Ok, you can blame Patti and Derrick – they asked for it! And I had to do something to keep up with Rob’s amazing garden bed rotation spreadsheet. So, here’s Emily’s Totally Insane Spreadsheet for Planning What to Plant to Live Out Of Your Garden. Also known as “can I feed my family on one acre?” (Answer: Yes. But you might not want to.) And yes, I realize I have waaaaaaay too much time on my hands.
It’s in GoogleDocs spreadsheet format. Click the little orange triangles for comments. Be sure to look at both sheets (tabs along the bottom) and scroll down – calorie crops are at the top and vegetables at the bottom. You should be able to click the GoogleDocs File menu and export it to your own GoogleDocs account, or to Excel or .csv format. Then you’ll be able to play with the numbers, add foods, etc. If you’re as big a geek as I am, this is the fun part.
The basic idea is it takes just short of a million calories to feed a person 2500 calories per day for a year. I’ve looked up the number of calories per pound of food, and the number of pounds of food that can grow in a square foot (using John Jeavons’s Biointensive raised-bed methods). Put in the number of people you’ll be feeding, and the spreadsheet keeps a running tally of how many calories you’ve planted and how many more you’ll need to grow to feed everyone for a year. As you’re planning, be realistic about what you like to eat, what you can store, what’s a pain in the butt to raise or process, and get a good variety so you don’t get scurvy or really, really sick of parsnips.
Even if you don’t intend to live off your 1/4 acre lot, this is eye opening. Think your 1000 sf tomato garden is great shakes? Calorie-wise, that’ll feed one person for two months. I’m growing wheat on a very, very small scale right now, and had been thinking of expanding. But looking at the scale needed, and the work involved in harvesting wheat by hand, makes me think what communities need is a central wheat farm with big machines and individual gardens full of potatoes and rutabagas (swedes).
Have fun kids!