How much food do you need to grow to sustain yourself and your family?
More people today are returning to their roots. Human roots of self sufficiency, self-sustainability, sustainable farming and garden roots of growing their own food. Even if it’s just a yard and not a farm.
Backyard farming and urban farming have been on the rise for years now, and you can absolutely grow enough food to support your family, even in a yard garden. So don’t wait for your homesteading dream to come true. If you’re not there yet, there’s still a lot you can do. It’s interesting to consider…
Humans have provided their own food through hunting, gathering, foraging and farming for eons longer than they have gone to grocery stores.
In times past, to not have a garden plot would be akin to squirrels not squirreling away food for winter as depicted in Aesop’s Tale of The Grasshopper and the Ants. Back when, most everyone grew their own food. If they had land, they had a garden patch.
Today, growing at least some of your own food is more essential than ever, as rising food prices are dramatically outpacing wages. If you’re not hearing this on the news, this could be why:
U.S. food prices on the rise, are not typically counted in inflation reports.
Neither is fuel.
What?! Food and fuel are both significant chunks of a family budget, right? So… how could these not be included?
“Economists’ preferred inflation metric, so-called “core CPI,” omits both food and energy due to concerns about their volatility.” Cato.org1)http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/fed-farm-trade-policies-inflating-our-grocery-bills
It seems that it can be excluded if it’s considered to be part of a temporary situation. Really? How often have you noticed prices going down once they go up?
Yes… fortunately, gas and oil prices are way down from a few years ago. So… that should help with food costs, right? Well, have you noticed food and other retail prices diminishing? Right. We haven’t either.2)http://www.bankrate.com/finance/personal-finance/is-inflation-higher-than-you-think-1.aspx
Other than sales—which don’t count as prices going down—permanent retail price decline is RARE. In some cases, prices are not raised but container sizes are reduced. And yet wages are not trending up. Likely you’ve noticed all of this too?
Food Prices Grow More than Wages
Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal, as posted on TheFederalist.com, July, 20143)http://thefederalist.com/2014/07/08/food-prices-are-soaring-and-washington-doesnt-care/
The consumer price of ground beef in May rose 10.4% from a year earlier while pork chop prices climbed 12.7%. The price of fresh fruit rose 7.3% and oranges 17.1%. But prices for cereals and bakery products were up just 0.1% and vegetable prices inched up only 0.5%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts overall food prices will increase 2.5% to 3.5% this year [in 2014] after rising 1.4% in 2013, as measured by the Labor Department’s consumer-price index. In a typical supermarket, shoppers are seeing higher prices around the store’s periphery, in the produce section and at the meat counter.
Chart on Food Prices Versus Wages
Chart by Bureau of Labor Statistics as posted on TheFederalist.com
Editor’s Note: These reports usually come out a year or more after Americans are already feeling the pinch at the cash register, so this through 2012 are the most recent numbers we’ve found. Please let us know if you find any more current. We’re on the lookout for a good updated one, however, as best we can tell, the above chart is still trending.
The good news is that the healthiest of foods—vegetables—had the smallest increase at .5%. Organic foods are typically more expensive, but not always, as you will see in the chart on the next page.
This presents an interesting conundrum for gardeners. It takes a lot of effort to grow vegetables, and yet you save the least by growing your own vegetables over other foods, such as fruits, chickens and livestock. However, raising livestock requires more land and feed costs, so that’s a whole other set of metrics to calculate, which we won’t address here. Bottom line?
Growing your own food saves money and improves your health.
You will save slightly more by growing organic vegetables over buying organic vegetables. Plus you will have the benefit of knowing for certain that it’s not only organic, but the most nutritionally potent food you can eat and feed your family.
From your farm—or yard—to your table.
Beyond that, spending time being active outdoors working with plants and nature, has tremendous benefits. Not only the knowns of being active, getting vitamin D, K and fresh air, but also the therapeutic benefits to diminishing stress and contributing to peace of mind that come from spending quiet time outside, working with plants and growing things.4)Gardening Increases Happiness – Decreases Depression
Chart on Cost or Organic Versus Conventional Foods
Chart by ConsumerReports.org
|Regular||59 cents||48 cents||58 cents||79 cents|
|Organic||79 cents||79 cents||78 cents||99 cents|
|Beef (85% lean ground, lb.)|
|Carrots (baby, lb.)|
|Chicken, whole/cutup (lb.)|
|Cream Cheese (8 oz.)|
|Eggs (large brown, dozen)|
|Iceberg lettuce (head)|
|Maple syrup (Grade A, pint)|
|Milk (half gallon)|
|Olive oil (extra virgin, quart)|
|Average premium for organic||+59%||+34%||+51%||+24%|
Chart from ConsumerReports.org5)http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2015/03/cost-of-organic-food/index.htm
So this is eye-opening. We’ve certainly observed how outrageously priced is some of the organic produce. Being vegetarian, a staple for us is also nuts, which are another very pricey item in general, and even more so when it’s organic.
