A Note From our Milkman

A curious custom in the UK is that we still get milk delivered to our door step by the milkman each day. Today we received a rather curious note from our milkman (Robert Wiseman Dairies) warning of higher prices, growing demand and extreme weather. What is the world coming to?

Dear Customer,

Doorstep Milk Prices - Sunday 30th September 2007

I am sure you will be well aware by now, from the extensive on-going press coverage, of the substantial increase in prices affecting the numerous agricultural associated products.

The primary factors influencing the increase in milk costs are due to the heightened demand for dairy products along with availablity issues. These issues are being intensified by the extreme weather conditions currenly being experienced around the world, which in turn has increased our costs considerably in recent months.

This increase will help to secure the future of our milk supply and the continutaion of the Doorstep Service.

Doortstep Price Increase as of 30th September 2007

Pint Glass - will increase by 4 pence per pint
500 ml carton - will increase by 4 pence per 500 mls

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your loyal custom and continued support.

In recent days I have picked up stories in the press about chicken / egg farmers going out of business because of increased feed prices and the same seems to be happening to pig farmers. In the interest of keeping inflation under control, it seems the supermarkets are refusing to pay higher prices to farmers.

Does this provide a glimpse of the future? We may have to eat fewer eggs, less pork and bacon and drink less milk.

Food prices have been increasing steadily since the midst of 2006, in the wake of higher energy prices and higher minerals prices.

This is how it goes, slowly cascading through the primary sector of the Economy and eventually reaching broadly.

In the next months we'll see a run up in bread, which is always a simpton of economic failiure (bread is a Geffen good - they rise during economic recession). Also expect the price of cotton and linen to follow, afecting more seriously the secondary sector.

We are entering slowly and smothly into recession, but that's exactly were we are going.

I agree fuel prices do add to the consumable price, zinging things around is going to have to stop. Wall street journal just quote Dan Yergin again, and Fed chair Bernanke, title is:

How Economoy Could Survive $100/bbl oil.
WSJ online is a pay wall, but never fear, you can read it here at Moneyweb

just put out a few hours ago.


Definitely a wave that is hitting us now, but one of the little ones before the rogue wave.

One thing I have noticed just lately (last 2 weeks) is siginificant package alterations.

One example I noted today...cheese blocks of a standard 600g size for the last 5 years...just changed to 520g...same price.

A 13.3% change/price inflation. I think this will be more common in NA where it seems to be more acceptable (and most likely less people can read and recognize the change).

Time to get a cow :-P

Juice bottles from 14oz to 12oz as well. This is one thing I love about recycling - when packaging looks a little different, I often have an old one to compare it to.

In true Orwellian fashion this inflation will not show up in the official CPI. Some bureaucrat will invoke hedonics to claim smaller amounts are better for the consumer.

Interesting. And I thought it was only me!

Here's another data-point: my children eat a sort of chocolate granola bar when the get out of school. (And a piece of fruit, too!) Up until now, there were (statistically speaking) a dozen or so chocolate chips visible on the top of the bar.

My daughter opened a new packet on the weekend, and thought we had bought the wrong kind, since no chocolate chips could be seen. Turns out it was exactly the same package, same product. Evidently they have reduced the amount of chocolate in order to maintain the same price. We found one chip in the bar...

I expect we will be seeing more of this in the future.

While this is posted in the European side of TOD I have noticed this in the USA. I think I posted to a Drumbeat the other day in a thread talking about food prices, how I have noticed even the CHEAP food stores have rasied prices.

But in the USA they don't count food or fuel prices in the Core inflation numbers. Which is where it hurts the poor or middle class "paycheck to paycheck" people the most. I personally have never been what is termed middle class. I have never made over 20k $USD per year, which puts me in the Lower Class of wage earners in the US. Maybe I just notice things more than most people, Or maybe I can post my opinions online where others just have the street corner.

I do work locally helping the Homeless, most of my work is running the e.mail site and the blog for a group called HUSH, Homeless United to Save the Homeless. While I am not homeless myself, nor is the lady that started the group, she felt that it was her calling because she had been homeless at one time in her life. I see a lot of free foods being offered the Homeless, but someone has to pay for the foods in the long run. As costs go up I am willing to bet the donations will take a hit. But as the world gets further along into the Peak and over the top on the down side more people will show up in the Homeless ranks and the Food will not be there for them.

I am glad there still is a few companies that have door to door service for milk and other products here in the USA.

In a move reminiscent of the Texas Railroad Commission removing oil production rationing in 1972 and thereby signalling that the U.S. had no remaining unused production capacity, the EU have scrapped “set-aside” for next year. The set-aside rules were introduced to reduce the Europe’s subsidised overproduction and resulting grain mountains. Times have changed.

European Union agriculture ministers have suspended for one year a subsidy that pays farmers not to grow anything as they attempt to bring down soaring wheat prices.

"Set-aside" rules, which forbid farmers from planting on 10 per cent of their land, mean European taxpayers are funding farmers to keep 9.4 million acres of land idle.

The Telegraph

Will we ever again pay farmers not to produce?

I seriously doubt it. We may overcome the Energy problems with Nuclear, Renewables and maybe Coal, but Agriculture is a different matter.

Thanks for point this out Chris, it was out of my radar.


This has been noted in Germany in the media months ago - in part, because the set aside was also seen as a long term conservation method. Before the EU, essentially all arable land in 'core' Europe was farmed (Russia being the major exception), and had been for centuries.

As has been noted by others (Roger Connor comes to mind), being able to collect data and look at things in perspective will be a critical skill in the future.

The EU used emergency grain stocks for the first time in its history to deal with drought in Spain and Portugal in 2005. That is why food stocks exist, after all - to deal with drought, war, etc.

Allowing farmers to produce food flat out in the short term is one thing - having them produce flat out for biofuels is another. And there, the EU does have policy directives in place mandating biofuel use.

However, at least in Germany, sustainable agriculture plays an increasingly large role in food production (much like renewable energy does - increasing, but certainly not sufficient), and to the extent that sustainable means lower yield and/or higher cost, it is not really a surprise that banked farm land is being drawn upon.

The real question is whether the withdrawals are from interest or capital, but at least in Europe, food production is not exactly treated lightly.

And it is not yet a sign of panic - except for the shock of diary prices, which is still very tightly regulated in the EU. Farmers who deliver more milk than their quota in Germany are still fined, apparently. However, it seems as if the farmers consider this more a ploy of the diaries to ensure absolute control over the market than anything else, as this quota is enforced at that level, preventing farmers from selling milk to anyone else.

As has been noted by others (Roger Connor comes to mind), being able to collect data and look at things in perspective will be a critical skill in the future.

The fishermen on the Grand Banks knew what the situation was for cod well before the collapse of that fishery, any small collection of data by scientists (considered 'reputable') was more than overwhelmed by political/ business intrests on land. Fishermen who spoke out were merely ignored.

It might be more in our interest to allow those 'on the ground' directly involved in agriculture to be our guides rather than those able to collect data and look at things in perspective. Those scientific views may be accurate but often arrive late or are muzzled by competing interests. (read tobacco!)

I am not a professional in agriculture but am 'on the land' enough to speak a little about Coastal British Columbia' where among other things there was no honey production in my area. The lack of sun this summer was phenomenal. The garden which I have been growing for about 8 years is slow by, IMO, two to three weeks, or else not maturing enough to be edible. To make up for what I see happened this summer.I plan to increase the area I am growing under glass now.

Any farmers and gardeners in the audience? Let's hear from them.

I am changing{upgrading} my garden capacity 4-fold this year due to uncertain weather and food outlook.My primary focus is fruit trees,and the advice my grandfather gave me has been a blessing.That advice was to always have a wide varieties of trees,not a mono crop of 1 or 2 varieties.I have blocks of 10-30{total around 140}on three acres.This year was a boom on pears,and bust on apples,though I have lots for the chickens due to a apple maggot infestation .Good yield on Bosc,Bartlett,and all my asian pears,especially the Chojuro.

A recommendation for the best gardening book I have read in a long time that gives some very hardheaded,practical advice on food production is "Gardening when It Counts"by the guy who started Territorial Seed co. Steve Solomon.Get it .Study it.People who don't have the benefit of having been raised by a depression era gardeners {like my grandparents} might have a a shortened learning curve when it is needed by using his information.

We had cool year here,much like the summers of my youth,when the coastal forests would keep the temps moderate.{Most of the big trees are underwater in japan now,exported,and stored.}I have noticed the changes that have increased the sun,and also the extremes.Rarely did the weather get as extreme as is has become,with windstorms,weird times in the spring{feb} where the temp will go to 70's for long enough to break winter dormancy of plants,thus making then vulnerable to the inevitable freeze that insures a 50%loss of my fruit{grrrr}Climate change is real,here,and the farmers know it well..

I'm about same with fruit-about 120 trees, mostly apple, but several varieties of plum, pear, asian pear, cherry, peach, and apricot. Poor results with apples this year, alot of pears, cherries, peaches. Probable bud freeze. Fencing this fall for another 150 apples-hobby to play with other varieties.

All that said, there is tons of more fruit than we can deal with-been canning, drying, pressing and storing. If it wasn't for livestock, much would waste. We sauce and then cellar apples, but greatest use is pressing to cider -hundred+ gallons per year. Mash to livestock.

Actually, 2 trees per fruit is about all most individuals will handle unless it's a full time job. It's easy to grow, the time consuming work is harvest and preserving before rot. Take pears, perhaps a week with Bartletts from hard to too soft at 60 degrees. A well pruned semi dwarf tree will give 3-4 bushels per year, a long, long time to spend home canning at about 10-12 quarts per bushel. Have everything else popping-from cider to animals and stock to care for, end of garden and the piles of tomatoes and corn to preserve, late plums, and you get swamped.

Could you do something like this?


They have excellent fruit and produce, they let you eat all you want while picking your own, the prices are very good and they seem to be very prosperous.

Love the tomatoes above everything else.

Good year for pears, more cherries than last year. Apples were significantly down for us, too; might be just the every-other-year response of an orchard that we didn't prune or thin enough. I don't think it was a pollination issue, as we have both honeybees and orchard mason bees on site. Different plums were in vogue this year; the Italian prunes didn't show up, while the red Santa Rosa were in pretty good supply. Blueberries, raspberries, grapes made it through the dry summer in pacific northwest, but are too young and weed-choked still to bear.

