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2.3 People Per Acre  RSS feed

 
D. Logan
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Relistening to one of the podcasts to help do a synopsis got me thinking. I went ahead and looked up the current population (I rounded up) and the noted land mass world-wide that is usable as land to farm on (their estimations likely remove areas that we permies know could be restored to usable land or that don't allow a tractor, but are still usable. make of this what you will.) According to math based on these numbers, I came up with a listing of 2 and 1/3 person per acre of usable land on the planet! Obviously, that number is probably closer to and even 2 or maybe even 1 if we start applying permaculture to city design, food forest parks in cities, better use of land, etc. Still, it makes you really think looking at the numbers. We need to kick it into high gear really soon since permaculture takes time to establish.

Anyway, just a random thought I had the last few days. I wish I had an estimate of land mass that noted the land that could be used by permaculture methods that isn't listed simply because it can't be used for modern monocrop production. I remember a video here where the couple mentioned that they didn't think the acre they had would produce enough for more than one person even at it's peak. I'd love to see people trying to break that record of production by a fair margin. Maybe set the bar at 1 1/2 people from one acre. If we met that bar, set the new bar as 2 people per acre.
 
Dawn Hoff
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Rosemary Morrow told my husband's PDC class that it was 1,5 hectares/person arable land. How she got that number I don't know.
 
George Hayduke
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The figure I see that is frequently used is 4.5 acres per human.


http://www.radicalsimplicity.org/footprint.html



 
John Polk
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I have seen quite a few statistics regarding this. A lot of variation in the numbers.
As mentioned, I'm certain that many acres, which are not counted, are suitable for some kind of production.

Perhaps one could not produce 1,000 bushels of wheat on it, but sheep or goats could make good use of the land.
One acre of prime land in Wisconsin might be sufficient for one dairy cow, while in some parts of Texas it is claimed that you need 25 acres per head.

Finding the most suitable use of any given piece of land is a key to finding out how many people any given acre can support.

I'm sure that most of those estimates do not include millions of acres that a permie could make productive.

 
D. Logan
gardener
Posts: 584
Location: Soutwest Ohio
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I came to the number I had by taking the listed number of humans on earth atm (the number was going up even as I did the math, so that's why I rounded up) and divided it by the number of acres (had to convert from hectares) listed as the data taken most recently on such matters. I don't figure they counted a lot of usable land though, since Permaculture offers ways to make use of all sorts of land they would have left out of the numbers.

I would love to see Dawn's listed numbers be the right ones. That leaves a lot to work with. That would put it at almost 4 acres per person on the planet. Certainly enough to work with there.
 
Cj Sloane
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I forge the exact numbers, but geoff lawton has stated we could feed the world with permaculture techniques using like 10% (less maybe) of land currently in production. This would produce less food but would be more nutrient dense. And of course you wouldn't be growing corn & soy to feed to animals.

The rest of that land should go back to wilderness.
 
Dawn Hoff
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Location: Andalucía, Spain
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Is it the urban homestead that feeds four adults on 1/10 of acre? So one acre could feed 40? Or 90% of their food at least, and they sell their surplus. That does not account for clothing etc. but it proves that you don't need that much room to feed people. They are vegetarian, but have goats and chickens for eggs and meat - and I mean our neighbor gives his male goats away because he doesn't want to feed them - so that would be sufficient to meat for most people right?

We have 1,5 ha per person here (2 kids and 2 grownups), and I think well be plenty able to provide most of our food from just the 2000 m2 (1/4 acre) around the house, and sell from that. So the rest is what we will sell and live off of, but once the house is payed (in two years), the solar panels payed (soon hopefully), and we have out own water... Well it won't be much that we need will it?
 
Dawn Hoff
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2000m2 = 1/2 acre sorry
 
George Hayduke
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Dawn Hoff wrote:Is it the urban homestead that feeds four adults on 1/10 of acre? So one acre could feed 40? Or 90% of their food at least, and they sell their surplus. That does not account for clothing etc. but it proves that you don't need that much room to feed people.


I'm familiar with the urban homestead you're talking about, and while I agree that it's an inspiring story, I would suggest that it doesn't prove you can feed four people on 1/10 of an acre. You'll note that they don't really tell you how they revitalize the plant nutrients in their soil over an extended period of time. This is a critical component of any sustainable food production system. To me, it seems like they're running an experiment about how many edible plants you can cram into a small space, not how much food you can produce on a sustainable basis without external nutrient or energy inputs.
 
