with goats instead who would be more than happy to eat scraps from your garden, your orchard, etc and make better milk too. Sheep which are milked are not a bad idea either.

5 acres and fifteen people? Well, since you don't know if you can, you probably can't. Not trying to be snarky, but 5 acres is possible by someone with lots of experience who has a well setup system, but I am assume since you are asking, that wouldn't be you and your group. So, you are going to need a buffer to make sure you don't starve.

Just my opinion.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Erin Newell


Joined: Jun 29, 2011
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver, BC
Thanks all - since we're so early in planning, I just wanted some kind of number to pluck out of the darkness to present to everyone, and I figured that there would be folks here that would have a number like that rattling around in side their brains. Sorry for asking you to be google for me. i don't expect to feed all of us all our food, and there will be a number of us telecommuting, so perhaps 5 acres will work, but it's good to know that it's very borderline.
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 632
Location: Northern Italy
    
  13
I think it's also important to think outside the box on this one. If your mind is trained to think with the <people = food = land> equation, then you probably won't be able to get very far.

A much better equation is:
<People = Other People> and "other people" implies that something is going to be coming your way from outside your <food = land> system. So, it's just a matter of how well you are able to build and nurture the connections that allow a small amount of land to produce the "seed money" to kickstart this other equation.

If you only had a 200 square foot yard, but were connected by strong enough bonds to hundreds of other people who were doing what you do, you would have turned your completely inadequate land size (by traditional measures) into something extraordinary that provides food for you, albeit indirectly.

It's also a question of how jam-packed you have whatever land you're on. The FAO's land calculations are based on people who are NOT doing permaculture. If, as Mollison says, the only limit is in the designer's head, well then you need a new set of parameters to judge land usage.

So, yeah. If the 5 acre amount doesn't scare you, GO FOR IT! That will probably be enough.
The fact that you're starting out with multiple people nearly guarantees it. That is your lever, not the land size.

William
Raven Sutherland


Joined: Nov 09, 2010
Posts: 128
Location: Massachusetts
that's sort of a trick question....

because if you did the strict permaculture way
of having a tree farm of fruit you'd need more.

If you did it the french intensive way of double digging
raised beds with allot of vertical growing too
five acres would be just about big enough.

If you start to factor in room for lots of corn
(which is cheaper to buy sometimes in season)
growing grains or growing live stock then you need more land.

as was said in the first reply a half acre per person is allot
of work to keep up with.... for weeding, watering, pruning ect.
using manual labor and hand tools but is sufficient

if your going to be using a tractor with implements then
your able to grow bigger and maintain larger areas.


Digging around on a piece of ground in my home town
waiting for someone or something to show me the way.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3088
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
if you can find five acres with land surrounding it that you might lease or purchase in the future, you'll be golden. start small, build from there.


find religion! church
kiva! hyvä! iloinen! pikkumaatila
get stung! beehives
be hospitable! host-a-hive
be antisocial! facespace
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
For a lot of research and ideas on small-space food growing, I recommend the research done by Ecology Action http://growbiointensive.org/ using the Biointensive method (compatible with permaculture, in my opinion). Books and research papers available here: http://www.bountifulgardens.org/departments.asp?dept=10


Idle dreamer

Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3772
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  53
For many in my area meat isn't something you raise on the farm. Meat walks , flies or swims past. It's our job to intercept these creatures.


QUOTES FROM MEMBERS --- In my veterinary opinion, pets should be fed the diet they are biologically designed to eat. Su Ba...The "redistribution" aspect is an "Urban Myth" as far as I know. I have only heard it uttered by those who do not have a food forest, and are unlikely to create one. John Polk ...Even as we sit here, wondering what to do, soil fungi are degrading the chemicals that were applied. John Elliott ... O.K., I originally came to Permies to talk about Rocket Mass Heaters RMHs, and now I have less and less time in my life, and more and more Good People to Help ! Al Lumley...I think with the right use of permie principles, most of Wyoming could be turned into a paradise. Miles Flansburg... Then you must do the pig's work. Sepp Holzer
Erin Newell


Joined: Jun 29, 2011
Posts: 33
Location: Vancouver, BC
William James wrote:I think it's also important to think outside the box on this one. If your mind is trained to think with the <people = food = land> equation, then you probably won't be able to get very far.

