First Harvest at Chez Lannae
I was lucky enough to have a 6x6 ft raised veggie bed in my yard, and it came with the house when I bought it. I had thoughts of being green-thumb heirloom-organic farmer, feeding my household with food from this raised bed. I set off by buying heirloom-organic seedlings from Tana at Eatons Creek Organics Farm just in the north side of town. I got 3 tomatoes, 2 peppers, and a bunch of herbs. I got some organic beets from Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms, and I got some fugitive squash plants (probably conventional pumpkin) from Earth Matters Carver Food Park, my local community garden's compost pile. So, I put all these food items into my raised bed in April, 2010, and the wait began. I got some herbs, as they grew pretty fast, but this was not going to sustain a household of 2. We need about 4k - 5k calories per day for the 2 of us for the level of activity we have, and the herbs gave us about 4 calories for the week. Obviously not enough. Anyway, it is now July, and we got our 1st harvest of sweet peppers. For all the time from April to now, had we had to rely on the 6x6 bed to feed ourselves, we would have starved.
2 or 3 years ago, I read that it is possible to feed a family of 2 all their vegetable needs by growing all year long in one 4x4 raised bed. It requires a lot of crop rotation, maybe fast growing crops, a hoop house in winter, a lot of growing knowledge, and a lot of constant work to feed a family of 2 by using one raised bed. By my one spring season of growing in a raised bed, I can say this idea of feeding a family of 2 by using a raised bed is not a reality for me. My household would have starved by now. It is nice though, to have supplemental food flavorings such as herbs and peppers from my raised bed to put into my dishes. I really enjoy walking outside, cutting sprigs of herbs that will be part of my meal. As for the tomatoes, I am still waiting for them to turn colors, so I can pick them. I hope for my own tomato sauce over the winter, and not canned tomatoes.
This got me thinking about the land space needed to feed an average USA person, like myself. I wanted to find out how many acres it takes to feed the USA, and set out to find the answer. The answer is 1 acre of crop and per person in the USA.
According the USA Census Bureau, the estimated population of the USA is 309.7 million.
Conveniently, according the USA Department of Agriculture, there are about 309 million acres of harvesting cropland in 2007, and I assume that the number of harvested cropland currently in 2010 is still about 309 million acres. This makes the math convenient, 1 acre per person or 309 million acres for 309 million people of the USA. An acre is about 210x210 ft or 70x70 yd. This acreage per person in the USA is way more than a 4x4 or 6x6 bed, so I don't feel as bad about not being able to feed my household with one 6x6 raised bed.
I was feeling a bit defeated that I was unable to feed ourselves with this one raised bed, but I realize now that a single small raised bed is not the standard, rather it is nearly an unobtainable standard, now that I know it takes 1 acre per person, or 2 acres to feed a family of 2. Still though, in the back of my mind I am thinking that I can possibly meet our vegetable needs through this one raised bed. The feeling I have about feeding my household family with my one raised bed seems to be a lot like trying to win the Olympic Marathon, a seeming unrealistic standard, but there are people in the world who do it. I do run, and I have jogged a marathon distance multiple times, but I am not setting any land speed records, and I just cannot see myself winning an Olympic Marathon. It is akin to me being a farmer of my 6x6 ft raised bed. I am organically farming my 6x6 ft raised bed, but I am not racing along to feed my household only with food from the bed.
Labels: my garden