But there’s good news in that the amount of land you actually need to feed your family could be quite different than what you might think. You will find some things to consider when calculating how much land you would need to feed your family on the next page.
How Big A Garden Will Your Family Need?
by The Prepper Project
Once you accept that it is indeed possible to feed yourself off a piece of land… the second question is – how much land? That’s where things get really tricky. You have to ask yourself a few questions first. Let’s handle those one at a time before digging deeper.
Are you willing to work like a madman?
Growing your calories isn’t easy. They don’t fall into your hands. We’re not living in the Garden of Eden anymore. We gotta work like crazy, no matter what people tell you about amazing irrigation systems, earth boxes or their friend that grows buckets of tomatoes in just minutes a day. Finding ways to save some work are really important… but you are still going to have to work. Can your back handle it? Will you do it?
What’s your rainfall/water supply look like?
If you’re growing in an arid region, you’re going to need a lot more space. I’ve currently got two patches of corn growing without irrigation. One patch is spaced at 18” between rows, the other is spaced at 36”. If they both live, I’ll be thrilled… but my bet is that the tighter spacing runs into difficulty if we get a couple of dry weeks in a row. Many people have this idea that gardening in wide rows is something home gardeners adopted from factory farming. The thought is: “Hey, that’s the extra space machinery needs for access and harvesting.”
However, that’s not actually true. Yes, tractors need some space – but the reason old-school gardens had that huge spacing was because the plants needed all the water they could get. Generous root spacing lowered competition between plants and ensured they’d survive in a time without easy access to water.
Imagine watering a cornfield with buckets from a creek and it makes sense. My experiment is a test of the ground’s water-holding capacity. Your land will vary. If you’re in a rainforest, you can plant really tightly. If you’re in Arizona, you’re going to need a lot more space between plants.
What is your climate?
In much of the tropics, feeding yourself is really easy. There are no seasons to speak of, other than dry and rainy times. You’ve got a massive diversity of food crops to pull from – and many of them produce year-round or at multiple times. Ever wonder why bananas are always available at around the same price in the store? They’re basically non-seasonal.
Sweet potatoes are a perennial in the tropics – plant them once, then dig now and again when you feel like it. Fruits, nuts, and pretty much everything grows really fast down there. When you’re a plant… not freezing half the year, not putting on a whole set of new leaves and not fighting to get all your reproduction done in a few warm months of growing time, and not being knocked back by frosts and losing your leaves again… you can get plenty of food-making.
Fruits, nuts, and pretty much everything grows really fast down there. When you’re a plant… not freezing half the year, not putting on a whole set of new leaves and not fighting to get all your reproduction done in a few warm months of growing time, and not being knocked back by frosts and losing your leaves again… you can get plenty of food-making done. On the other extreme, if you’re in some place like Alaska, you’re going to have to deal with a short season of getting things done in the garden and packing away as much as possible while the sun shines. There’s a reason the Inuit lived on seals, fish, whale and other game, rather than on veggies.6)http://theprepperproject.com/how-big-a-garden-will-your-family-need/
So How Much Land to Feed Your Family?
Now looking deeper into that question a video that shows how to work out what food your family consumes, what to consider when deciding what to grow, and how to get more produce in the space you have available to grow.
This video demonstrates how to calculate how much you’ll need per family member, for the year and season.7)https://gardensall.com/video-grow-your-own-food-even-in-small-spaces/
If you love growing your own food and planning and rotating gardens through the seasons for maximum yield and companion planting when-to-plant info, you may enjoy the Garden Planner App. We certainly are, and though we’ve created all kinds of garden and landscaping plans by hand for many years, we’re really delighting in the flexibility and simplicity of use of this cool app, which you can see in action in this video and how it’s helping to determine how much to plant to feed your family.
GROWING FOR PROFIT: If you’re interested in learning about earning money from gardening or farming, we invite you to join our Facebook group: Planting for Retirement. We’re a new group of people interested in learning how to supplement our income through growing something by sharing our wins, losses and lessons in the field.
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