We had a freak thunderstorm that knocked down the wheat in July, and caused a bit of mold. As newbies we dilly-dallied a bit, wondering if it was edible (it was). We ended up threshing only a bit, feeding some of the unthreshed to pig and chickens. We hadn't counted on it much anyway, as it was primarily forage cut for the cow.

Of course, it was a banner year for blackberries. Every year is a banner year for blackberries.


Posted this yesterday on Roundup

Hi Stoneleigh,

Thanks, and found your post above of
Wheat prices climb to new high particularly startling.

Here is a bit more on that, concerning fallow land in Europe:

Agriculture ministers decided to lift temporarily an existing requirement that farmers set aside 10% of their land and let it lie fallow.


A decrease in reserve food production capabilities and a future need for increased FF fertilizers to make up for the loss of fallow..

As I think I mentioned to Chris at the ASPO conference, my local bakery put a sign up a few weeks ago apologising that they were going to have to double their prices, as they have been hit by two major rises in the price of flour in the past few months. The sign explicitly attributed this to the rise in biofuel production in the US.

The impact on grain prices due to Bush's Agrifuels Subsidies, and thus on global food production in general, has already arrived here in Wales.
The extreme hike in livestock feed prices means not only that many good animals will be shot before their time, but also that some farmers will go the same way, while many more will go out of business.

And that is a serious loss of strategic food security.

This is not of course entirely due to Bush's Agrifuels mendacity -
a destabilized climate is also hitting us hard.

For instance, the lambs didn't grow properly due to lack of spring grass because it didn't rain here (in the Cambrian Mountains !) between mid January and mid May, after which it turned cold and extremely wet.

For instance, some of that unprecedentedly intense rainfall in July flooded a broken drain at Pirbright Animal Research Centre, releasing Foot & Mouth and closing livestock markets across the country, just as stock needed to be sold (because there's no more grazing for it).

For instance, the midges carrying Bluetongue disease now find Northern Europe warm enough to colonize and expand their range.

Most readers here are aware that the US regime knows full well that an Agrifuels boom due to subsidies will make no difference to GHG pollution, and little or no difference to liquid fuel supplies once PO begins to bite hard.

Similarly, it seems obvious that if cronies' agribusiness profits were the prime motive for the US Agrifuels Subsidy Policy then it would have been started six years ago -
making Agrifuels also far better developed to mitigate PO -
Moreover, Cheyney is on record from the '90s as being well aware of the need to meet a coming supply shortfall back then.

So, discounting GW, PO, and crony profits, what exactly is the prime motivation for the US Agrifuels Subsidy Policy ?

The one explanation that seems nonsense to me is that this is all a cock-up -
that the White House staffers just aren't interested enough in the global or US economies to have worked out just what mayhem the Agrifuels Subsidy Policy would achieve.

Two possible motives are visible to me, and I'd be glad of peoples' thoughts on them and on any other possibilities.

Motive 1/. That the policy would form an effective tool of economic warfare by so raising food prices globally as to coerce nations into accepting a US demand to maintain a legal entitlement to at least its present share of global Greenhouse Gas emissions under the forthcoming treaty agreeing their overall contraction.

(The alternative now being sought by Africa, India, Europe and others) is that all nations will converge to per capita parity of tradeable emissions entitlements).

Motive 2/. That the policy would form an effective tool of economic warfare by so raising food prices globally as to drastically impoverish nations,
to the extent that they will drop out of the bidding for increasingly scarce volumes of exported fossil fuels far sooner,
thus making those supplies far more affordable for US industry & citizens.

I recognize that Motives 1/. & 2/. are potentially complementary - that is, they may be seen by the US regime as being mutually reinforcing.

Yet I doubt that this is anything like the whole story - so I'd much appreciate others' perspectives on this question.



Backstop, if you are a livestock farmer you have my sympathy. My analysis may not seem sympathetic but is based more on the harsh realities of what confronts us.

Crop farmers I imagne will be making money these days. Secondary food producers, however, (dairy, eggs and meat) are facing escalating costs. It seems the supermarkets are intent on not raising food prices - perahps in colusion with the government, intent on keeping inflation down in our debt over burdened economy. The consequence will be less dairy and meat products for sale at higher prices - and we all know this is good for our health and is energetically more efficient. So it wouldn't surprise me if the government lets vast tracts of the dairy, egg and meat production system go to the wall. I love meat, eat tons of eggs etc and have a neutral opinion on the rights and wrongs of this outcome.

As for bio fuel production. Global food stocks are falling fast and once they reach zero, I believe famine will follow in the developing world. Now we all know that the global population cannot go on growing forever and it seems to me the OECD is intent on preserving their afluent life style at the expense of folks in the developing world eating lunch. I suspect this policy may come back to haunt us.

Thank you for your considered response - the points you make about climate change stressing farming systems are well made. I think we are in for many winters of discontent.

Hi Euan

The consequence will be less dairy and meat products for sale at higher prices - and we all know this is good for our health and is energetically more efficient.

I certainly hope you were being sarcastic with that. OK, energetically more efficient, probably. But not any better for health, as far as I can see. OK, that view is conventional wisdom, but it is actually contentious, and not really supported by any evidence. Hey, you yourself prosper on meat and eggs.

Paleolithic peoples ate large quantities of meat. Why people ever started to eat grain and to farm is actually unknown, seeing that it was such an obviously poor choice in comparison. (Health crash as measured from height and bone health.) Peoples like the Inuit survived, indeed prospered (relatively - they did live in the Arctic) virtually entirely on meat. The Masai ate only dairy and meat. The whole idea that meat per se is unhealthy and that 'less is better' is a modern myth.

Ironically, we may be forced to become near vegetarians (cereal-tarians, to coin a phrase - hey, we aren't that far from it already), as a result of Peak Oil. But that will be a 'lifeboat' choice, the best choice from amongst a load of very, very bad choices. Just because we can survive on such awful foods doesn't mean we are actually supposed to eat them, or at they will be 'better' for us. Better than starving, yes. Better than meat ... no.


I doubt paleolithic people hunted corn-fed beef. I think the high fat content we breed and feed into our meat is the source of the current ills associated with meat consumption. But our ancestors also did not survive on a meat diet alone; our bodies need carbs as well. We were, and continue to be, omnivores. And meat production can continue in the form of grass-fed beef, lamb, etc. (and eggs, Euan), just not at the quantities of consumption and waste we currently use, and the end product will probably not be as tender as we would like (although I just started raising Angus/Devon crosses of which both parent breeds are supposed to produce a fine-grained, high quality meat on grass alone).

Jelly fish burgers, juicy insect larvae and rat er rabbit stew anyone? There are lots and lots possible options to supplement our future hydroponically grown vegetable production with available animal protein. It may be time to start thinking outside the box on a lot of things besides our dependence on fossil fuels as our main source of energy.



No rat stew, please.


I propose a new restaurant chain -- "Tastes Like Chicken".

You are correct--
When humans switched to a grain diet, they lost 6" in height, and had a shorter life span. Also more time was required for food production compared to hunter gathering.
Agriculture brought on slavery, class oppression, reduced life span, and a selection pressure among the population toward a submissive, authoritarian personality. Plus, survival was a condition of labor, rather than information- hunter gatherers survived on information and knowledge.
The advantage was one could reproduce every year, wealth could be masses in the hands of elities (in which they cold have free time to pursue other things),
and we could progress toward our extinction at a much more rapid rate.

The whole idea that meat per se is unhealthy and that 'less is better' is a modern myth.

Ironically, we may be forced to become near vegetarians

The first statement is false. For over 50 years the health consequences of meat consumption have been documented. But they've been known for much longer. Certainly Roman solidiers (barley grinders) knew the health benefits of being vegetarian. "western" or "diseases of the kings" include heart disease, osteopourosis, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and a whole lot more. I suggest reading The Food Revolution, Diet For a New America (both John Robbins), The China Study and anything by MDs John McDougall, Dean Ornish, Joel Fuhrman for starters. All of the population studies since the 50's and earlier document that as one moves from a vegeterian diet there are signif. health consequences. The China Study documents that down to very small amounts of animal product consumption - signif. increases in all those diseases even when consumption is very small.

One can arrest and even reverse many diseases by a change of diet. Even MS has been treated for many decades by a change in diet (check Dr. Swank) and it's an autoimmune disease and those are best treated by the removal of animal proteins from the diet as they just fuel the fire so to speak.

Much has changed in modern times and the effects of an Atkins diet (high in animal proteins) are well documented (and they don't include the increase in cancers that you otherwise would not see with near vegetarian diets. We are not active the way our anscestors were. We do not end up being forced to fast the way they did (meat will only last so long stored under water).

One must remember that meat products are deficient in many vitamins, fiber, phytochemicals and overloaded with iron while being overburdened with saturated fats and cholesterol. Heme iron is interesting in that it bypasses the bodies regulatory mechanisms - forcing the body to store it. One theory for why pre-menopausal women are more healthy than men is that they monthly purge excess iron from their bodies and iron is a form of free radicals. Iron from plants does not pose that issue.

My family went veg because of the environmental destruction of modern meat "production". I'm from a farming family and don't see a vegetarian or vegan (I'm basically vegan) diet as viable in the long term in this part of the world (southern Canada) due to food storage issues but I certainly can't deny the health benefits I've experienced.

I agree with Dr. McDougall - that one should get diary products out of their diet as a first step due to the variety of health issues with them. They're unnatural, unhealthy and a sure way to dig your grave one mouthful at a time; esp. in this age when every meal is a feast. In times gone by you didn't see people running thru fields sucking on the teats of animals. As for the health of Innuit just note how they're doing with a lack of exercise (diabetes, obesity) and they're also a stunning example of how osteoporosis increases with increasing calcium consumption - err animal products.

We are not carnivores and such a diet is utterly unhealthy for us. Foragers predate agriculture and were more healthy. The Last Rays of Anchient Sunlight, Thom Hartman, covers some research about that.

Just curious, what do you mean by 'food storage issues'?

Wouldn't it be easy to put up and store bean, grains etc?

It is well documented that almost every hunter-gatherer tribe that has been studied in the last 200 years ate meat in some degree. Some hunter-gatherer tribes even got the bulk of their calories from meat. Humans have been meat eaters since we evolved into existence which is also documented by anthropological research.

