Monday, 3 September 2012

100% Food Self-sufficiency - a general overview

I strongly believe 100% food self-sufficiency is possible.

Is it desirable? Well, that is up to each of you.
It's certainly a lot of work. But possible.

Much easier if you are a vegetarian and you live closer to the tropics.
The further near the poles you live, the more you must rely on animals and even that will be hard work (saving hay for winter). 
In Iceland, I grow staples like rye, barley, swedes, potatoes and broad beans outdoors, and runner beans, cow peas and amaranth indoors.

In Iceland, where I am it's very hard but possible, because farmers and outlaws were doing it in past centuries. In rural places in the tropics, many families are also totally food self-sufficiency, they grow their own starch, oil and protein. Even in south Europe, many families were self-sufficient during complicated periods such as during WWII (mostly in poultry, eggs, bread, potatoes and pulses). 

In a warm temperate climate, its much easier to be 100% food self-sufficient. The easiest is to be a vegetarian (saves space and work) and complement with eggs. You rely in combination of cereals and pulsesroots and perhaps nuts. Alternatively you can chose to be self-sufficient for all except eggs and milk, and that is also doable. If you want to reach this goal, you should focus in calories and staples, not growing all those kinds of tomatoes or apples, which provide little calories. 

You must grow perhaps 200m2 (>40Kg) of cereal crops, 100m2 of pulses (>20 Kg), and 100m2 (>40 kg) of potatoes (and other roots such as swedes or sweet potatoes), plus vegetable plots, fruit trees, perennial staple vegetables (roots, pulses), oil crops (olives, sunflower, chia, pumpkin, sesame) and also nuts (a couple of trees should suffice). You grow both winter and summer pulses and cereals (broad beans, peas, rye, barley, oats / and corn, millet, quinoa, amaranth, beans, lentils, chickpeas, cowpeas, soy beans). Obviously I am suggesting annuals because everyone is used to them. Perhaps 0.5 acre is the minimal necessary size. And it will be hard work. 

At the very minimum, 1000m2 are required:
  • 200m2 cereals (winter + summer) 
  • 100m2 pulses (winter + summer)
  • 100 m2 potatoes and other roots
  • 100m2 vegetable plots and herbs (winter + summer)
  • 100m2 oil crops; olives
  • 100m2 nut trees
  • 100m2 fruit trees
  • 200m2 fodder for chicken

And 2000m2 will provide most of your needs:

  • 100m2 pond area (water catchment) (grow rice and arrowhead nearby)
  • 100m2 berries
  • 100m2 pumpkins
  • 200m2 other perennial staple vegetables (pigeon peas, yams, groundnut)
  • 500m2 wood for coppice (fuel and mulching)

This would include a rotation of annuals, and also intercrops/ guilds of perennials.

September harvest

You must also do lots of canning, drying, freezing, and storing, but if you plan to grow in succession, then you should have fresh food for most of the year, if your climate has a mild and small winter. 

Of course, the good thing about permaculture is that is allows us to do things such as intercropping (saves space, increases yield), perennial sources of staple foods (such as nuts, pigeon peas, yams, arrowhead, groundnut), growing n-fixers (to give you fertility and also plenty of mulching material and fodder for the chicken, if you keep these). I also believe that with time, one could establish a perennial food forest to provide 100% food self-sufficiency, but this is way more challenging! 

I haven't addressed any other needs, such as some income, energy, heating, transport. I think 100% self-sufficiency in all fields is undesirable, but the concept of 100% food independence really appeals to me, especially if done by a small community or farm. It can also be fun. Comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Great share indeed! I am really glad that you shared such interesting post. Excellent page!

    Rachel @ CheapSheds NZ LTD