A much better equation is:
<People = Other People> and "other people" implies that something is going to be coming your way from outside your <food = land> system. So, it's just a matter of how well you are able to build and nurture the connections that allow a small amount of land to produce the "seed money" to kickstart this other equation.



I love this way of looking at it. I think my primary purpose is not to try to be an island - not only is that far too hard, it's really boring.

Thanks for the benefit of yr wisdom and experience, everyone!
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14987
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Helen Atthowe, Norris Thomlinson and Tulsey Latoski convey their very experienced opinion on how many acres does it take to feed one person when there are no external inputs.








sign up for my daily-ish email / rocket mass heater 4-DVD set / permaculture playing cards
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
Where your land is located is very important. Some areas are much more productive than others. Here in the east where the climate seems to have a better distribution of water throughout a growing season the amount of land would be less. The variables are such that making a prediction as to how much land is required to sustain one person would be difficult at best. Here in the east 1 acre could easily feed two people. I find the idea of total sustainability without input to be a fairy tale anyway. Grow as much as you can but find other in your area that grow other items and trade your excess for what they have raised in excess. We are after all social creatures just like goats.


"When there is no life in the soil it is just dirt."
"MagicDave"
Alison Thomas
volunteer

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
    
    8
Someone shared this link last week and I was amazed at how much these guys grow on 1/10 acre - 6000lbs of produce and IIRC 350 different fruit/veg varieties.
http://urbanhomestead.org/
The Facts and Stats page is inspirational.
Raven Sutherland


Joined: Nov 09, 2010
Posts: 128
Location: Massachusetts
the growing season of Pasadena Ca. is twice the length of
other places and that is certainly an advantage.

I have found a direct correlation between much better vegetable
production with those that raise bee's and even better with worm
farmers with bee's.
In some places you have to garden around the rainy season
as using city supplied water can get expensive and in other places it's almost too wet
like in the east when it rains a little at dusk on an 80 degree day making black spot
ruin your whole crop a few days later. Thus are the variables of location.
Monte Hines


Joined: Dec 14, 2011
Posts: 190
Location: Andalusia, IL. Zone 5a
    
    4
Paul - Great video discussion of this important issue - Thanks for all the hours of work involved by all! GREAT JOB!

I made a blog post of your efforts and added some additional links at:
http://hines.blogspot.com/2012/02/sustainable-food-people-per-acre-of.html

I found the research work of Chris Peters very interesting and informative on the subject. Chris Peters, the lead author of the study on New York's agricultural footprint, has been honored for related work on local "foodsheds," as well as his teaching and outreach, with the 2007 Gerald O. Mott Scholarship for Meritorious Graduate Students in Crop Science.

See: http://hines.blogspot.com/2012/02/cornell-chronicle-diets-and-nys-ag.html



A podcast with Chris Peters was also very interesting and informative: http://media.libsyn.com/media/eatingithaca/EatingIthaca_011.mp3
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foodshed
http://www.calliopeztable.com/What_is_a_Foodshed.pdf

Keep on Keepin' On!

Regards to all,
Monte Hines


Monte Hines-Hines Farm Blog- http://hines.blogspot.com
garrett lacey


Joined: Nov 22, 2011
Posts: 72
Location: Kamloops, BC, semi-arid rainshadow, zone 6
    
  10
My one question is the caloric intake that they based this off of.. is it the standard sort of FDA thing or is it pared down somewhat? Ive read a few articles indicating calorie restricted diets lead to longer lifespan in test animals.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
The 0.5 hectacre/person fits with my experience here in rocky, wintery, northern Vermont. I can provide all of our five person family's food and energy needs on four acres. Everything else is bonus.

I farm a much larger area than that because, I farm.

We do sustainable forestry on approximately 1,000 acres. Trees are a very slow growing, long term crop. We also raise pastured pigs on about 70 acres. We make weekly deliveries to local stores and restaurants. This provides 99% of our family's income. The 70 acres for grazing is more than we need right now but it allows for having more livestock in the future and means we avoid over grazing.

We can sustainably and continuously manage rotationally graze about 10 pigs per acre. They enrich the poor mountain soil we have, legumes like clover suck down nitrogen from the sky (thank you mid-western power plants!) and our land is gradually improving. When we got here it was thin and acidic. Now it is rich and grows great veggies, most of which we feed the livestock.