The difference, however, is that historically most humans did not eat large quantities of meat and that most humans got copious amounts of cardiovascular exercise. That is the key difference between how we evolved and right now. Research suggests that the vast majority of hunter gatherers tended to eat a few ounces of meat per day. Compare that with the American diet of meat at every meal and in large quantities!

Further, most of the meat eaten by hunter gatherers was extremely lean meat compared to what we are given today. Today you find people buy the "marbled" beef, which is to say beef laden with lots of fat. We take specific actions to force our meat sources into being extra fatty for the flavor (and thus the profit) that this entails.

Having said all this, a vegan diet does present health benefits. But it is not historically accurate to claim that homo sapiens was strictly a forager. We never were. In my opinion, most people would get by splendidly eating a few ounces of fish or rabbit once per day and by vastly increasing activities that give cardiovascular benefit. And if you can adopt a vegan diet, then do so.

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Dr. Albert Bartlett
Into the Grey Zone

Hunter gatherers are more knowledgeable about food than we are, they particularly prize offal, rather than muscle meat. That's not to say that everything isn't eaten, it is, but it's the muscle meat that goes to the dogs. Their social conditioning and environment ensures they eat correctly, whereas the opposite is true for us.

As far as I can ascertain the correct diet for humans is meat (especially offal), vegetables and fruit. We shouldn't eat dairy foods or grains as we're not adapted to them (although Europeans and some others have adapted to a certain degree, including for alcohol). If people simply ate meat, vegetables and fruit the medical profession would be bankrupt and the hospitals empty, but that isn't going to happen any time soon.

The problem we have today is that people have been conditioned to eat those foods which are easy to produce by capital and technology intensive industries; namely grains, dairy products and muscle meat. This is a major problem when it comes to adapting sensibly to an altered future, people simply will have great difficulty adapting to a different diet.

Carbohydrates are the cheap fuel of civilisations and are comparable to what artificial fertilisers are to modern agriculture.

Hi Burgundy,

I would also add that that growing root vegetables give the calories needed without the necessity for great amount of land to grow grains. The maggoty fruit, we will have without pesticides, will do for the rest of our diet. (I'm almost serious here, but I think I will go fishing and leave them apples for the chickens:)

The thing that grains have going for them is that they store well for many years. Great stuff to have kicking about the manse for times of famine, even if not the best form of human fodder. I wonder if that could be a good part of the reason they've gained their popularity?

I can confirm this one - I'm a tiny bit autistic (Asperger's Syndrome) and I have the wheat intolerance that sometimes goes along with it. I learned this two years ago, changed my diet, and twenty pounds came off like magic while lots of health related issues just dropped away ...

Franz, I wasn't being sarcastic (for once). My understanding is that obesity is fast becoming one of the biggest health issues in the OECD. To what extent that stems from eating too much meat or just eating too much in general I don't know, but my feeling is too much fatty crap is the root cause.

But don't get me wrong, I do agree that a balanced diet of meat, dairy and vegetables suits us best. But I do suspect that my own health would be improved if I ate less meat and eggs and cheese and drank less wine.

Euan writes

It seems the supermarkets are intent on not raising food prices …

That’s interesting – I wonder how long it will stay that way. Clearly the situation in the UK is different to that in Germany and other parts of continental Europe. Some weeks ago the discount chain Aldi made sensational headline news in Germany when they declared that they were forced to raise the price of approx. 40 to 50 basic food products for the first time in years. Lidl, Plus and Penny have followed suit. Aldi blames the price hikes on ‘rising oil and energy prices, higher raw material prices and bad harvests.’

Now we all know that the global population cannot go on growing forever ..


Clearly you haven’t read Björn Lomberg’s ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’. If you had, you would have learnt that thanks to human ingenuity there are no physical limits to exponential growth :-)

The link below is to an interesting development in ethanol production... the headline states it.

Ethanol’s Boom Stalling as Glut Depresses Price


Euan - thankyou for your concern - We're livestock farming on mountain commons and valley fenced land, with 3 native breeds of mountain sheep, plus a small beef suckler herd and some fowls being the range so far.
Tamworth & Large Black pigs, St Gallen Goats and other fowls are somewhere down the road.
We are also training both shepherding horses (for work on the mountains here) and sheepdog pups for sale.

This place has potential to support a small village, in that, beside meat & by-products,
there is a fair orchard potential, plus suitable ground for a cerial-roots 4-year rotation,
plus about 35 acres of varied coppice woodland and several thousand tonnes of standing derelict hedge-trees (which must come down for the hedges to be re-established).

It's my feeling that wealthy populations do eat too much meat of truly lousy quality. Imagine eating something reared, as the norm, on industrial anti-biotics !

Eating less meat of better quality and far higher price looks to me both likely and desirable.

But last week lambs sold in Ross-on-Wye mart for just 65 pence per kilo, while by contrast retail prices average around £5 for the 600gms sold after butchery. Normally we would expect between £1.40 and £1.60 per kilo of liveweight at this time of year.

You can imagine what this (Govt. generated) cut in income is doing to the stockfarms' present viability.

You mention the profitability of crop growing, but it faces the same problem of a destabilized climate, with unprecedented flood & drought losses being now so common as to go largely unreported.

In addition crop production costs/acre are rising sharply, led by fertilizer, which I'm told is up 60% since January.

At present govt' continues to victimize the farmer (as opposed to the agribusinessman) and has people shuffling paper for an absurd fraction of the (7day) working week.

At some point surviving farms will face the task of trying to pass on what they know to as many people as possible.
Until that time we shall prepare the accomodation and facilities needed and make a start with encouraging skilled & unskilled participation under a commonwealth approach.

One (of many) aspects of farming that is not widely understood is the sheer diversity of the land resource.
For instance, we can't grow things here that are viable in farms just a mile along the valley, but four hundred feet lower down, and the farm further up the valley is still further constrained in its choices.
And that is just altitude, out of a whole spectrum of limiting factors. Local knowledge is critical in this regard, and national average yields per acre are actually pretty much meaningless.

I think you are right re the probability of recurrent famine, but I rather doubt it will be so neat as to aflict only developing countries, whose people are at least an order of magnitude more effective than us at subsistence farming.

The critical shift is in politics as far as I can see, and that is not merely in EU banning the import of farm-based agrifuels - we need leadership that bases a wholesale policy review on the issues of GW + PO.

Anything less is effectively reckless endangerment by those elected to the highest duty of care.
So at some point perhaps it may be worth assembling an inditement for prosecution at the ICJ on the Hague ?

Just the threat, and associated publicity, might leverage significant effects on policy reform.



Anything less is effectively reckless endangerment by those elected to the highest duty of care. So at some point perhaps it may be worth assembling an inditement for prosecution at the ICJ on the Hague?

Bill you obviously feel strongly about this. I don't fully understand why urbanites and government have turned against "traditional farming" and country life in the way they seem to have done this past couple of decades. The fox hunting Bill was the symbolic expression of this hostility to country life.

Agri business and supermakets are favoured whilst the traditional farming unit is not. The price differentials between the whoesale and retail prices are extreme and unsustainable.

At the heart of the matter I believe is government desire to control inflation - via the supermakets, and to provide profitable invetsment outlet for pension funds which I believe are about to enter a new period of crisis. In other words, many can share in the profit of Tesco whilst only a few can share in the profit of a local farm. Is this New Labour socialist thinking gone wild?

I spent part of this weekend drafting an open letter detailing concerns about UK food and energy security that I plan to send to all my local Councillors here in Aberdeen and to all MSPs in Edinburgh. This will eventually get posted on TOD. Part of the purpose here is to ensure that these elected represententives are aware of the consequences their policies are having. In other words to remove the luxury of ignorance. And this in some way links into the quote above. Policies are being pursued which are not in the best interests of the UK or global population.

Its curious how with high food prices, farmers are not doing too well. This is mirrored by the likes of BP who just issued a profit warning even though oil is at $80.

At the heart of the matter I believe is government desire to control inflation - via the supermakets

Euan, The policy of supporting big business (including the supermarket) in agriculture is not new in Britain. Policy's concerning what seed may be grown is governed by law and goes back to before 1990 ( I am unsure of the exact date of legislation). This policy to 'rationalize', the marketing of produce has greatly aided the corporate world to standardize product, this to the detriment of local farmers and market gardeners in their growing produce which is suitable to their areas. Backstop above makes mention of the variety of climate variability in even a small local. These corporate aiding policies are not a sudden 'current' government aberration, as you imply but long standing polices supporting corporate interests.

About the fox hunting, I would say that was more a public reaction against upper class twits ( the unspeakable pursuing the inedible**)then a reaction against true country life of the sort exemplified by the small holder.


As far as drafting letters I suggest you get in touch with more farmers and growers like 'backstop' in order to find out what the people, most immediately affected, are finding to be the problems. I, for one, find your opinions do not have the needed depth or background to attempt to advise on food security.

** would someone help with attributing this quote. Wilde??

Motive 3) Corn farmers vote. The victims of biofuel are just starting to fight back.


I haven't escaped from reality. I have a daypass.

Corn farmers not only vote, they pick the candidate for both parties here in the U.S. - Iowa primaries come first ...

If the Agrifuels Subsidy policy was merely to please tha agribusiness cronies, then, as I posted above,
why wasn't it launched 6 years ago ?
And then again, why wasn't it a major plank in Bush's re-election campaign ?

Pleasing that narrow bunch of supporters this late in the presidency,gets nowhere near, IMHO, justifying the mayhem the policy has just started to inflict.



Ethanol subsidies have been going for something like two decades now.  The generalization to "agrifuels" is probably due to greater public visibility of the issue, which means there's more political capital in appearing to do something with/for/about it.

Could the push for biofuels just be a desperate atempt to keep the stock markets from crashing by giving them something else to invest in?


Hi backstop,

Food as a weapon in warfare and politics? That's not unheard of:)

Thanks for posting about your problems 'on the ground'. Lots of that kind of news is being underreported .


edit oct 1

Backstop you might try Noam Chomsky if you haven't already, here in a 1977 interview:

Oil Imperialism and the US-Israel Relationship
Noam Chomsky interviewed by Roger Hurwitz, David Woolf & Sherman Teichman
Leviathan, 1:1-3, Spring, 1977, pp. 6-9, 86 [March, 1977]

QUESTION: Is there a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East?

CHOMSKY: Yes. There's been a very consistent U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, at least since the Second World War, whose primary concern has been to ensure that the energy reserves of the Middle East remain firmly under American control. The State Department noted in 1945 that these reserves constitute "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."1


So, discounting GW, PO, and crony profits, what exactly is the prime motivation for the US Agrifuels Subsidy Policy ?

