Win a copy of The Edible Ecosystem Solution this week in the Forest Garden forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • r ranson
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Mike Haasl
stewards:
  • paul wheaton
  • Joseph Lofthouse
  • James Freyr
master gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • John F Dean
  • jordan barton
gardeners:
  • Jay Angler
  • Greg Martin
  • Leigh Tate

Do you buy this farm income stat?

 
Posts: 80
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Permaculture promoter David Blume, best known for his thoughts on ethanol, seems to emphasize the comfortable financial situation permaculture can bring to farmers.

On his site he talks at length about his former rented farm.
In this article: http://www.permaculture.com/node/1344 he says:

"On approximately two acres— half of which was on a terraced 35 degree slope—I produced enough food to feed more than 300 people (with a peak of 450 people at one point), 49 weeks a year in my fully organic CSA on the edge of Silicon Valley . If I could do it there you can do it anywhere."

In his his permaculture design course intro: http://www.permaculture.com/drupal/node/156 , he says:

"Become an Ecological Land Developer and provide as many as three middle class incomes per acre in land-based, value-added, agricultural enterprises."

Do any of you have experience with for-profit permaculture setups. Do you find this claim reasonable?

Thoughts?
 
Posts: 556
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Its stats like that ,that really bother me.So much goes unsaid.Did they feed people entirely or just their vegetable needs?Really all their calories?any one with enough info can get their greens ect.from wild or feral plants ,even in the city.Its staples that are harder.How many calories did he use or apply to grow this food.He could be operating at a caloric loss,which wouldnt be very sustainable.
 
Posts: 258
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'd question it,  struggling with my own kitchen garden,  I have no grounds to argue but that sort of claim seems so implausible.  I suppose I would ave to experience it to believe it.
 
Matt Ferrall
Posts: 556
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I believe factory farms could make similar claims like"we feed 100s of people from just these monster wherehouses full of chickens and pigs!"
 
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Grow Biointensive claims about 5,000 square feet is enough to support one person. They are located in a similar climate, and this figure was arrived at after lots of effort to minimize space and maximize calories. Two acres would then cover about 18 people.

I'm not sure the magic of polyculture, the use of animals to convert inedibles into milk and eggs, and the 35 degree slope are enough to explain a 20-fold increase in calorie production. It's possible some of those 400 were not in the prime of life, and were not doing manual labor, but I'm more inclined to think they sold produce at a farmer's market and bought staple foods wholesale.
 
Lisa Paulson
Posts: 258
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think that sounds a lot more realistic, and even at best with a functioning permaculture or intensive farming practice there will be blights, climate problems , lack of water, flood ,  avian flus, transportation failure, marketing issues  and so forth that will occassionally take a huge whack at production . 

 
steward
Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To say that if you could do it in Silicon valley you could do it anywhere is a bit of a stretch. I suspect that someone living in Zone 5 is going to really disagree.

I live in the tropics where a lot of your annuals never die - it is much easier to grow things here - in fact, I can put plants under trees that need full sun up in the North.

 
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good points all around.  The bottom line is without a precise recording of inputs & yields it's just so much marketing, even if it is in the right direction.

I find the Dervaes urban homestead one of the better examples of actually tracking yield of intensive gardening:

http://urbanhomestead.org/urban-homestead

Urban Homestead at a Glance
Location: Northwest Pasadena, one mile from downtown Pasadena

Property Size: 66’ x 132’ = 8,712 sq.ft. (1/5 acre)

House: Simple, wood frame craftsman bungalow. Circa 1917.

House Size: 1,500 sq. ft.

Garden Size: ~ 1/10 acre (3,900 sq.ft. / ~ 66' x 66')

Garden Diversity: Over 350 different vegetables, herbs, fruits & berries

Productivity: Up to 6,000 lbs harvest annually on 1/10 acre


 
steward
Posts: 3605
Location: woodland, washington
147
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think David Blume is overly fond of hyperbole, but some of his numbers do hold up.  I do believe that 3-10 pounds of food per square foot is a reasonable goal, for example.  certainly not in all conditions or in all climates or without a lot of thoughtful design, but my experience leads me to believe that he's not entirely out of line.

just a quick example: the small farm I work for grows some leeks.  I choose leeks because we space them very uniformly.  this is in Fall City, WA, about the same latitude as Seattle.  including paths, each leek has a little under one square foot of dirt to grow in.  by harvest time, they're generally about a pound each after cleaning.  that's roughly one pound of food per square foot.  we till the dickens out of that dirt and keep it bare between the leeks.  fertility is addressed with chicken manure.  vetch and rye is grown in the cool season and tilled in.  in other words, substantial improvements over that 1 lb/ft[sup]2[/sup] yield could be had without much effort.  put some real thought and observation into it, and 3-10 lbs/ft[sup]2[/sup] doesn't seem far-fetched to me.  give it a little more effort and that 3-10 pounds might include enough balanced nutrition to actually nourish folks.

I have never measured yield/area for my own projects because it's so much more complicated to do with things all mixed up.  the Dervaes crowd does a good job of that, I suppose, and it looks like they're getting a little over 1.5 lbs/ft[sup]2[/sup].  my impression is that the error Blume makes isn't to overstate potential yield, it's to exaggerate how easy and common it is to obtain that high yield.  3 lbs/ft[sup]2[/sup] might be relatively "easy to come by" as Blume states, but 10 lbs/ft[sup]2[/sup] probably isn't in temperate regions.

the tropics are a whole other story, as Fred Morgan made clear.  one jackfruit tree growing alone would easily put us well within that 3-10 lbs/ft[sup]2[/sup] range without any further consideration.
 
Posts: 139
7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love that "anywhere".

Silicon Valley has, what, a 300 day/year growing season?

Come here and do that.  I'll set up a hose bib, a 100 foot hose, and a 100 foot diameter circle of gently sloping land.  My bet is that you can't feed your own family on it.

Warning:  #2 soil.  Last frost 20 May, First Frost 15 September.  9/10 years tomatoes don't ripen in the field.  20 inches of precip/year.  Ag zone 3a.
 
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I suspect by feed 300 people he means the csa had 300 customers each taking home a very nice box of veggies a week, but nothing like their total calorie needs
 
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
110
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
    Number of slices to send:
    Optional 'thank-you' note:
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Its possible to feed 300 people on 2 acres.

Kinda.

The best figures I come up with using my methods in my soil is about a pound per square foot with each crop.
2 acres can fit 60k sqft of raised beds, with a couple of feet in between to move around.
Good soil, sun, water, a year round growing season, and a large amount of continuous effort can achieve the yields Blume is talking about.  The customers may only be getting 1-2 pounds of produce per day per person, but given some reasonable lattitude in the definitions and meanings of his statement, he's spot on.  A couple of pounds of produce per day offers a pretty good menu.  Perhaps meats, dairy, oils, and grains are not included in Blume's definition.  He's probably meeting all their produce needs.

That natural growing methods can produce a literal cornucopia in a small area is not a surprise.  There are people who do this sort of thing all over the world.  It's not a hobby or a little plot in the back corner.  It takes long days of continuous hard work, persistence and dedication, and several years to get the place into shape.  Once that sweat equity is put in, yields can be extreme.



gift
 
Living Woods Magazine -- 1st Issue
will be released to subscribers in: soon!
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic