On the internet, one can find quite endless lists of how much food it takes to survive a year for an adult... to that, you add layers of complexity like:
- Are you just 'surviving' and playing board games, or, are you working like a Victorian farmer with tools powered by your aching muscles?
- How many adults and children in your group?
- Do you owe 'food' to the local landlord/government as was common in the past?
- What is the growing season where you are located? You need frost free days, warmth appropriate for each crop type, and rain.
So, to attempt to determine the quantity of seeds to grow this food let's start simple: One adult eating 2,200 calories a day. That is slightly more that just 'surviving', but it is only half of what our Victorian-age peasant/laborer would have eaten. On a long & busy farming day, my exercise watches tells me I burned 4,500 calories. Each bolded item found on typical internet lists will be broken down in how we would cover that particular requirement with the seeds in our basket.
- I live in Michigan where the last frost is the end of May and the killing frost might happen late September. Tropical plants are not going to thrive. I can't consistently grow sweet potatoes.
- This initial estimate is to give a sense of the scale of the calories it takes to live. Cucumber, lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, etc are all nice to have, but they don't establish the baseline to live.
- This is a theoretical exercise, don't get too stressed. If you want to add comments and raise questions, jump back to the blog page that covers this discussion.
- I don't have an endless source of energy, so, year round greenhouse is out of scope. I would use cold frames and hoop houses for getting plants started and a bit of season extension; but again, those plants are the nice to have, not the provide calories to fuel your body.
- I'm going to need some diesel to run my 2-wheel tractor with the rotary plow. Seed bed preparation with the tiller and power harrow are really helpful. A bit for the 4-wheel tractor to use the front end loader would be nice.
- The soil has been worked for a few years. Crops have been rotated, perhaps not as perfectly as the Norfolk four-course system that came out since the medieval times. This is not your grassy, weed-free front yard.
- Those medieval farmers also had to set aside 25% of their harvest to seed the fields the following year due to their less efficient storage and planting methods. Modern production uses up 6% as seed.
- Endless chemicals for fertilizing, weed control and pest control are not available. We don't use them now. It also means picking up a few cubic yards of compost is out of scope. We'll just have to make do with self made...
- Seeds, obviously the least of my worries!
I will strive to break the 'requirements' into many different feasible staple crops. Yes, it would be much more efficient to grow a single kind of grain in one very large plot. But, that's putting all your meals in one basket! Like investing, a diversified portfolio reduces your risk of exposure to pests, weather and the unforeseen. Also, multiple varieties of the same crop also reduce risk, and spread out the work. With the cooperation of neighboring farms, specialization (with larger plot sizes of few things) will come with trade and barter.
I will provide snips from my work-in-progress spreadsheet. Once I have finished it, and squashed any bugs, and further vetted the 'estimates', I will post it.
I am starting with storable food items using lists typical of various websites. Once the land required to do this is understood, we can discuss row lengths for fresh eating, but to be honest, most people have more experience with that topic.
- 160 lbs of wheat
- 100 lbs of barley
- 60 lbs of corn
- 40 lbs of rice
- 25 lbs of millet
- 15 lbs of sorghum
- Hard Red Winter (HRW) is for pan breads and would serve as a general purpose flour after some sifting.
- Hard Red Spring (HRS) is for hearth breads, rolls, croissants, bagels and pizza crust.
- Soft Red Winter (SRW) is a useful weak-gluten wheat flour ideal for cookies, crackers, pretzels, pastries and flat breads.
- Soft White (SW) provides a whiter flour for cakes. It is also ideally suited to Middle Eastern flat breads which are a nice way to eat those chickpeas. Ok, I could survive without cake flour.
- Hard White (HW) for Asian noodles and flat breads.
- Durum (D) is the hardest wheat with a rich amber color. The high gluten content makes it ideal for pasta, couscous and Mediterranean breads.
- 30 lbs of Common beans
- 15 lbs of Peas
- 10 lbs of Lima beans
- 5 lbs of Peanuts