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How much land do you need to feed a family?

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  March 20, 2013 09:00 AM

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Today is the first day of spring, which, for many, means it's time to think about gardening. And when you look ahead to planting rows of cauliflower and string beans, perhaps you'll wonder: Just how much land would I need if I wanted to feed my whole family this way?

The company One Block Off the Grid has produced a fun infographic answering just that question. They estimate that to feed a family of four strictly on a home-grown diet of vegetables, you'd need 1.76 acres of land (which would yield 2,300 calories per person per day). Add meat, dairy, corn, and wheat to those vegetables and you'd need more land, but not much more- about two well-organized acres would be enough to cultivate it all.

One of the striking things about the chart is how much more land-intensive growing vegetables is compared with raising animals. This fact has led some academics to make the contrarian argument that a vegetarian diet actually leads to more animal deaths than an omnivorous diet- because tons (literally) of field animals are killed in the plowing and harvesting that goes into growing acres and acres of vegetables. Not all vegetarianists, however, agree with the math behind those calculations.

How Big A Backyard Do You Need To Live Off The Land?
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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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