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How many people/acre?

Rob Meyer


Joined: Nov 14, 2011
Posts: 103
So since all of the "How many acres does it take to feed one person" threads have died down, I thought a new one was in order, primarily because of a recent insight I had. Recently, on the Permaculture Research Institute's website, they posted a video tour of Zaytuna farm, which where the PRI is located. According to the video and the accompanying article (which I suggest you read and watch if you haven't yet, very inspiring and interesting http://permaculture.org.au/2012/06/01/zaytuna-farm-video-tour-apr-may-2012-ten-years-of-revolutionary-design/#more-7542), they're serving between 22,000 and 30,000 meals per year, growing 60-65% of what they serve on the 66 acres that the institute is situated on. Given these calculations, excluding imported food from the equation, and using the most conservative numbers, they're growing enough food to feed 66 people 3 meals a day per acre. Is that seriously possible? I can see the animal and food forest systems being incredibly productive, but that seems like a completely unrealistic estimate to me...
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5320
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think it's plausible. That's only 333 meals per acre. If a meal is 2 pounds of food, that would be 666 pounds of food per acre. Path to Freedom grows 6000 pounds of food per year on 1/10 of an acre, which would be 60,000 pounds of food per acre. Zaytuna yields are obviously much lower.

But I may be confused, math is not my strong point.


Idle dreamer

Robin Hones


Joined: Nov 29, 2011
Posts: 50
Rob - I think your math is at fault?

Say 26,000 meals per year. At 65% provided by Zaytuna, that is the equivalent of 16,900 meals provided by the farm.
16,900 per year = 325 meals per week or 46 meals per day.
46 meals with each person eating 3 meals a day = approx 15 people.
But this is the whole farm. If you want a number per acre they are feeding about 1 person per 4 acres (15 people, 66 acres.)
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4432
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    4
not talking about THAT farm but it would depend on weather, and what each person eats, and how big the people are. Children obviously eat less than adults, and are they eating meat with every meal or are they vegans or do they use dairy and eggs off the land?

Vegans obviously will use less acerage than those that eat dairy and eggs, and even less than meat eaters. (I am not touting vegans here as I eat meat at nearly every meal)..just making an observation.

I believe that if you eat only fruits and vegetables you can probably feed yourself on one acre garden and maybe 2 people, but you have to have fruit and nut trees PRODUCING..to do that. Lacking those fruit and nut trees in production it would be very difficult...and when you have all your fruit blossoms from trees and nut buds freeze like we did this year..then you won't be able to do it for that year.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1317
Location: Chihuahua Desert
    
    6
Brenda Groth wrote:
Vegans obviously will use less acerage than those that eat dairy and eggs, and even less than meat eaters. (I am not touting vegans here as I eat meat at nearly every meal)..just making an observation.


well, that depends, because chickens and a garden can occupy the same space.


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Allan Babb


Joined: Mar 18, 2012
Posts: 61
Location: Greater New Orleans, LA, USA
Robin Hones wrote:Rob - I think your math is at fault?

Say 26,000 meals per year. At 65% provided by Zaytuna, that is the equivalent of 16,900 meals provided by the farm.
16,900 per year = 325 meals per week or 46 meals per day.
46 meals with each person eating 3 meals a day = approx 15 people.
But this is the whole farm. If you want a number per acre they are feeding about 1 person per 4 acres (15 people, 66 acres.)


+1 for math, that's what I came up with more or less, but I went with all low numbers.


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Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5320
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Abe Connally wrote:

well, that depends, because chickens and a garden can occupy the same space.


I agree, it may be more space-efficient for total calories and nutrition to include some animals in the system.
William James
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2010
Posts: 514
Location: Northern Italy
    
    6
Same topic over at the PRI forum. See if it helps add anything to the discussion.
http://forums.permaculture.org.au/showthread.php?13159-How-many-people-acre

One quote of G. Lawton was (paraphrasing) "The point [on that farm] is not to grow food, but to grow people who can grow food"
Nice.
W
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5320
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think Geoff has a good point, in showing that even without food production as their major focus at Zaytuna, they're still able to grow that much food using permaculture systems. By not even trying much to grow food, just developing permaculture systems as part of an educational facility, they grow significant amounts of food for the educational facility. Imagine what the productivity would be if growing food were the primary focus!

Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 893
    
  17
I've heard of a family on less than an acre and doing it for generations. Better not to go to this extreme though.

About one person per acre would be the greatest density I would want.