One of the tricks to optimizing land usage is to waste as little land as possible on driveways, parking, buildings, roofs, lawn, etc.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
garrett lacey wrote:My one question is the caloric intake that they based this off of.. is it the standard sort of FDA thing or is it pared down somewhat? Ive read a few articles indicating calorie restricted diets lead to longer lifespan in test animals.

In my opinion "calories per pound" of food grown is absurd. Calories per pound of what? Not separating the different foods by nutrient density renders data meaningless.
Lisa Allen


Joined: Mar 25, 2011
Posts: 197
Location: San Diego, CA USA
Please ignore the fear factor - I can't help but notice they use their little bit of land quite well - never thought of tilapia fish in a swimming pool with plants that purify the water, and the chickens feeding the fish:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUM0TOkNALg&feature=player_embedded
I also wonder about having more vertical-type gardens, or at least on some of the land


Lisa, the AstroHerbalist
http://astroherbalist.com
garrett lacey


Joined: Nov 22, 2011
Posts: 72
Location: Kamloops, BC, semi-arid rainshadow, zone 6
    
  10
Right. I just did some more light reading on calories and as far as i can tell, i consume a fair bit less than the recommended caloric intake of someone of my size. I am pretty active (physical jobs, walking/biking everywhere) and i am not losing weight.

However, i really dont enjoy thinking of my food in terms of calories. I'll just keep trying to maximize the productivity of my spaces, and eat what feels right i suppose.
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
garrett lacey wrote:Right. I just did some more light reading on calories and as far as i can tell, i consume a fair bit less than the recommended caloric intake of someone of my size. I am pretty active (physical jobs, walking/biking everywhere) and i am not losing weight.

However, i really dont enjoy thinking of my food in terms of calories. I'll just keep trying to maximize the productivity of my spaces, and eat what feels right i suppose.
I agree Garrett.
I eat when I am hungry. I eat slowly and stop when I feel satisfied. Most people would probably eat more than I do but for at least 25 years I have two meals per day. One in the morning and a smaller one in the evening. I would suggest that it is in the neighborhood of 1500 calories. My point is that basing your production on calories per pound is not relevant to nutritional needs. I grew up with lots of families in the area that produced what they needed for their large families. If they didn't grow it someone else did. For instance, I used to trade venison for pork so I could have some good saturated fat in my diet. I didn't have land but I am a hunter so I always had a freezer with more venison than I could consume besides the best venison burger is ground with pork fat.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
How many calories you burn depends on a lot of things including:

1) muscle mass - muscle burns a lot more calories than fat.

2) metabolism - it can be faster or slower based on hormones

3) environment - a cool environment generally results in burning more calories

4) how much exercise you get - sitting at a desk doesn't burn as many calories as toting hay bales and other outdoor chores.

etc.

It's complicated. You burn 1,500 calories. I burn about twice that. I'm muscular, physically work hard and am in a cool environment. In the summer I burn fewer calories due to the warmer weather and correspondingly how much I eat drops.

Don't stress it if it is working for you.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
enjoyed the poscast..have seen most of this in another one

I have a few comments..on OUR particular property we have a lot of edible plants and weeds that we could eat the entire thing of..but don't..for example ..I have thousands of daylillies, the roots, flowers and young shoots are edible..but we would only pick and choose a few plants to eat and leave the rest to grow and grow..however, if TSHTF I could eat most of them leaving some roots for next year's crop..just cause I don't doesn't mean I couldn't..same with all the yarrow, dandilion, dock, wild fruits and berries and other edibles growing over nearly every single inch of our gardens and woods.

I COULD harvest it to eat, or even to sell, but I don't..it doesn't mean it is going to waste..it will all still be there should I need it..and what we don't eat feeds the soil, the plants and even the microganisms and animals..

We almost always have food from each crop to give to neighbors ..and a lot of it goes in piles for the deer and rabbits or feeds the bear, wild turkeys, pheasants, etc..as well as song birds.

We here do not have domesticated animals..haven't seen the need for them at the moment as we have a large number of neighbors that raise chickens, pigs, goats, beef, etc..and often have gifts of bear and other wild meat given to us..

I have planted dozens and dozens of fruit and nut trees and berry bushes..etc..some are bearing, some aren't yet but hope some more will bear this year..this will thus increase our food ON PROPERTY, but seeing as how we were given a lot of fruit by other people this year..we still didn't end up buying much. I have also thrown the pits, seeds, etc of those plants into a nearby field which we are allowinig to revert to woods, such as pear, plum and apples as well as nuts and berries..

