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How much land would one need to live off of it  RSS feed

 
Adrien Lapointe
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I thought it was interesting. I tend to believe that in a permaculture system, one could produce much more food on the same surface area, especially with a food forest or a food savanna.

 
Adrien Lapointe
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I am reading Mark Shepard's book Restoration Agriculture and he has an interesting discussion on feeding the world with Permaculture. He compares how much food an acre of corn can produce and how much food an acres of a food savanna system can produce. His comparison is the first analysis with number that I have ever seen.

Without revealing too much, according to the numbers Mark reports, 1 acre of food savanna produces more than double the amount of human calories than an acre of corn does (nevermind more nutrition). Based on his number (5,977,719.96 cal/acre) and assuming a 2000 cal/day/pers, I calculated that 1 acre of food savanna can provide food for 8 people for 1 year. Moreover, it provides a complete diet, whereas corn would not. Even better the system also provides fuel, beauty and numerous other ecosystem services. That is just pure bliss!
 
John Polk
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When you factor in corn (or any other monocrop) depleting the soil and its food web vs permaculture enriching the soil, the comparison becomes even more lopsided.

A food forest/savannah will cost more to establish than a single planting of [insert monocrop here], and take longer to develop. But once it is established, it becomes a perpetual motion machine, with few minor inputs per year. The monocrop requires huge inputs each season...forever, until the land will bear no more.

 
Adrien Lapointe
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Yup, it gets even more dramatic when you start taking into account the soil improvement, the purification of water, increase in biodiversity, etc.

I would like to see some sort of comparison between etablishing a food forest/savanna system vs. getting all the equipment for annual cropping (tractor, plow, combine, etc.)
 
John Polk
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I think that this is where the matter of scale comes into play.

A BigAg farmer realizes a very small profit per bushel. He needs 1,000's of bushels to make the math work.
Typical "cereal" farms are 600 acres and up. Most would be delighted with a $100/acre profit...which is nearly impossible.

How can you net that much profit when you are spending $50,000 per year in interest on machinery alone?

By the same token, who could afford to develop a 600-800 acre food forest?
Yet alone, harvest it?

A 1 acre food forest could support a family.
A 100 acre "factory farm" is struggling to keep the repo man at bay.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:
I would like to see some sort of comparison between etablishing a food forest/savanna system vs. getting all the equipment for annual cropping (tractor, plow, combine, etc.)


I would also like to see this. Are there any estimates for cost of establishing a food forest/food savanna?

 
R Scott
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Adrien Lapointe wrote:
I would like to see some sort of comparison between etablishing a food forest/savanna system vs. getting all the equipment for annual cropping (tractor, plow, combine, etc.)


I would also like to see this. Are there any estimates for cost of establishing a food forest/food savanna?



Scale and location matters.

On the permie side, I have personally heard of ponds ranging from less than $1,000 to more than $50,000 per acre depending on the size, local economy, and actual conditions on-site. Same goes for all big earthworks. Do your homework on contractors.

On the traditional ag side, the equipment can range from $100,000 to over $10,000,000 depending on new/used, size, and exact crops you are supporting.

Old farm equipment is APPRECIATING in value (actually, it is depreciating slower than inflation) but that means the tractor my dad bought used in 1985 is worth more today than he paid for it (the SAME tractor with 28 more years of use!). Difference is that was considered a main field production tractor back then and is a "utility" tractor now--used for "small" tasks .
 
Adrien Lapointe
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John Polk wrote:By the same token, who could afford to develop a 600-800 acre food forest?


I wonder if one was to start a food forest/savanna from seeds if it would not just make it much more affordable. I am sure the succession of plants and animals could be used to make a profit while the system gets established.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:

I wonder if one was to start a food forest/savanna from seeds if it would not just make it much more affordable. I am sure the succession of plants and animals could be used to make a profit while the system gets established.


The videos of Micheal Pilarski show him obtaining a commercial yield from his growing food forest. I think he plants most things from seed, but may plant trees as saplings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2kVOyE5Ww
 
Adrien Lapointe
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That is a good point! Doesn't he make $900 just from dandelion?

I am actually at the point in Mark Shepard's book where he talks about transitioning farms from an annual system to a perennial system. One thing he suggests is to do alley cropping. So if you are a corn farmer, you continue planting corn in between the rows of trees while the system gets established. I don't think this would be my preference, but this idea is probably the least offensive to most farmers. My guess is that one could do some sort of transition like that and plant the trees from seed.
 
R Scott
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:That is a good point! Doesn't he make $900 just from dandelion?

I am actually at the point in Mark Shepard's book where he talks about transitioning farms from an annual system to a perennial system. One thing he suggests is to do alley cropping. So if you are a corn farmer, you continue planting corn in between the rows of trees while the system gets established. I don't think this would be my preference, but this idea is probably the least offensive to most farmers. My guess is that one could do some sort of transition like that and plant the trees from seed.


That method gained traction in the USDA and traditonal ag for erosion control (via the windbreak) in some areas. But it was never a PRODUCTIVE tree, it was alwas the cheapest fastest growing tree to survive the environment--usually cedars.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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I don't see any reasons why productive trees could not be used in alley cropping. Is it something the USDA prevents people from doing?
 
R Scott
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:I don't see any reasons why productive trees could not be used in alley cropping. Is it something the USDA prevents people from doing?


Chemical big ag mindset. They pushed it as an expense to save the rowcrops, not as a layered resource so they chose cedars because they are cheap, hardy (especially to ag chemical overspray), and evergreen--but they also carry cedar rust to any apple tree miles downwind. Building it as a fedge would be so much better to a small producer, but not to a big ag guy using chemicals.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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I would assume that as the system matures, the more carying capacity it would have, but my guess is that with 1 acre, one could at least feed a family of 5. I assume that animals would be part of the system, and some feed might have to be imported.

I should try to run some numbers, this is just my gut feeling.
 
Dayna Williams
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What would the acreage be if the wheat/corn for animal consumption were replaced by pasture? Just wondering how that compares, since you really can't look at a system with cattle eating all corn and wheat and say it is ideal in any way, right? How does pastureland (like, ideally managed, Joel Salatin-style) compare to cropland?
 
Adrien Lapointe
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I am not sure what assumption they make. Mark Shepard's calculations on the other hand assume the animals are eating off the land.
 
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