I just finished re-reading Azimov's Fountation Trilogy, and I'm sometimes taken with the notion that Bush is the anti-Seldon.

Hari Seldon invented the mathmatics of Psychohistory, and first discovered that the empire would fall, and if nothing were done the universe would suffer 30,000 years of war and misery. He developed a detailed plan that would reduce these 30,000 to a mere 1,000.

It seems like every step the Bush administration takes, from the economy, to Iraq, to the environment, to energy and coming soon, to Iran, is as carefully calculated as the fictional Seldon plan, but in this case the plan is to tear apart the social fabric of our civilization. Every policy tilts away from obvious, demonstratable facts. Every policy leads us farther away from the inevitable future. Every policy allocates resources in ways guaranteed to make the shift to a post peak oil world a longer, harder and bleaker path.

</rant> I need more coffee. "It's latte then you think!"

That is the best analogy of this administration I have ever heard.I have had this grim notion that Darth Cheny knows his time is nearly over,and he wants to drag as much of the world as he can, down to hell with him.I have come to the conclusion that G.Bush is drunk with power,and his allowing an election and replacement is problematic.

That said,all of the actions of this administration make perfect sense when viewed thru the lens of peak oil.
Its funny though.The actions they are taking now will ensure when the Phase-change our society is now starting really BITES,the reaction of the public will be stark,and overwhelming.
The haves,and the have-mores as bush refers to his base,will bear the brunt of this rage,due to the leftward swing of the populations political views.The 85%of the folks for whom the last few years have not been a joyride are now becoming organised.
America goes thru a pendulum like swing in political ideology every 30 years or so,when the excesses of the current crop of thieves becomes too outrageous.We have reached that point,as have the mexicans who have decided to settle their stolen election with guns.{excuse me,bombs}

I haven't a clue what the future will bring,except to know the America I grew in is morphing blinding fast. I can't tell with certainty that the final shape will be something any of us will recognize.

Whether or not the last third of my life is as generally peaceful and comfortable remains to be seen.America has seen hard time before,but none in the memory of most now living.The depression is a dim collective memory,one that appears to be ready to be refreshed in the coming shakeout of the housing market,and the spiraling collapse of the dollar

Part of that morphing is the greening/back to the earth/{hippy?}eco-movement that will gain steam as the choices we have become fewer and fewer.We must change.Controlling the change is the challange

The stupidity of biofuels and biofuel subsidy.


Since the start of the year, American biodiesel groups have flooded the European markets with cheap fuel. The volumes are so large that US imports are thought to account for more than 50% of demand for biodiesel.
European biodiesel groups, including Biofuels Corporation, the UK’s largest producer, and listed group D1 Oils, have warned that the glut of cheap American imports could drive many firms out of business.

Hmmm... I've noticed that my fuel consumption in terms of miles per gallon hasn't been so good lately. My car isn't diesel, but what are the Europeans actually doing with all the biofuels they're making? And are biofuels affecting the price at the pump in some way which may explain the apparent disconnect between pump prices and crude prices?

Sorry, just thinking out loud.

A lot of why the ethanol subsidy keeps going has to do with U.S. electoral politics.

Each one of our states gets two senators no matter what the population of the state is. Some of the corn belt states have little population, but lots of corn, like Iowa (#1 in production), Nebraska(#2), South Dakota, Minnesota and Indiana. Giving farmers in those states lots of subsidies is thought to help the Democrats or Republicans to control our Senate.

We do not elect our Presidents based on total votes. We elect them by states. Each state gets two electoral votes for its Senators, plus one vote for each of its members of our House of Representatives. I'm sure your math is good enough to realize that votes in small states count for more than in large states.

We also choose our presidential candidates by primary elections and caucuses (meetings). The first real test of presidential candidates is in Iowa, our #1 corn growing state. Each presidential candidate makes huge promises to farmers in Iowa, and feels obliged to keep them in order to secure re-election the next time against any challengers in their own party. In addition, some corn-growing states are "swing states," meaning that they are not solidly in either the Republican or Democratic camp. Those states would be Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. None of them is a big state, but together, they add up, particularly to Democratic candidates for whom they are at this time virtually "must wins."

If we elected our president by total popular vote, and did not have the senate, it is likely that there would be much less attention paid to farmers despite the Iowa caucus.

All of this means that the ethanol and bio-diesel madness will continue until food prices here go up enough to get virtually all voters screaming.

Barb in the Washington D.C. area

Would that be BarbinMD from DailyKos?

No, but maybe I should go over there and check her writing out.

I used to live in the Harrisburg area and post more often, but now I'm in DC and between longer work hours and a longer commute (by Metro), I don't lurk around here as much.


When livestock prices drop in sub-Saharan Africa the aid workers know whats coming - this is always a harbinger of famine.

Does the same rule hold in industrialized, western nations? I think yes, but only when its seen across all types of livestock and broad geographic areas; we have faced market downturns in regions and species as part of the normal ebb and flow of things, prior to TSHTF.

It seems to be a combination of factors,
Biofuels madness,
Increasing meat demand in Asia
Poor harvest in many places caused by climate
Economic 'wobbles'

As things get more difficult for the farmers, the supermarkets are likely to try and monitor the prices as much as possible, they can even absorb the losses themselves but this will make it very expensive to buy milk from anywhere else. Learn to like goats milk and get a couple of goats and chickens in your garden. You can eat the goat if things get desperate, they make a good curry!

I think we're headed to Peak Protein. Strangely a likely beneficiary will be the soy industry. Your daily allowance will be 100 grams of meat blended into a soy burger. Your cows milk allowance will be 100 millitres (half a cup) which you can use neat or blended with soy milk, with extra calcium as needed. Your plug-in hybrid car will have an allowance of 2 litres per day of biodiesel made from soya oil.

An anomaly is that underpopulated parts of the world like Patagonia, southwestern Tasmania (home) and early warmed parts of Greenland could probably support a larger dairy herd but transport costs will be prohibitive.

G'day Boof

Southwestern Tasmania is home? You live in a national park? Or are we talking Queenstown or Zeehan?

Maybe there is a reason that area is more or less off-limits to development, i.e. not because it is beautiful (official reason), but because it is too bloody hard and not worth the effort.

My dad lives on the West Coast. Never have I seen a bleaker place. And parts of it continue to die as we speak.

Good luck to you. I wouldn't want to be in Tasmania (where I grew up) as the world truly falls apart. Imagine: no escape. No way across Bass Strait. Look what happened to the Aborigines (before they got exterminated). That place is not amenable to going anywhere but backwards.

Well, good luck to you. The most negative outcome will take the rest of your lifetime, most probably.

G'day homeboy Franz
As a matter of fact my place backs on to several million acres of park, could be why critters are always in the vegie garden.

If this area is so bad how come I couldn't book a hotel room in Zeehan? Could be something to do with the economic boom. While mainland Australia has worsening drought this area gets 100" (2.5m) rainfall. They say the early settlers got 31 tons of potatoes per acre. Meanwhile Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have chronic water restrictions. Safety in numbers I guess.

Unless your place is actually submerged by climate change(note today's terror incident in the Maldives) people seem reluctant to move. Those that can should.

Interesting about the cost of grain and
yet no one but you has mentioned the Big Dry.

I only found out last week, and I study this issue,
that Australia's 06 wheat production was only
9.8 million tons.

I had thought it was just over 14.

This year's has just been downgraded to 15.5
by the Ozzie Gov't.

The FT:


Australian farmers warned that the revised forecast was optimistic. John Ridley, chairman of the New South Wales Farmers' Association grains committee, said the wheat crop would not reach the official forecast.

"We won't get anywhere near a bull's roar of that [15.5m tonnes]," Mr Ridley said. "The maximum we will get is 5m and, if it doesn't rain soon, it will be less than that."

He added that the revised forecast was based on data of a month ago. "But there have been no rains since."

If 5m is the number Australia won't be exporting.

I think everyone here can grasp the implications of this.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

Hmm that prediction was made on September 18th. Since then there have been a few weather systems through where I live in Victoria but not a lot of rain.

Here is the rainfall map for Australia for the month of September.


Here is a map with the long term average for September.


Western Australia looks OK, but Victoria and NSW have been very dry with large areas receiving less than half their long term average.

The Southward shift of High pressure systems during winter that we've seen over the past 10 years are exactly what is predicted from climate models of global warming and leads to a substantial reduction in rainfall in the south of Australia.

The models predict the West Coast of Tasmania will remain a very wet and depressing place. We may yet dam the Franklin for the electricity, probably before we build Nuclear Power plants.

Tuesday Sep 25, 2007

Horror Story On Aussie Drought


Less than a cm ain't gonna get it.

And thanx for the maps. I love maps. ;}

With the melting of the Arctic, California
is in the same boat.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

Franz says, "I wouldn't want to be in Tasmania (where I grew up) as the world truly falls apart".

Why not?

The fertile crescent of Tasmania, curving eastward and south from the northwest coast down to the Huon Valley is surely one of the most productive, pleasant, secure, civilised (and underpopulated) places on the planet. Some areas are suitable for intensive horticulture and vegetable cultivation, some for cereals, and others for pastoral pursuits. As well there are abundant hydro-electric resources, and the potential for windpower is great. In recent years mainland Australians (and others from around the world) have flocked there to live because of the quality of life, creating a huge property boom. Tasmania's wines, cheeses and seafood make it an especially pleasant place to live during Jim Kunstler's "long emergency".

Where, and for how long, did Franz live in Tasmania? Where does he live now? And can he explain how his present place of domicile is better than Tasmania in light of future energy and climate change constraints? Just curious. If where he lives now is better than Tasmania then I would be interested in moving there.

Hello Boof,

I grew up in New Norfolk and Bushy Park. It is good to find someone else from that part of the world.
I am hoping to move back and was thinking of the Mt Field National Park area. How are prices for land at the moment?


I like to think of it as "Peak Lard-asses". I look forward to the day 20 years from now, when I can sit on a park bench and gaze leacherously at hot young women whose health hasn't been destroyed through overeating.

Mmm, spandex bicycle shorts . . .