This year for the first time I have ordered starts of 5 kinds of OP grains to give a try to growing, and may even get some others. So far ordered are winter wheat and rye, hulless oats and barley, and grain amaranth..however some of our "WEEDS" also have seeds that can be used for grain and we always have sunflower and other seeds like squash beans and peas, etc..that we can eat as proteins..but protein and fats are areas that are taking a little longer for us to become more self sufficient with.

so far I have sent out 9 seed/plant orders for this year, all open pollinated or perennial..hopefully this will make us much more self sufficient.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I love Brenda's concept of including ornamental edible plants, and it's something I'm beginning to do at my own place. Cannas have edible tubers and grow well here with a little irrigation. Tiger Lilies have stunning blooms and edible tubers and have done very well for me so far though I've hesitated to dig any tubers. Sadly, daylilies which do so well for Brenda have not grown at all for me. There are many other ornamental edibles which can if needed form the staple component of the diet, producing tubers or bulbs.
Erica Wisner
volunteer

Joined: Feb 10, 2009
Posts: 734
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
    
  86
The question of acres per person is useful and important as a research topic, but I think total self-sufficiency makes a better learning exercise than a lifestyle.

Both of the growers commented on the popular topic:
"Gardening isn't really "growing all your own food" if high-calorie foods still need to be imported (like grains and oils)."

High-calorie foods must yield different rates of calories per acre (and per input) than produce. The hog acreage is helpful, but if we are trying to draw conclusions about acres to support a person, we might want the perspective of a grain or rape-seed farmer to represent the real majority of human-food calories worldwide. Tubers are a popular indigenous substitute for these commodities, and the video and comments are rich with those options.

I think it's also worth considering the energy invested per person, or per calorie.

A lot of the high-calorie foods can be stored for long periods, either fresh or dried. Historically they are literally the 'cash crops' - they can be hoarded, transported, and traded like cash, with minimal investment. Even tubers keep easily, in the right conditions.

Fresh produce is a comparative nightmare to store and ship. Especially if counted per calorie. While the calorie-for-calorie inputs and returns of linseed, canola, wheat, or walnuts may be fairly event, the calories it takes to produce table grapes or strawberries are somewhat horrific. Ideally, the problem of fresh produce preservation would be answered with robust local produce economies. In current practice, most of the fresh foods in my supermarket are imported, even when they are locally in season.

What is the calorie investment in transporting, refrigerating, and wastage (spoiled) produce? Can this be somehow 'credited' to my caloric account when instead I produce or obtain these foods locally?

EROEI (Energy return on energy invested) is the real factor that makes commercial agriculture inarguably unsustainable. (That, and the erosion of the larger food web.)
If it takes 1000 calories of fossil fuel to grow, transport, and market a 100-calorie basket of strawberries (to invent numbers out of my butt), then those strawberries are not feeding the world no matter how nutritious. They are depleting the world. The balance of calories are almost entirely turning into CO2 and estuary pollution, neither of which supports life as we know it. In a post-carbon economy, that market will utterly collapse, as you can't feed a workhorse on strawberries.

In the calories-to-calories comparison, eating meat is a very expensive choice.
But growing your own meat might still be a good choice, if you are going to eat meat at all, because of the intense problems created by commercial meat production. I would suspect that a home-grown chicken, rabbit, or goat uses a lot less calories, even counting its feed imports, than a commercial one, because it is better integrated into a local cycle where meets part of its nutritional needs 'upgrading the compost pile' so to speak. Wild hunting and fishing, in moderation, can also be a way to preserve biodiversity.
Traditional cultures had extensive trade in smoked, dried, pickled, or otherwise preserved animal and fish proteins, and especially in rendered oils. A spoonful of oil can replace almost a pound of cooked rice, in nutritive and caloric benefits; fat calories are a make-or-break essential in a subsistance situation.

So I think it's actually pretty smart to grow produce, and if you eat meat or eggs, to look into growing those yourself as well.
Especially if what you are concerned about is not a mathematical ideal, but a realistic way to reduce your energy footprint, carbon footprint, and the amount of arable land that other life is barred from to satisfy your calorie needs.

It's also a factor that organic grains, and even organic oils, can be affordable if we don't need to buy organic meat and produce as well.

