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Re: mathematical formulas and food production/news

  • Subject: [cg] Re: mathematical formulas and food production/news
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 19:13:11 -0700 (PDT)

Hi, all,

Thanks to Sharon and Jim for their responses to Lee
and Sandy's question about yield. My data not quite as
rosy, I'm afraid (thanks for the lead on those
turnips, by the way, Jim. They sound great! My big
success this summer was Helda green beans from
Johnny's Seed. They are prolific, long lasting, pest
resistant and tasty).

The questions was:

> We have a demonstration garden at a local co-op here
> in Seattle, and need
> some fun stats to put on our signage.  >snip< Need a
> 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.......

Sharon writes:

> Several years ago I designed a 4x6 foot garden using
> biointensive >snip< 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. >snip<
> 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 >snip<
> 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

Jim writes:

>snip< This occupied an area about 15' by 70' ...
(Tokyo Cross Turnip)... we harvested 670 lbs.  This
week, Publix
Supermarket had turnips priced at $2.89  per lbs. in
plastic bags.  (Boy, do they love their produce!) so
that equates our
harvest to be worth $1936.30 (excluding tax)!

My figures are more in line with Jim's, though only
about half that level (his yield works out to about
0.64 lbs/ft2, which is truly awesome). The best I've
been able to do with greens (mustard, kale, turnips)
is closer to a yield of about 0.3 lbs/ft2 (about 1.4
kg/m2), using organic techniques on well prepared
beds. Now, it is true, if you really know what you're
doing and don't give your soil a rest, you might get
three crops (cool, hot, cool - maybe greens, beans,
greens - in my neck of the woods). But, whew, mercy!
7.6 pounds per foot, Sharon? Wow! Is this observation,
or theoretical max? The Marlins play like they eat
pretty good diets - maybe there's something in the
soil down your way. Or all that sunshine.

That said, my yields translate to something sort-of
similar to your second numbers, Sharon. I figure with
a 40 ft2 bed, I'd get about 30 servings of greens per
planting. Greens (mustard greens, turnips, kale, as
well as spinach and traditional greens) are incredibly
rich in all kinds of vitamins, including A. I taught a
'square meter garden' technique for Peace Corps in
Swaziland a couple decades ago, emphasizing greens.
AID health and agronomy teams found that even a single
square meter of these crops could make a measurable
positive impact on nutrition, especially for at risk
populations such as children, the elderly and
expecting mothers. And the food tended to end up in
the mouths of those who needed it, unlike many cash
crop programs.

I agree with Sharon's idea of translating aggie
factoids into nutrition info, these are all cool-

> 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

Also, picking up on what Jim says, I've heard of very
high urban incomes from mesclun (essentially baby
lettuce). You might want to figure out how much income
you can generate (use Jim's numbers! That would be
roughly $75 for your bed!)

One other notion: If you made compost from leaf drop
and yard waste, you could divert 6 big bags of leaves
from the landfill each year for that bed, turning
'waste' into wholesome organic food, improved soil,
and taxpayer savings (I can show you my numbers to
back this up, if you'd like).

Let me also second Sharon on John Jeavon's book. He is
really the expert on high intensity plantings.
>How to Grow More Vegetables
> (etc) Than you ever
> thought possible on less land than you can imagine,
> 6th ed by John Jeavons

Good luck, and keep us all posted on your signage.
Signs really do help.

Good news, while I'm here. Remember how I was begging
for advice, when advising a new community garden last
summer under somewhat challenging circumstances? It's
not only up and running, but the big local daily, The
Charlotte Observer, has been giving us lots of
coverage and positive press. There's even talk of
expanding the garden in the spring. Very cool, indeed.
Thanks for the advice and encouragement.

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte, NC

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