Till 1950 world's agriculture mostly run on organic means with no artificial chemicals put in soil. After second world war the american govt had to dump the large amount of chemicals made for military purposes so research was carried out to use them as artificial fertilizers. In the 1960s world agriculture slowly transition to artificial fertilizer based. As a result grain production increased 2.5 times on average. This was further supported with intensive dams construction with canal systems to have enough water in winters to have two crops per year. In my country pakistan wheat used to be 400 kg per acre per year with one crop per year, same was the case in india, bangladesh, burma, china etc. In 1960s this boost upto 2000 kg per acre with two crops and artificial fertilizer use. In other parts of world that increase to 4000 kg per acre. That is one of the reasons world was able to compensate for rapid increase in population (baby booms). In 1950 world population was about 3 billion, it is more than double now, but world's agricultural land area is about the same. Also, world's diet shift from a mostly vegetarian diet to mostly meat based diet.

Now, there is no more increase in agricultural productivity that the green revolution can provide. World population is still increasing. Not much unused agrarian land is available. As a result per capita agriculture production start declining. The case in key post above cannot be directly related to this but soon we are going to see food prices rise enermously due to above reasons and due to fall in fossil fuels production which means less natural gas available for making artificial fertilizers.

The problem is more deep than that actually. Even if we do keep on providing with enough farm chemicals food production is going to decrease due to biological reasons. The pesticides used to control pests to have more food available for human use are failing and outdating as many pests have grown resistance towards those pesticides so they are becoming less and less effective.

Wisest thing to do now is to buy atleast 10 acres of farm land somewhere and practise growing your own food. Don't know how much time it would take for us to fall back to an agrarian society once again from an industrial one but sooner or later it is there to come.

My calculations say that for average diet (250 g grain + 250 g fruits + 250 g milk + 62.5 g meat + 62.5 g vegetables + 31.25 g oil + 31.25 g sugar/honey + 31.25 g spices + 31.25 g dryfruits/butter) needs 1 acre per person on average land and 2 acre per person on bad land. Average land is where one crop per year can be have without putting any land fallow, depending entirely on rain with no canal water (that slowly salinate the soil). Bad land is where half land is need to be put fallow as traditional middle ages european lands. Best land is where there can be two crops per year or one crop per year with twice yield.

Traditionally in middle ages india and china used to have average land over all with some provinces like punjab etc having best land. Same was the case in old civilizations' fertile lands of euphrates and nile deltas.

I think as fossil fuels become scarce and so expensive, we see electricity production going down (end of industrial age of today) and food prices getting increase (rise of agrarian age once again). In years to come a career choice of becoming a farmer would make more economic and survival sense than becoming an engineer or ironically economist.

I have more agriculture data to share, not sure its the right forum to put it on.

Just re-itterating the first bit.

Note that the increase in yields is party from pesticides (a very temporary effect as we have see dramatic increases in resistance - and hence even greater use of it) but mostly from fertilizers and irrigation.

Well; we've now destroyed 10's of thousands of years of soil building and left ourselves with soil which is best described as a cardboard growth media aka outdoor hydroponics.

We've sucked our aquifers down so low we'll be paying the price for at least hundreds of years - once the population, or technology, gets knocked down enough to let them replenish.

There was no green "revolution" more like a green revulsion and it's now becoming a nightmare.

As for a diet - oils are not needed as we get our essential fatty acids (most of us - certainly not enough for all) from plants but nuts can help with that. Meat isn't necessary; nor are dairy products but they can be converted into forms which will help us survive thru the winter. Then again a week or two or three of water fasting never hurt healthy people.

The innevitable result is that we'll rapidly return to a diet which we don't remember - when the three daily feasts we experience (eggs, meat, pastries, dairy products) happened with much less frequency; and we were healthier as a result. Remember life expentancy is going down and we don't live all that much longer than we did 100 years ago; when one subtracts infant mortality.

Note that farming 10 acres isn't possible without tractors and a signif. investment of income. One person can farm about 3 acres with a very small tractor and very little investment though; but it's a full time job. To do that it's better to dig up agriculture books from over 100 years ago before modern, unsustainable, techniques took hold.

I heartily suggest that people just start with a few square meters or yards. They'll find out about yearly variations (this year was bad for beans, peas) and they'll discover that it's impossible to grow things as they see them in the grocery store and that they're unlikely to sustain any sort of yields without massive inputs of fertilizers (manure) and likely pesticides. We're giving up on all squash plants due to vine borers. What squash we did get was razed by a squirrel from hell who discovered that there are edible seeds inside ....

They'll also discover that, in this climate, they better get used to subsisting on potatoes, beets, carrots and other root crops which have a high yield per acre and can be stored in the soil or cold cellars.

'To do that it's better to dig up agriculture books from over 100 years ago before modern, unsustainable, techniques took hold.'

There a few books that are current and can be downloaded that reflect farming techniques of the earlier years. These are handbooks published by the sustainable agriculture network. , http://www.sare.org/index.htm

Two I have found very useful in my smal scale farming work are 'Managing Cover Crops Profitably' A manual that details strategies for soil rehabilitation, weed and pest management that must be used if we are to continue to operate in our resource depletion future.

Second I have enjoyed reading 'Steel in the Field: A farmers guide to weed management tools' Using this book as a reference scavanging old equipment at farm sales can be quite rewarding.

I recently joined http://seedsavers.org - a Decorah, Iowa based organic farm that maintains and sells heirloom(fertile) seed lines as well as books on all sorts of things. Go dig in their library and you'll find all sorts of good stuff ...

Hi Wisdomformpakistan,

Great thoughts! Try The Roundup as well for posting on, I am sure the Editor Stoneleigh, who calls himself modestly a 'hobby farmer', would welcome you there.

Note that farming 10 acres isn't possible without tractors and a signif. investment of income. One person can farm about 3 acres with a very small tractor and very little investment though; but it's a full time job. To do that it's better to dig up agriculture books from over 100 years ago before modern, unsustainable, techniques took hold.


Aside from the point about investment capital, I think you are thinking within the box of modern mono-crop agi here.

Mixed farming would include grazing land as well as orchard, these two along with land left fallow and a wood lot would take up a fair chunk of that 10 acres. Add your kitchen garden and a work horse for plowing and carting and I don't think WisdomfromPakistan lacks wisdom in what he is saying.

The big problem as I see it in this idea for 10 acres, or any acres at all, is that on this continent we don't know the meaning of sweat outside a gym or rubberized running track.

Latte anyone? (Tennis is just so sweaty)

BTW about investment capital, if things get as bad as is imagined and occurs in a short time frame and you don't have the lolly, then I would advise the life ring approach. Get your bag of rice, your bag of beans and just live longer than anyone around you. Otherwise get a long term mortgage, work on your Rancho Grande and wait for that eventual hyperinflation to eat that mortgage up.

I think you're painting all agriculture with the problems of our presently dominant form of monocrop farming.

I have a cousin who's been practicing mostly no-till agriculture outside Crisfield, MD, USA for a decade or so. His property is a 200 acre mix of water, marsh, and arable land. He intensively, organically farms about 10 acres - mostly because a few weeks of sun + wind on sandy, bare soils without a cover crop would result in unusable land and some very fertile water. Fertilizer usage is minimal - ash, chicken manure, and ground up crab shells. Irrigation is accomplished mostly with a system he devised using corrugated house drainpipes buried beneath the soil to catch water.

He only recently got his hands on a serious tractor (a gift from a relative), he's alone on his farm, and to my knowledge he doesn't employ anyone. He does it by mixing crops. If you have 10 crops which ripen at different times, you don't have to worry about harvesting all 10 acres of land and getting it to market in the space of a week. Trespassing hunters and some fences keep the deer off. He sells his goods at farmers' markets locally and in Ocean City, the regional summer beach destination.

It's a full time job, but it's very low-cost, it generates a great deal more than he uses personally, and it's sustainable enough that his grandchildren will be able to do the same thing, assuming the erosion in the lower Chesapeake doesn't swamp him.

Wisdom, please feel free to share as much information as you care to on agriculture.

It is interesting for me to know that I would require around 10 acres for my family of 4 + 2 dogs - probably including some woodland and it did occur that this would be fairly heavy duty farming.

But there again I don't think modern agriculture will collapse in the OECD - we will have less, more expensive food, less choice and need to eat more primary cereals and less secondary meat etc - for the next 10 to 20 years at any rate.

Wisdom, please feel free to share as much information as you care to on agriculture.

I HIGHLY recommend subscribing to this one.


Acres U.S.A. is North America's oldest, largest magazine covering commercial-scale organic and sustainable farming ... subscribe now and receive Acres U.S.A. monthly by mail. Read some of our current issue below.

An enormous amount of good info for the private farm/garden.

Also, Pick up some books by these two.

Eliot Coleman has the BEST methodology for the least amount of effort in growing things.
Eliot's techniques and methods are GREAT. No wasted effort.

Like The New Organic Grower

Also Joel Salatin


Like these titles:

You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise

Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front

Pastured Poultry Profits

Salad Bar Beef


Euan, I am a retired engineer who is running a small organic farm which sells its produce at local farmers markets. I guess you could say that I implemented WestTexas's ELP program based upon my own opinions as to the direction of the world. It was interesting to come across TOD and find that others had come to the same conclusion.

My wife and I spent significant time locating a suitable location for our little farm some 10 years a go. It is 11 acres, has two water sources (one of which is a significant year round spring which flows from our spring house and feeds a pond that holds approx 1.5 million gallons. We have a small (1 acre) wood lot, 25 fruit trees with another 25 coming, several dozen berry bushes, 5 types of fish and 4 types of turtles in the pond, about 1 1/2 acres of gardens and the rest is yard, buildings and pasture for the animals. On this land, which I admit is almost perfect for farming uses (it has been farmed since the late 1700's), we grow enough food to feed at least 50 people. And we are not even trying hard. My 5 acres of pasture is used to graze my neighbors cows for about 3 months a year and sits idle the rest of the time. If I expanded to garden all available land, added in workers (it is currently me full time and my wife about 10 hrs a week), added additional equipment, etc this land could easily feed a couple of hundred. Now this would depend on bringing in all of the compost (compost, cover crops and green manures are all I use - no synthetic fertilizers) from neighboring properties. This is easy to do at present as the neighbors have LOTS of composted manure that they give to me for free just to get rid of it. I also get the 4-5 cords of hard wood for the wood stoves from free from them as I perform the service of cutting up the blown down trees that have fallen on their pasture fences. I don't grow my own meat as I get it from those same neighbors (they eat my vegetables) and the occasional stupid deer who wanders by. I don't like fish that much so I let the neighbors eat the fish out of the pond. We used to keep chickens for eggs, etc but now rely on the neighbors. We can food extensively and will start keeping bees next year.