If the mathematical question is 'how many people can we fit on the planet,' that is not really a problem I want to help solve. The reality of a maximally-peopled planet sounds like the desolate end-game of the agricultural arms race. (D Quinn)
I want to enjoy, and contribute to, life on a planet that also contains arachnids, antelope, and weird little orchids, and all those other nifty things that came with the planet when I was born.

-Erica


Play with nature, make nifty stuff:
www.ErnieAndErica.info
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
Hear! Hear! Erica. I found much of the discussion suggesting a solitary life of self sufficiency. Not a realistic assessment of even a very loosely organized society. My experience living as self sufficient as possible involves trading my excess production with others that have excesses of foods that I do not produce. I found using calories per sq. ft. a useless data point. As you so eloquently stated, attempting to track efficiency of production in such a manner has little meaning.
Matt Silbernagel


Joined: Jun 27, 2011
Posts: 3
Location: Eugene, OR
Agroforestry guru Martin Crawford throws out a more extreme guess around 41:30 in "A Farm for the Future." 10 people per acre (!) on an intensively managed forest garden designed for maximum yield, but I think this estimate is for food alone. I see no reason to doubt his estimate though, considering that he's one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet when it comes to forest garden design and the best plants to design with (check out his work/publications at the Agroforestry Research Trust). Still, I would like to see some hard data, and I've been looking for almost a year since I first viewed this film.

Link to video: A Farm for the Future

Bill Mollison claims yields from aquaculture systems can be up to a couple thousand times those of terrestrial systems. 20,000 people per acre? Sounds a bit high to me.... but who knows?

I am skeptical that we can speculate on an amount of land per person (so many different climates, soils, site conditions.... too many factors to get an average), esp. since we humans are only beginning to understand how to better manipulate the natural world to get the things we need to survive. That Mollisonism saying "the yield is theoretically unlimited" could apply to caloric yield alone. Ok, maybe not.... heheh, at least not until we find a way to reshape time and space.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Something that doesn't seem to be considered much is watersheds and land for native flora and fauna. If folks are cramming 10 to the acre, does that mean they have a large acreage the majority of which can be left for watershed and indigenous plants and animals? Or does it mean we expect to cram 10 people to every available acre?If we can fit more people on a smaller patch of productive land, does that mean we can leave the majority of land for wild critters and non-domestic plants? Bill Mollison suggests this as a goal of permaculture.

Denise Lehtinen


Joined: Sep 10, 2011
Posts: 100
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
I just want to point out that in his book One Circle, David Duhon describes how to grow a complete diet in less than 1000 Square feet.

Peeking inside the cover a bit, his focus is heavily on root crops such as potatoes, and nuts and seeds. (I would need to read further to discover whether he is using external inputs to do this-- very possibly he is.)

Probably, if what you are wanting to do is feed yourself on a small amount of land, then your focus should be on high calorie root and nut crops, and not so much on fruit and greens.
Christopher de Vidal


Joined: Nov 17, 2010
Posts: 100
Alison Freeth-Thomas wrote:Someone shared this link last week and I was amazed at how much these guys grow on 1/10 acre - 6000lbs of produce and IIRC 350 different fruit/veg varieties.
http://urbanhomestead.org/
The Facts and Stats page is inspirational.


Unfortunately they never once mention how many calories per pound to gauge the effective amount of land per person. In the video above, a property about the same size and manged about as intensively only brings in 750 calories per day, or 375 calories per person.
Christopher de Vidal


Joined: Nov 17, 2010
Posts: 100
It would be wise to have extra crops to pay the property taxes. Even if you own your property, make your own electricity, pump/collect your own water, make your soap and visit the store only once a year for salt, you still have to pay the tax man every year. This figure will rise over time. It's a good idea not to overbuy on property (too much tax), but then you don't want too small a property, either. It would also be wise to have some crops to give to needy neighbors, for tithe, salt, etc.
Christopher de Vidal


Joined: Nov 17, 2010
Posts: 100
By the way, this thread made SurvivalBlog (hooray!)

Jeavons' "One Circle" diet claims to be able to grow all of the calories and nutrients in 750 square feet, but this does not include walking space or room to grow your own fertilizer. For that, the total is more like 5,000-10,000 square feet per person. Since they don't interplant with permaculture I've often wondered if that could be brought down to 4,000 or 3,000 per person.