I can feed, house, cloth and produce the energy for our family of five plus produce market crops to pay taxes and outside needs on 4 acres.

I can do it very easily on 10 acres.

Our farm is about 0.07 people per acre but we're sustainably producing food for thousands of customers.

I like having 0.005 people per acre since I like a little elbow room.
Nick Garbarino


Joined: Apr 24, 2012
Posts: 239
Location: west central Florida
To the permaculture skeptic, I would say that comparing how many people can be fed per acre in a sustainable way vs. a non-sustainable way is pointless. In other words, even if it is true that it takes more acres to feed people using permaculture than it does using conventional agriculture, (and I'm not saying that) so what? Since conventional agriculture is not sustainable, it will "run out of gas" eventually any way. Sooner or later, the price of fossil fuel will make conventional agriculture too expensive for most of us. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Hooray for all you permies!


Certifiable food forest gardener, free gardening advice offered and accepted. Permaculture is the intersection of environmentalsim and agriculture.
R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 1838
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  19
Abe Connally wrote:
Brenda Groth wrote:
Vegans obviously will use less acerage than those that eat dairy and eggs, and even less than meat eaters. (I am not touting vegans here as I eat meat at nearly every meal)..just making an observation.


well, that depends, because chickens and a garden can occupy the same space.


You MUST have animals to grow crops more efficiently, even if you are vegan or vegetarian, according to Lawton. You will need more land to grow a vegan crop without animals than with them in permaculture.

And animals can graze on land that is not good enough (yet) to grow human-consumable crops.

The X acres/person argument is pointless as it is so site/weather specific. I need about 10 acres/person where I am now, but I know places where I could have 10 people per acre (that one acre would also cost as much as the 80 I have here). The before/after or permaculture vs. neighbors is a better comparison IF you compare inputs correctly.

Brenda Groth wrote:
Children obviously eat less than adults


Nope. We have enough kids around our table (ours and guests) to show plenty of examples of 3 and 4 year olds that will out-eat adults, and don't even start with teenagers...


"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Dale Modisette


Joined: May 31, 2013
Posts: 1
To date this what I have: done with traditional farming but now I'm working a mix of aquaponics food production, traditional farming and permaculture. If based on the what I know to date I might be able to have up to 460 people with mix aquaponics food production, traditional farming and permaculture in the future.
*1.9 acre per person living in a sustainable village (1.9 acre * 140 people = 266 acre)*

- 0.6250 acre of farmland/person
- 0.0892 acre of farmland to be sold/person
- 0.2321 acre of living area/person
- 0.0214 acre of wine vineyards/person
- 0.0714 acre of ponds/person
- 0.0214 acre of coffee/person
- 0.0071 acre of teas/person
- 0.0142 acre of herbs/person
- 0.1428 acre of schools/person
- 0.2142 acre of park & wildlife/person
- 0.1428 acre of village square/person
- 0.1785 acre of livstock/person
- 0.1392 acre of roads & ect/person
Hanley Kale-Grinder


Joined: Sep 30, 2011
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
    
    1
According to the FOH from the 'agricultural land' wiki, there is about 12,071,900,000 acres of pasture, crops, and orchards currently in production. With 7,120,313,000 people on earth today, that is 1.69 acres per person. So I guess we just have to make that work....
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 893
    
  17
Hanley Kale-Grinder wrote:According to the FOH from the 'agricultural land' wiki, there is about 12,071,900,000 acres of pasture, crops, and orchards currently in production. With 7,120,313,000 people on earth today, that is 1.69 acres per person. So I guess we just have to make that work....


They are not including land like ours, mountainous, thin, rocky, acidic soils. Yet, we make it work. We raise hundreds of tons of food for our family and which we sell locally to feed thousands of other families (not all of their food budget, of course). If you included all the marginal land, like ours, which is very productive with the right sustainable techniques then that greatly boosts the numbers. I figure that if all that land were done like we do it then the Earth could sustain a population of 50 Billion humans. I don't think Earth's population will ever attain that but maybe we will after we get off this rock and seriously settling space. We need more people to have more minds thinking about the big problems.
Hanley Kale-Grinder


Joined: Sep 30, 2011
Posts: 112
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
    
    1
Walter, why wouldn't land like yours be included in the "permanent pasture" category? It is very promising that you are growing so much on the margins!
 
 
subject: How many people/acre?
 
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