Dawn Hoff
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That is true... to some extent: It does prove that you can produce that amount of food on that little land - so they are not using land outside suburbia to have their food produced (except for a bit of grain afaik), so the land not used could still go back to nature. No they don't say /how/ they do it - but they have a lot about "reduce, reuse and recycle", sustainable energy etc. So I imagine that they are trying at least to be sustainable, how sustainable that is, we don't know.
 
George Hayduke
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For starters, I envy you living in Spain.

I've been doing permaculture-like stuff for a few decades, and while I obviously believe in the power of some its basic principles, I also think there are certain tropes out there that are, at their core, more smoke and mirrors than practical sustainable food production techniques.

One trope is closed loop aquaponics in which fish manure allegedly produces crops. No small aquaponics system is self-sustaining and also produces a significant number of consumable calories. It takes a lot of electricity to power a small system (water and air pumps, heaters, lights, filters, etc.), and untreated fish manure is barely adequate (and often less than adequate) to grow low calorie foods like lettuce. Fish manure is not a complete nutrient for most crops and nowhere close for calorie dense veggies like tomatoes. Nevertheless, people are enamored of these small aquaponic systems because they create the illusion that you're operating a perfectly balanced little artificial ecosystem. The reality is far different.

Another trope is that 1/10 of an acre urban homestead. It's easy to get caught up in the beauty and productivity of that homestead without looking behind the curtain. Behind the curtain I'm pretty sure you'll find lots of fertilizer being brought in from outside to keep the operation going, and I doubt it really feeds a family everything they eat throughout the year. It's still an impressive display of productivity, but when you think about it so is the amount of corn grown on 1/10 of an acre in Iowa. Today, the average production on a 1/10 of an acre in Iowa is about 800 lb. of shelled corn or about 320,000 edible calories per 1/10 of an acre. That's enough to feed an adult for about six months.
 
Dawn Hoff
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George Hayduke wrote:For starters, I envy you living in Spain.

I've been doing permaculture-like stuff for a few decades, and while I obviously believe in the power of some its basic principles, I also think there are certain tropes out there that are, at their core, more smoke and mirrors than practical sustainable food production techniques.

One trope is closed loop aquaponics in which fish manure allegedly produces crops. No small aquaponics system is self-sustaining and also produces a significant number of consumable calories. It takes a lot of electricity to power a small system (water and air pumps, heaters, lights, filters, etc.), and untreated fish manure is barely adequate (and often less than adequate) to grow low calorie foods like lettuce. Fish manure is not a complete nutrient for most crops and nowhere close for calorie dense veggies like tomatoes. Nevertheless, people are enamored of these small aquaponic systems because they create the illusion that you're operating a perfectly balanced little artificial ecosystem. The reality is far different.

Another trope is that 1/10 of an acre urban homestead. It's easy to get caught up in the beauty and productivity of that homestead without looking behind the curtain. Behind the curtain I'm pretty sure you'll find lots of fertilizer being brought in from outside to keep the operation going, and I doubt it really feeds a family everything they eat throughout the year. It's still an impressive display of productivity, but when you think about it so is the amount of corn grown on 1/10 of an acre in Iowa. Today, the average production on a 1/10 of an acre in Iowa is about 800 lb. of shelled corn or about 320,000 edible calories per 1/10 of an acre. That's enough to feed an adult for about six months.

And I love living in Spain.

That is certainly true - and I agree with the aquaponics critique. Since they don't write permaculture anywhere - and since their garden looks suspiciously orderly (rows and rows of veggies), I don't think they are doing permaculture - and yet I do think they are doing some companion planting etc. My point wasn't that it was sustainable, but that they were doing it on very little space.
 
George Hayduke
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Damn straight. It is an impressive amount of veggies they drag out of a small suburban yard.

I guess you've heard the controversy about them trademarking the term "urban homesteading"? Kind of a sharp corporate maneuver for simple people of the earth.
 
Dawn Hoff
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George Hayduke wrote:Damn straight. It is an impressive amount of veggies they drag out of a small suburban yard.

I guess you've heard the controversy about them trademarking the term "urban homesteading"? Kind of a sharp corporate maneuver for simple people of the earth.

Oh my! Just lost so much respect there! No didn't hear - as you've noticed, I don't live in the states.
 
John Polk
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I guess you've heard the controversy about them trademarking the term "urban homesteading"? Kind of a sharp corporate maneuver for simple people of the earth.

Yeah. Right after they trademarked the term, their attorney began contacting dozens of web sites that were using the term. They were told to remove every mention of the word. Caused quite a controversy. As I recall, there was a site that had been using the term for several years, who refused to edit it out of their content.

 
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