The "One Circle" diet was put into practice but I recall reading elsewhere that this fellow started to get a little too thin and was constantly managing his garden: http://www.cityfarmer.org/albie.html I'll bet permaculture would reduce the work and give one more time to plant elsewhere.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
The One Circle diets are very low on calories and the below 1000 square feet diets, if I recall, may be for women only. Men need more calories, in general. The diets may also be low in some nutrients such as iodine. The minimum total area needed for growing food using Biointensive is something like 4000 square feet per person, including area needed to grow compost crops which are also calorie crops. I see One Circle as a starting point only - most of us would probably be miserable eating those diets....

The book "One Circle" is by David Duhon, by the way, not John Jeavons. Jeavons wrote "How to Grow More Vegetables" which details the Biointensive method upon which One Circle is based.
Denise Lehtinen


Joined: Sep 10, 2011
Posts: 100
Location: Tampa, Florida zone 9A
I totally agree that One Circle is far from perfect and I wouldn't ever use it as a bible, even if my climate weren't totally different from the one he uses in that book.
As a guide to someone in the early stages of things (read that as alot of open space), it is useful.

Better to tweak a working (or almost working) system than to redo the whole process of discovery again yourself.
            


Joined: Jun 27, 2010
Posts: 75
Location: Ontario, Canada (44.265475, -77.960029)
Monte Hines wrote:I found the research work of Chris Peters very interesting and informative on the subject. Chris Peters, the lead author of the study on New York's agricultural footprint, has been honored for related work on local "foodsheds," as well as his teaching and outreach, with the 2007 Gerald O. Mott Scholarship for Meritorious Graduate Students in Crop Science.



"A person following a low-fat vegetarian diet, for example, will need less than half (0.44) an acre per person per year to produce their food," said Christian Peters, M.S. '02, Ph.D. '07, a Cornell postdoctoral associate in crop and soil sciences and lead author of the research. "A high-fat diet with a lot of meat, on the other hand, needs 2.11 acres."

1.67 additional acres is enough to graze and produce winter fodder?? I think he's playing with numbers in a statistical model. I had some difficulty when I looked at his research finding a list of exactly what he would be growing in a low-fat vegetarian diet. Perhaps he needs to get out into the garden to test his model.

Regards,
Mike

Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Mike H wrote:

1.67 additional acres is enough to graze and produce winter fodder??


Graze and produce winter fodder for what, where? It takes 20 - 50 acres to graze one steer in my region.....
Monte Hines


Joined: Dec 14, 2011
Posts: 190
Location: Andalusia, IL. Zone 5a
    
    4
Ep. 11 - Foodsheds, Festivals, and Collegetown Eats Download MP3 In this episode of the Eating Ithaca podcast, our guest is Cornell scientist Chris Peters, who has been researching the way land is used in New York State for food production. He talked with us about his findings and what they mean for the Ithaca region.

Chris Peters explains his studies in the podcast
http://media.libsyn.com/media/eatingithaca/EatingIthaca_011.mp3
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
Graze and produce winter fodder for what, where? It takes 20 - 50 acres to graze one steer in my region.


This points out how important it is to consider the location.

In our region we can graze ten pigs per acre.
That is about 1,600 lbs of meat a year after slaughter and cutting.
This is grazing without grain or commercial hog feed.
Likewise we can produce about 16 sheep or goats or about two cattle.
We're not on fantastic soils but rather high in the mountains on rocky land.
Perfect for pasture, not for cropping.
Down in the valley the land is far more productive.

So, the productivity of land varies tremendously. Ours is not terribly productive compared with the valley lands but our land is about 50 to 100 times more productive than the land you're referencing which requires 20 to 50 acres per steer. Climate and soils make a big difference.

This is not theoretical. We do this. We farm. That is how we earn our living, pay our mortgage, etc. We have no off farm jobs. The numbers are real. It works.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Walter Jeffries wrote:
This points out how important it is to consider the location.


Yes, and how important it is when we're discussing these things to give details about location, rainfall, carrying capacity etc etc.

Not everyone can live in a good location, so developing strategies for bad locations is important. Being in a good location is a huge advantage to start with, something beginners should take seriously. When people say they want to move to the desert to start a productive farming business I can only think "Good luck with that."
 
 
subject: Amount of land per person?
 
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