This was just to give you an idea what is possible. I could go on for reams. But the point is, if you choose your site well, 10 acres is a LOT of land. If you choose poorly a 1000 acres is not enough. Thus the common mistake of the survivalist. The wilds of the Rocky Mtns (where I was raised) is not the place to be when TEOTWAWKI comes. The place to be is burrowed into a small community which has a long history of working with each other and depending on each other. You should know your neighbors and go out of your way to help them. If you need help they will be there.

Well the sun is coming up and I should have been outside 30 mins ago. Off to work. Sorry for the typos. Wyo

I think this is a fine forum for discussing such things - details about how things are done in less mechanized places than the United States will be very helpful. Our generation who went through the Great Depression is passing quickly and we've forgotten so much of the old ways ...

This is good news since it is a smooth market repriortization of resource use that will move resources to farming and thus make it easier to support a larger part of the world population at a good standard of living.

"As for a diet - oils are not needed as we get our essential fatty acids (most of us - certainly not enough for all) from plants but nuts can help with that."

By oil I meant from vegetable sources like corn, sunflower etc. We do need 25% to 33% of our calories from fats (not matter its from animal source or plant source).

The logic is to feed crop residues (when you grow grains and vegetables) and tree leaves (when you grow fruits in an orchard) to feed cattle (cows, goats, horses). Those crop residues are useless for humans anyways so better use them to feed animals from which you can get milk and meat. Also cattle need to be there for farming when you are not relying on fossil fuels driven machines. Otherwise it would be too hard to plough the land, transport stuff etc.

"Note that farming 10 acres isn't possible without tractors and a signif. investment of income. One person can farm about 3 acres with a very small tractor and very little investment though; but it's a full time job."

I am talking about extensive (traditional) farming, not intensive (modern) farming. In extensive farming you take from land what it can grow for you easily and not push it to over work for you. That is why its not hard to cultivate larger areas of land per person than modern farming without use of machines.

Search 'fuedalism', 'manor', 'fee' on internet and especially on wikipedia and you can find out that in middle ages in europe each family had an average 20 to 30 acres to cultivate. Given family size of 5 people, with 2 of them of working age, each person can work on 10 acres of land easily (in midevial england for example working hours for surfs were just 1440 per year). Also 10 acres of land is a nice cut square of 200 m length and breadth, exactly four times the size of a hectare. To grow the diet mentioned above you have to simply divide the land in four quarters, with one each for grains (wheat, rice, cereals), pasture (for milk, meat), garden (for fruits, honey) and misc (cotton, wool, spices, vegetable oil) etc.

For a sustainable system there need be diversity to have resiliency. That mean you grow a large number of different things in each village in each climate so if one crop fail due to some reason you not go totally out of food.

Another problem we might be facing soon would be food storage problems, especially meat. With electricity down, cold storage systems would be gone and we have to use traditional matters of food storage. That is another reason of having some cattle on your farm land.

"Meat isn't necessary;"

There were human societies living entirely on meat as mentioned above by another poster, but, there never been a human society that lived entirely on plants without having serious health problems. Some essential vitamins like B12 can only be get from meat. Thats why I kept 62.5 g meat in daily diet model. If things go bad one can use more chicken and fish as meat source than cow and goat. The rule of thumb is that for every kg beef there need to be 16 kg of grain or fodder consumed by animals. It is 8 kg for goat and 4 kg for fish and chicken. For milk it is 2 kg grain/fodder per kg milk.

1 g grain = 3.5 Calories (wheat, rice, cereals)
1 g fodder = 4.0 calories (grass, alfalfa, legumes)
1 g milk = 1.2 Calories (goat, horse)
1 g milk = 0.67 Calories (cow)
1 g meat = 1.2 Calories (goat, horse, cow, chicken)
1 g meat = 0.67 g Calories (fish)

Clearly having milk means loss of 8 Calories (2 g fodder) to get 1.2 Calories (1 g milk) and having goat's meat means loss of 32 Calories to get 1.2 Calories (1 g meat). That loss is essential because of health reasons, food diversity and quality and taste.

The great thing about cows and goats is that, when crops fail (which they do), these animals can be a lifeline.

In good times, they provide you with means of exchange with neighbours and townsfolk.

But you're accelerating the degradation of
you're environment.

Check "Range Wars" for details.


"...the Farmer and the Cowboy can be friends."

From Rogers and Hammersteins' Oklahoma.

Arkansaw of Samuel L Clemens

In Friday's FT, we had an article that contained the following:

An acceleration had been expected because of statistical effects and energy costs but the scale of food price rises surprised analysts. North Rhine Westphalia, for instance, reported a 37.5 per cent rise in the price of butter in the year to September.

Everyone should realize that the Germans, due to their history, have great sensitivity to inflation - especially food inflation.

Very great sensitivity - which is interesting in terms of the euro and the ECB. There is a very strong institutional bias in the ECB to fight inflation and to worry about other consequences later - which in a larger globalized financial world, could be a real problem. Imagine a continually rising ECB interest rate while the Fed continues to cut American rates - race to the bottom is what what many people see happening with interest rates, but I have my doubts. The Japanese can't cut realistically, being effectively at nil now, the ECB leans towards fighting inflation as its primary responsibility (still to be tested, admittedly), and the problems in the Anglo-Saxon financial world are beyond interest rate cut bandages. But as there is more than one way to sink a ship, race to the bottom may still be an appropriate metaphor - just not a race involving competing interest rate cuts.

Ok Euan, here is some more information on post-industrial agriculture.

First of all we need to set down for a balanced diet, only then we can estimate how much land we need per person.
The key rules are that a healthy weight depends on height and number of calories needed each day depend on body
weight. For average human height, a weight of 75 kg for adult man and 62.5 kg for adult woman is appropriate.
Population includes children too, which are usually half of the total number of people, so on average 50 kg weight
for each person in a society.

Calories needed to support body mass per kg depends on type of work you do. If you sleep all day or are in coma
you just need 20 calories per kg weight. If you work at an average rate, like walk a little, do a little farm work
each day (4 hours) etc its 40 calories per kg weight. If you are an athlete, wrestler or work like 8 hours per day
in farm or wood cutting you need 60 to 80 calories per kg weight. So, I take the average 40. Multiply that by 50
kg average weight per person it is 2000 calories needed per person per day.

A point here is that if you want to gain weight you need to take more calories per day than your body weight demands, means you have to eat above your
hunger. If you want to do dieting you need to take as much calories as your target weight demands, then slowly you lose weight. For example, if I am 80 kg
and I want to lose weight to be 75 kg I would have to take 3000 calories per day, without reducing the physical amount of work I do or do more physical
work if I not want to reduce my food intake.

So, for a 2000 calorie per person diet, the above mentioned food scheme that total upto 1 kg food per day per person is appropriate. It is also balanced
for seven ingredients of food we need:

Carbohydrates 56% of calories
Protein 12% of calories
Fats 32% of calories
Vitamins Minute in energy content
Minerals Minute in energy content
Fiber No energy content
Water No energy content

Note that you can increase CH to 60%, proteins to 15% and reduce fats to 25% if you are not living in a cold country.

Now about land productivity and amount of land needed per capita.

Grain (wheat, cereals) Production 400 kg per acre
Grain (rice) Production 1200 kg per acre
Fruits Production 800 kg per acre
Vegetables Production 800 kg per acre
Dry fruits Production 200 kg per acre
Oil Production 200 kg per acre
Spices Production 200 kg per acre
Sugar/honey Production 200 kg per acre

Per capita balanced-diet food requirements per year (assuming for simplicity 400 days per year):

Grains 100 kg (250 g/day x 400)
Fruits 100 kg (250 g/day x 400)
Vegetables 25 kg (62.5g/day x 400)
Oil 12.5 kg (31.25g/day x 400)
Sugar/Honey 12.5 kg (31.25g/day x 400)
Spices 12.5 kg (31.25g/day x 400)
Dryfruits 12.5 kg (31.25g/day x 400)

Milk 100 kg (250 g/day x 400)
Meat 25 kg (62.5g/day x 400)

It might be surprising for some to see at spices and dry fruits given so much importance in a diet chart. Spices are there in most foods we eat, without
it there wouldn't be much taste in food. My part of world, the indian subcontinent is specially famous in spices production, one of the reasons why
columbus set out for finding a path to it. Dry fruits are needs to have enough fats daily to have a balanced diet. You can substitute those 31.25 g fats
for one egg (32 g) providing approx same nutrients. You can also substitute that with butter.

Given the land productivity above, following area of land is needed for each of the following food items. Note that one acre of land is 4000 meter square.

Grains 100 kg 1000 sq m
Fruits 100 kg 1000 sq m
Veg 25 kg 125 sq m
Oil 12.5kg 250 sq m
Sugar 12.5kg 250 sq m
Spices 12.5kg 250 sq m
DF 12.5kg 250 sq m

Since land needed for vegetable growth is very less (125 sq m) as compared to other items we can rely on a second crop per year for that. The second crop
of vegetable is needed anyways to act as a legume to increase soil fertility (by increasing nitrogen content of soil)

So uptil now, its 3000 sq m land needed per capita.

Now, at a final point, we calculate land needed for animal products, dairy and meat.

As pointed out above, 2 kg of fodder or grain is needed to produce 1 kg milk. That is same irrelevant of what animal's meat you are talking about, cow,goat,
horse whatever. In case of meat it vary a lot depending on animal. As pointed out above 16 kg for beef, 8 kg for goat, horse, camel etc and 4 kg for fish,
chicken. So, we take the middle road and go for goat, horse, camel meat because of three reasons. One, its especially expensive to produce beef. Second, cow
being such an excellent lactating animal it sounds luxury to use it as a meat source too. Third, beef increase diseases (many people hate the entire
meat-based diet because of that reason), this problem can be avoided if we make other-than-cow-cattle our meat source.

Reason why a cow takes twice as much grain/fodder to produce same quantity of meat is that its stomach can only digest a quarter of what food it eat. In contract,
other cattles like goat, horse, camel etc can digest 50% of their diets.

Reason why chicken and fish are so efficient in producing meat is because of their lower life spans, so they not waste much energy moving around.

