Preface. If you want to try to feed yourself, buy John Jeavons excellent book “How to Grow More Vegetables, Ninth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land with Less Water Than You Can Imagine”. If you’re really serious, go to http://www.growbiointensive.org/ to find out where you can take a course. When I took it in 2004 Jeavons told us that in our area of Northern California, we could probably get by on half an acre per person because our benign climate allows three crops a year. But we don’t get enough rain to do that, so massive water storage is required as well.
Cities will someday be a bad place to be as energy grows scarce and supply lines break down because trucks don’t have diesel fuel. This is why the younger you are the more you should consider moving to an agricultural area where your muscle power, your own yard, and local food can keep you fed after oil decline.
Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report
Wong, J. 2020. Can you really grow enough fruit and veg to be self-sufficient? Newscientist.com.
There’s been a surge in people wanting to grow fruit and vegetables, but the path to self-sufficiency isn’t as easy as some may have you think.
how realistic are the promises that such efforts will help you along your way to self-sufficiency? Let’s do the maths.
If your goal is to feed yourself, it would be hard to find a better crop than potatoes. In terms of calories per unit of land, they are easily the most productive crop that can be grown, at least in the UK. Potatoes grow best in cool, well-drained, loose soil that is about 45° to 55°F (7° to 13°C) with full sun of at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.
Churning out yields of approximately 8.8 pounds on 1.2 square yards (4 kilos per square meter) on farms with these ideal conditions can produce more than three times the calories of wheat. Spuds also happen to be one of the crops with the most balanced nutrition, meaning humans can survive for at least a year eating very little else, according to the International Potato Center in Peru.
Based on an average intake of 2250 calories a day (2000 women, 2500 men), you’ll need to grow 821,250 calories a year. That’s around a tonne of spuds, requiring 2860 square feet / 318 square yards / 0.066 acre / 266 square meters of land. Now multiply by the number of people in your household.
Perhaps by self-sufficiency they don’t mean calorie-wise, but just in terms of fruit and veg requirements? Working on World Health Organization guidelines stating that adults need at least 14 ounces (five 80-gram servings) of fresh produce a day to maintain health would mean each of us requires 320 pounds (146 kilograms) every year. While vegetable yields vary, for a family of four, this would mean a minimum of 292 square metres for lower weight crops like lettuce (.072 acre / 350 square yards) and about 100 square yards (84 square meters / 0.02 acre) for heavier ones like apples.
But let’s not forget, these crops are highly seasonal, and storing them to last the whole year will be tough. Even with some of the world’s best experts at post-harvest storage and vast climate-controlled warehouses, millions of tonnes of food is lost by industrial agriculture each year. A rack in your garage or a fancy chest freezer simply can’t compete.
Is growing your own great exercise, a chance to get fresh air and a welcome distraction in these uncertain times? A resounding yes. Does it teach invaluable lessons about where our food comes from, while giving an edible bonus? 100 per cent. But is it likely to provide beginners with even a passing semblance of self-sufficiency, as the headlines promise? I’m afraid not. So enjoy your garden (if you have one) for all the benefits it provides.