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Home Grown

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So what’s for dinner then?

Over on (Prudent Reasonable Emergency Preparedness) Thoreau has done the groundwork for how much land you need to feed one person per year. He allows 145 kg of carbs (55% of total calories), 35 kg per year of fats (35%) and 35 kg per year of proteins (15%) per person, and reckons that 4,700 sq.m (1.16 acres) per person is sufficient.

This amounts to 2,500 sq.m for the main carb and protein crops, another 400 sq.m for supplemental protein in the form of legumes, 1,750 sq.m for dietary fat as oilseed and 50 sq.m for the vitamins and minerals of miscellaneous fruit and vegetables. 100% vegan. He bases his calculations on 2,740 calories per day which, if you’re going to be fully occupied growing your own food, you’re probably going to need. You’ll survive then, if you have 4,700 sq.m of land.

As ever, the landed have it going for them. But what’s in store for us city dwellers? =(


We’re still going to need approx. 2,000 calories as 50% carbs, 25% fats, and 25% proteins. This menu, courtesy of, provides 1,929 calories as 250 grams carbohydrate, 140 grams protein, and 41 grams fat. Looks good.

Egg’n Muffin: 1 egg, 1/2 ounce ham, 1 slice low-fat cheese, 1 English muffin, 1 tsp. reduced-fat margarine
Orange Juice (1 cup)
Fruit Yogurt (1 cup) & Bran Mix (1 T.)
Water with Lime Twist (1 cup)
Tropical Chicken Salad: 1.5 ounce chicken breast, 1/8 cup low-fat cottage cheese, 1.5 ounces pineapple, 1 teaspoon reduced-calorie mayonnaise, orange peel, 1/4 cup grapes, 1/8 cup waterchestnuts, chives, 1/8 cup tangerines, 1 cup spinach, 1 tsp. almonds)
Three Bean Salad: 1/3 cup each green beans, yellow beans and kidney beans; onion, vinegar, sugar substitute)
Reduced-Fat Wheat Crackers (4 crackers)
Baked Apple (1/2 large)
Iced Tea with Lemon (1 cup)
Fat-Free Fig Bars (2 bars)
Skim Milk (1 cup)
Garlic Chicken: 5 ounces cooked chicken breast, 1/4 cup light wheat bread crumbs, 1/8 cup skim milk, 1/4 garlic clove, 1 tsp. tabasco, lemon juice
Wild Rice (1 cup)
Zucchini/Summer Squash Medley (1 cup)
Light Pound Cake: 1 serving, topped with strawberries (1/4 cup) and whipped topping (2 T.)
Diet Soda (12 ounces)

Mmm – garlic chicken!

I don’t know what you were imagining, but here’s what the world looks like for chickens (and eggs!) labelled “free range”. How many do you think you’re going to be able to humanely keep per square metre?


I’m not promoting battery chicken farms, but we’ve got an ethical problem heading our way.


Let’s keep it real. Unless we’re seriously thinking of keeping chickens and pigs, growing orange trees and harvesting grain in our urban gardenfarmettes, we’re going to have to forego breakfast. And morning snack. Things start looking up around lunchtime as we should to be able to grow spinach and at least one type of bean. For dinner, we can have garlic, zucchini and squash followed by strawberries.


Okay. Let’s see what a 2,000-calorie vegan diet looks like. They’ve made it easy.


It’s not going to happen either. In all likelihood, in our urban farms, we’re not going to grow tea, coffee, nuts, grains, seaweed, fruit trees or vines. We might be able to grow bok choi, cucumbers, tomatoes, chrysanthemums (but why?), berries, soy beans, carrots, celery, strawberries, chick peas and melons. Even with a vegan diet it’s going to be impossible to be self-sufficient in protein. It makes one wonder how the human race ever survived long enough to get to where we are now.


And even if the Japanese invent the electric tofu maker (whoops, they have), we’ll have to eat at least a kilo of the stuff per day to get our 125g. First though, we’ll need to make soy milk.

Actually, first we’re going to need some soybeans. They’re good nutritional value. Let’s see if they’re spatial value too. If their calories/m3/month don’t stack up, we might be better off keeping chickens. Here’s some soybean yield data. Let’s say it peaks at 40 bushels per acre, whatever that is.


1 bushel/acre = 67 kg/10,000m2 Thank you so much, even though it’s bad news. It’s equivalent to 6.7 grams/m2. We’re going to get only 30 calories (and only 2.4g of protein) per square meter every three to five months it takes the crop to mature. We’re screwed. Conventional food and conventional (soil based) means of food production aren’t going to do it. We need huge increases in protein yield per square (or cubic) metre.

What about taking another look at algae – or spirulina? It’s looking good!


Here‘s how to grow it. It’s not rocket science.


6-10g of spirulina per square metre per day. Taking the high end of 10, that’s 5.7 grams of protein per square metre per day. That’s a better bet than the 6.7 grams of soybean protein per square metre every 90-120 days. Soybeans, even though we’ve sort of just gotten used to them, are going to be retro food for reactionaries.

Even if we gear up for spirulina to satisfy our functional protein requirements, people will still want to shape and colour it to look like roast beef, chicken or fish much like Post Modernism did for functional arrangements of columns and slabs.


But this is not a post about the aesthetics or the cultural meanings of food. It’s about what we need to get in us. I’d like to separate these two concepts before they get totally muddled. Japanese people, for example, eat a lot of rice. It’s not because they have to. They can eat anything they wish but they like to eat rice because Japanese people eat rice. Eating rice makes them feel more Japanese. So before we get all Post-Modern and cultural referency about food requirements real or imagined, physiological or culturo-tribal, I’d just like to repeat that this post is purely about physiological nutrition and not about cultural sustenance (W/eTF that is) or socio-cultural well-being (DittoTF) in any sense other than that.

• • •

Even though it must have been common knowledge once, there’s probably a PhD in it for someone who can find out how much growing needs to be done and in how much space. If we assume everything we grow is at least as nutrient dense as a carrot (and that everything combined makes for a balanced diet – two huge assumptions), then two square metres per person just might do it. With a bit of soil and supplementary lighting, this area you may recognise might be more than enough for four persons. Some nutritionally dubious things are already growing there.