So, to have 100 kg milk we need to have 200 kg fodder/grain. To have 25 kg fodder/grain we need to have 200 kg fodder/grain. So, in total we need to have
400 kg fodder/grain.

One way to have that is to grow grain on land (as practise in america, europe etc). That would waste an entire additional acre of land per person. A reasonable
approach is to get that from fodder instead of grain. That help in two ways, one, the crop residues can be used for animal diet, second, less amount of
land is needed to grow additional fodder that can't be obtained from crop residues alone.

First, lets look at crop residue.

The rule of thumb here is that whenever one kg of grain is produced a one-and-a-half kg of fodder is produced with it. That is the none grain parts of plant
that is useless for humans but can act like a healthy natural food for cattle.


100 kg of grain means 150 kg fodder
100 kg of fruits means 200 kg fodder
50 kg of veg, spices, dry fruits means 75 kg fodder
12.5 kg oil from 50 kg veg means 75 kg fodder

With fruit we put fodder to grain ratio at 2:1 instead of 1.5:1 as in grains. This is because the fodder in fruits case is mostly leaves (edible by goats)
as well as some grass growing in space between trees.

So, from fruits we get 200 kg fodder and from grains, veg etc we get 300 kg fodder.

A problem is with storage of fodder. Crop residue is available only when crop is cultivated and it can't be stored for a long time. That is why we assume
that only one third of crop residues can actually be feded to animals (100 kg). In case of fodder from fruits we can assume that half of it can be feded
to animals as leaves and grass are available half the year (100 kg). To get the rest 200 kg of fodder for animal food we have to put aside 1000 sq m of land
as pasture. Fodder production in pasture is 800 kg per acre (twice as much as grains). So, from a quarter of acre put aside of that we get the remaining
fodder required (200 kg).

Note that in all the scheme above no artificial fertilizer is needed to maintain soil fertility. Only two things are needed, first, the actual mass of top
soil is kept by avoiding erosion as much as humanly possible. Second, to retain the quantity of nutrients (NPK) in soil, all that is taken out of soil in
form of food must be returned back to soil sooner or later. So, all excretions and dead body parts of animals and humans need to be taken back to soil as
well as all excretions.

All that is if you are not using any chemicals on your soil in form of artificial fertilizers or pesticides and you are depending entirely on a rainfall of
10 inches per year without using any canal water, tube wells etc. If you do have access to canals or live in 20 inches per year rain area you can have twice
as much fertility which translate into half land needed per capita. Note that 20 inches per year rain is the point where you can have maximum fertility.
A 40 inches per year rain is equal in productivity to a 10 inches per year land. So, see a bell shaped curve is present here too.

A 10 inches per year rain is 1000 tons per acre. 80 percent of it fall in moon soon season at the end of summer atleast in india. so, 800 tons (meter cube)
of water is available to land when its mostly needed. That happen to be about the same water as is needed by above mentioned scheme of crops.

Following is amount of cubic meters of water needed to grow 1 kg of above mentioned crops:

Wheat 1
Veg 1.5
Fruits 2
Fodder 1.5

100 kg wheat 100 cu m water
100 kg fruits 200 cu m water
25 kg veg 37.5 cu m water
200 kg fodder 300 cu m water
12.5 kg oil 75 cu m water

Total is approx 800 cu m water. So, if you have the above mentioned balanced diet program you can get along very well with a 10" rain farm land. Setting
dams to help only in case of a drought. That was the tradition in india and china. Sindh province has about 10 inches rain and is half as fertile as

Amount of effort needed to have food per person can also be estimated as follows:

Wheat production: 1 hours means 10 kg wheat

If you are living only on grains, you need 400 kg of it per year coming out of 40 hours of farm work. If you are having fruits, vegetables, oil etc too then
it is about double, 80 hours per year per person. If you are having animal products too then its 120 hours per year per person.

365 days in a solar year. about 52 weeks. One holiday per week plus 13 more holidays for festivals result in 300 working days per year. Work 4 hours per day
at farm (you can't much more than that because of heat and intense physical effort needed), its 1200 hours per year. You as a single worker can grow
food for 10 people from 10 acres of land. That is why in a family of 5 its appropriate to have 20 acres of land (2 workers) growing food for 20 people.
In case of drought even if food production go down to one quarter of its average level you can still have enough food for your family.

Search once again 'fuedalism', 'manor', 'fee' on wikipedia and internet and you can find out that in mideival europe it was well known that each farm worker
can provide food for 3 people including himself. That is when they were putting half land as fallow and working only 3 days per week on their own fields, the
rest 3 days were used to work on knight's lands without expecting any fees. So, using those figures you can find out that one worker working can do support
10 people's food. That is not counting effort to grind wheat to make flour, seeds to make oil, cotton to make clothes etc. Just calculating gross farm
work requirement.


wonderful info. fits what i know; but much more indepth than anything i have read/studied.

any info on applying this to world arable nos. & our population. thanks again. i'm gonna bookmark this info.

Wickedly useful, Wisdom! Thanks.

I have read a lot on the subject...but your post is a great crib sheet.

Thanks WisdomfromPakistan - Your post hits spot on at this point in my preparations for the future.

I applaud you style and wisdom and thank you for the content.

Wisdom, thank you for your valuable contribution to this thread. I'd like to note that some of the articles I post take weeks to reserach and prepare. This one took 40 minutes in total and in terms of rewarding repsonse it has been highly profitable.

So, we take the middle road and go for goat, horse, camel meat

I don't know if you have ever visited the UK but here we have a strong preference for cow, sheep, pig and lots of chicken. In the UK for whatever sentimental reason we dislike horse, and goats and camel or normally off limits. I've eaten goat, horse and whale - and didn't really enjoy it. Deer and Elg are favourites of mine and all kinds of fish. Wild trout are a particular favourite.

You mention below to send an email - but I can't see an email address. You'll find my email in my details - so please get in touch if you care to do so.

40 minutes eh! Well I suppose that includes your comments, not too bad for someone completely out of their depth, who treats a subject likely to eclipse Peak Oil as another feather in his cap.

I hope someone with more feeling and understanding will be kind enough to take the effort to do it justice.


I'm very glad to see you here and I like the level of detail you're providing in your posts, but this bit made me laugh:

Reason why a cow takes twice as much grain/fodder to produce same quantity of meat is that its stomach can only digest a quarter of what food it eat. In contract,
other cattles like goat, horse, camel etc can digest 50% of their diets.

I think you mean contrast, not contract and a native English speaker would have said "other lifestock such as goats, horses, and camels". The word "cattle" is plural for male and female cows.

If you ever need an English speaker to help you edit something for publication I would be happy to assist you. This offer goes for posts here or if you wish to publish in other English language venues.


Wisdom - I think your English is excellent and non-english language folks should not be deterred from posting here over concerns about language and grammar. Its what you have to say that's important.

I'm sure SCT's comment was well intentioned, but it does come over a tad patronising. We all make tpyos from time to time;-)

WisdomfromPakistan wrote:

Reason why a cow takes twice as much grain/fodder to produce same quantity of meat is that its stomach can only digest a quarter of what food it eat. In contract, other cattles like goat, horse, camel etc can digest 50% of their diets.

Given the similarity of digestive processes and in some cases comparative anatomy across these species, I'm curious if this efficiency difference in conversion isn't more a function of what the species is being fed and their growth stage than of inherent efficiency differences? How do these species compare when they are in the same growth stage and fed the same forages?

Also, they may not be as efficient as other food-producing species (fish, poultry, swine) when fed the same feedstuffs but they can be productive on feedstuffs of considerably lower nutritional quality than can those other species.

Given their ability to be productive by grazing land that otherwise can't be farmed, it seems to me that these species role in human food production will increase as energy costs increase. If they were properly managed in ecosystems similar to those in which they co-evolved with the other components, their environmental impact could be positive rather than negative. I realize this is a big "if".

Livestock's Long Shadow (FAO, 2006) - PDF, 5MB

Kudos for an excellent series of information-dense posts.

WP: Excellent, informative post.

A problem is with storage of fodder. Crop residue is available only when crop is cultivated and it can't be stored for a long time.

Perhaps you are not familiar with silage? This is a method whereby moist crop residues are fermented and stored for animal feed.


Wisdom, excellent post and I really enjoyed reading it. I do, however, have a small point of disagreement.

"If you do have access to canals or live in 20 inches per year rain area you can have twice
as much fertility, which translate into half land needed per capita. Note that 20 inches per year rain is the point where you can have maximum fertility.
A 40 inches per year rain is equal in productivity to a 10 inches per year land. So, see a bell shaped curve is present here too."

Having experience in both the 10 inches and 40 inches of rain a year locations I can assure you that they are not even close to being equal in productivity in many cases. I assume that these figures come from some kind of academic data particular to a specific location and its rainfall patterns. Productivity is not just effected by the amount of rainfall, but also by its intensity, frequency and the time of year that it falls. The effect of rainfall varies widely depending on the specific type of soil (for example the differences resulting from a comparison of heavy clay and sandy soils)in a location and is also effected greatly by the tilth of the soil. The length of the growing season will also effect your figures tremendously on the amounts of food that you can grow sustain ably on a given acreage. For example you could compare the results from farms in northern New England and the South of the United States. In my area farms only 125 miles southeast of me have a growing season that is about 2 months longer than mine. They produce far more than I can on a per acreage basis.

Another item that I would comment upon:

"As pointed out above, 2 kg of fodder or grain is needed to produce 1 kg milk. That is same irrelevant of what animal's meat you are talking about, cow,goat,
horse whatever. In case of meat it vary a lot depending on animal. As pointed out above 16 kg for beef, 8 kg for goat, horse, camel etc and 4 kg for fish,

"4 kg to produce a pound of fish."

This< I am sure" is an accurate number, but it does not necessarily apply to the situation a farmer finds themselves in. As I mentioned in my above post I have a large pond on my farm and significant amounts of fish (and turtles) have been harvested from it for decades counting the previious owners and myself. No one has ever fed the fish and products from the farm. It is a self contained and functioning ecosystem. It is not suitable for commerical scale production of fish where I assume your figures come from, but it is sufficient to supply a large amount of animal protein to the farm family at no cost. If the supply of fish in the pond declines below what one desires for harvesting then one takes turtles (we have only harvested the snapping turtles) for a period of time to restore the balance required. If you don't like to eat fish for awhile you let the turtles and fish figure things out themselves.

