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RE: mathematical formulas and food production

  • Subject: RE: [cg] mathematical formulas and food production
  • From: "Sharon Gordon" gordonse@one.net
  • Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 15:58:29 -0400
  • Importance: Normal

We have a demonstration garden at a local co-op here in Seattle, and need
some fun stats to put on our signage.  The garden is a demo garden to
encourage shoppers and neighbors to grow and give produce from their
gardens. The garden is 40 sq. feet.  Need a factoid like:

1) you can grow XXX pounds in a small garden space like this one or

2) this garden could provide  XXX salads to families in need next year  or

3) This garden could feed.......

Several years ago I designed a 4x6 foot garden using biointensive for a
group doing houses for Florida's Habitat for Humanity group.  With three
plantings (2 sets of cool weather crops and one summer crop), I think it
would produce 183 pounds of food (and a few flowers per) year on average.
That's in 24 square feet or 183/24 = 7.625 pounds per square foot.

Assuming when you say 40 sq feet that your garden is 4x10 feet or 5x8 feet
(or similar) and not 40 X 40 feet(if it's 40x40 let me know and I can

1)If you grew at that same rate in your 40 square foot garden that would be
40 square feet X 7.625 pounds per square foot
= 305 pounds of food

2)one cup of raw vegetables = one serving
If the salad is 1/2 cup of shredded lettuce and 1/2 cup of mixed salad
vegetables, it would weigh about 3-4 ounces or ~1/4 pound.
So you could get four salads per pound (accounting for compostable parts).
You could serve 1220 salads from this size garden

3)If you'd like to do some local precise calculations based on what you are
planting, the info in How to Grow More Vegetables (etc) Than you ever
thought possible on less land than you can imagine, 6th ed by John Jeavons
and One Circle: How to Grow a Complete Diet in Less than 1000 square feet by
David Duhon (see http://www.bountifulgardens.org for books) will be helpful.
But just to pick a complete diet for one person on the smallest piece of
land (with an 8 month growing season) you can grow a nutritionally complete
diet for an average size healthy woman in 550 square feet.  With 40 square
feet you could grow enough food for 40/550 of a year or 7.3% of a year.
7.3% of a year is
.073 x 365 days = enough food for 27 days for one person
This would not necessarily be the same food you would be growing if you were
maximizing your yields in scenarios 1 and 2.  This is because sometimes food
that provides a lot of nutrients doesn't provide a lot of calories or
produce weight or provide for ongoing soil fertility.  In a complete diet
planting there are trade offs resulting in varying yields and nutrients per
square foot.

4) Some other things you could probably calculate and put on the sign that
you could likely get from some place like the UN-food section or the
Christian Children's Fund and/or combined with Jeavons book info is
a) number of children who could be saved from blindness in a year by the
maximum yield of carrots from that space
b) number of apples you could get from a full grown tree in that space
c) number of large pizzas you could make from growing only tomatoes on the
plot and turning them into sauce


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