You mention in one of your posts that it is not possible to farm more than 10 acres per person without resorting to industrial agriculture methods. Do you include the pre-combustion engine methods of the Amish and Menonites in this statement? My father grew up farming with horses as the Amish do today. Typical Amish farms in my area are 80-100 acres and my grandfathers farm was 320 acres. Interstingly the above also matches the 10 inches of rain vs 40 inches of rain situation. Equivalent levels of productivity were obtained.

In America one can examine regions of the country and determine the general productivity of the land by looking at the typical farm size that existed before the advent of modern industrialization. In other words what was the size of the real "family" farm. In some areas it was 40 acres, in others 80-100, in some 300-500, and in areas of the west it was necessary to have 5000 and in extreme cases 10,000 to 20,000. This type of situation exists or existed in countries such as Australia as well.

I did find your post very informative and printed it for future reference. Thanks. Wyo


Thanks for this. Could you give some examples of what you mean by 'spices'. You give them the same amount as dried fruit. I could easily imagine eating 12.5kg of dried fruit in a year, but 12.5kg of pepper corns, or even coriander and cumin sounds like an awful lot,


I am getting ready to deliver two loads of wheat to the local co-op for sale. This was wheat that I would have otherwise kept to feed my chickens over the winter. At $8.00/ bushel, I need to get it to the co-op before they switch over to soybean handling. The quandary is, of course, how many chickens I will feed this winter on the money I get from selling the wheat. If I can keep them outdoors as long as possible, perhaps they will have enough to eat to keep laying eggs. Otherwise, (sound of knife sliding across bone).
Why is $8.00 significant? Because it is approximately 3 times what I was paid last year. I cannot hope to sell eggs for 3 times what they have been selling for (free-range chicken eggs-$2/dozen).
We will see many more farmers looking to grass-fed animals as the situation progresses to raise the price of oil, feed, and fertilizer. The only practical animal husbandry becomes grassfed, which takes more labor and time and land than the current intensive monocropping.
The quantitative questions are: "How long to transition?" "How many people can be fed this way?" and "When are we going to stop burning up fuel in unnecessary transportation so that our children can eat?"
We are only seeing very small percentages of food price increase at this time. The price of milk (wholesale) varies by almost 100% on a half percent ratio change in the supply/demand. Will we see increased concentration of food production due to higher prices first, or will we see decreased profitability, then CAFO shutdowns due to higher feed, fuel, and fertilizer costs?
How will the gub'mint guide this process? Will they make the consumer MORE dependent upon insecure food supplies and malnourished animals, or will they redistribute programs and land regulations so that smaller farms and localized food sources are re-constructed?
Does the answer lie in the lobby money or in logic?

Good luck to you all in the future. I think I have to shut down my computer now and get to work.

Anybody who want any further information about this can email me. The information about world arable area and population is as follows.

World land area is 150 million sq km that means about 37.5 billion acres. 10 percent of it can be used to grow grains. 10 percent as pasture land and another 20 percent as forests to raise animals on. So total 15 billion acres are useful for food production.

Those 15 billion acres can be used to grow food for total 15 billion people sustainably provided:

1) There are no other species than humans.

2) Human population is distributed in such a way on planet that more people live where there is more arable land.

Out of 4 million species of plants and animals today, we are just one specie. There are many species of animals, birds, insects that we need for our survival. For example, some of them eat others to keep their numbers in check. Some like honey bees are needed for pollination without which food production would be very low etc.

Human population is not distributed on basis of where arable land is. In australia and canada 20 million people live in 9 million sq km, about 2.5 people per sq km. In indian subcontinent atleast 1.2 billion people live in just 4 million sq km, 300 people per sq km. So, at some places there is very less arable land available per person and vice versa in other places.

Today, out of total food production of this planet, humans consume 40%. That confirms that total life support on planet is of 15 billion people (or other animal, insect, bird species of same mass).

The green revolution has typically took food of other species and give it to humans. The grain part of crops increase at cost of non grain parts which was formally used as food for insects, birds etc.

Assuming that we can sustainably use 40% of world's food production for our use leaving the rest for all other species, we can have food for 6 billion people on this planet if our population is distributed evenly. Since its not so long term human population support on this planet range from 2 bilion to 4 billion. Taking the average 3 billion, roughly the population of world at end of second world war.

By the way, 2 billion was world population is 1930 and 4 billion in 1960.

Thankyou.This is a excellent detailed guide to what is needed for a stable food supply.

I know total self-sufficiency on my 3 acres is a impossibility,but a orchard can supply so much of whats needed for a spartan diet that I chose it as a mainstay for my families needs.The spare fruit does a good job of fattening chickens...they are not quite as picky as people,and a couple of worms helps with their protein requirements

I expect the world population to be closer to 3 billion than 6-7 billion it is now by 2030.We are soon to be culled,either by war,disease,or famine.I,as many,can hear the horseman.

Fascinating information. A great crib sheet as someone remarked earlier.

So, over the last year, the price of milling wheat has risen from a little over £100/tonne to getting on for £2oo/tonnes. That accounts for less than a 5p increase in the price of a 500g loaf. I guess we can afford that.

Wholesale grain prices are heading back to where they were around 1980. Generally, wheat has got cheaper ever since the end of World War I.

"I don't know if you have ever visited the UK but here we have a strong preference for cow, sheep, pig and lots of chicken. In the UK for whatever sentimental reason we dislike horse, and goats and camel or normally off limits. I've eaten goat, horse and whale - and didn't really enjoy it. Deer and Elg are favourites of mine and all kinds of fish. Wild trout are a particular favourite."

That is personal preference about animal's meat. The point is that cow should be kept only for getting milk, not for meat purpose (except when you have to eat it at the end when it stop producing milk). It is because its an excellent lactating animal but very bad meat animal. 16 kg versus 8 kg is a significant difference. Chicken and fish are even better (4 kg).

Perhaps why in european and american culture goats and camels are not preferred is due to climate conditions they not have that many breeds of them as we have here in asia. Also, try some indian and middle eastern recipes with spices. You might start loving it!.

Apologize about my bad english.

My electronic address is m_atif16 at yahoo dot com.

I have always believed that ruminants like cows, sheep and goats have a much more efficient digestion than a horse or pig. That said, I believe pigs are excellent if used like in the old days: 1 pig reared on each small family farm to be slaughtered in time for christmas or other important holiday. The pig can soak up all food "waste" from the kitchen, so it doesn't really cost all that much. However, if you want to produce pork by the thousands of tons like in modern agribusiness, it's horribly wasteful.

My background is from a farm in western norway, a fairly marginal area as far as agriculture is concerned. The only arable land is the thin strip along some of the fjords, and along the bottom of the valleys that are the continuation of the fjord on land. The treeline is around 300-500 m above sealevel.

In the old days, as you say, cows were only kept for milk, the meat was a byproduct. Sheep were kept because it was the only way to harvest the vast mountaneous areas above the treeline. (Sheep in norway still spend their summers in the mountains and are brought back in time for the autumn lamb season.) A pig as mentioned. A horse for heavy work. Most of the harvest was grass to help the cows, sheep and horse (just barely) survive the relatively long winter. A little grain was planted, presumably for making beer, but because summers in western norway vary alot as far as temperature and precipitation is concerned you couldn't rely on it being possible to harvest each year. The practice of cultivating grain on the west coast largely ended with the end of WWII, about the same time mechanization started. Since then agriculture has become more and more streamlined, industrialised and specialised. I think in the future agriculture will have to revert to the way it was practiced 2-5 generations ago. The yields will fall, but not as much as they would fall if society tries to make the agribusiness model work in a severely resource constrained world.

The point is that cow should be kept only for getting milk, not for meat purpose (except when you have to eat it at the end when it stop producing milk). It is because its an excellent lactating animal but very bad meat animal.

Cows, yes. However, for a cow to produce milk, it needs to be bred and produce calves. The ratio of offspring is approximately 50% bull calves, which are better at producing meat than milk. Differing breeds can be introduced to increase the meat or milk production as desired. Some breeds do better on grass than others. Don't forget Yak, if you have browsing ground instead of plain grass, and if you prefer butter and cheese to liquid milk, and don't forget hair for textiles...

This may interest some of you:

See what this family is doing on their 1/5th acre "homestead."


pardo This is my first post on TOD; although I've been reading for a while. PO and its effects are beyond the understanding of anyone alive today. I get the impression from the flow of discussions that almost everyone involved, that PO is manageable with good preplaning and a little hard work. When the reality of PO hits people square in the forehead; They will panic. They will be looking for anyone wwho can provide their shelter and food. They will group together for comfort and be willing to TAKE what ever they can. If you are in small family groups your chance of survival is almost nil. You will probably have to kill to stay alive. Security will be as important as food for the first year.TOD supporters probably not panic; because of their awareness and preperations. I view planning and preperation as Insurance. Whatever happens.
Don't mean to pour cold water on everyone, but plan for your security also.

From what I saw in Scotland last winter, there is no wonder in why is this happening. Tesco & Co. import milk from Slovakia because it is cheaper to do that than to buy the milk from across the fence - from Scottish dairy farmers. So, Scottish dairy farmers even got a permit from the government to sell 10% of their land for suburban development in order to ease the pressure on the government from the farming community! So yes, supermarkets keep the price down because they fight each other by getting cheaper and cheaper products what can be done only as long as the transport is cheap. That may end soon, however. However, they will never return to local milk as long as there is cheaper one available anywhere. When finally oil gets over &150-bbl or so what will make imported product absolutely more expensive no matter how cheap it is at the source, local farmers will be staring at their ex-property with housing on it. How very productive globalization is....

Hello Wyoming,

Thanks a lot for reading the post so carefully. I like those comments and would like to keep in touch more with you as you have lots of practical experience in farming.

"Having experience in both the 10 inches and 40 inches of rain a year locations I can assure you that they are not even close to being equal in productivity in many cases"

The data about 40 inches rain came from mideival europe, particularly france. Their per acre wheat production was 200 kg per year on average. The 10 inches rain data came from sindh province in indian subcontinent of the same middle ages, where wheat productivity was about the same. But you are right, france was more inclined towards 100kg to 200 kg wheat range, whereas sindh was inclined towards 200 kg to 400 kg range. I guess that is what you mean that 10 inches rain area is MORE productive than 40 inches rain area. That is ofcourse with assuming that the type of soil is about the same, only rain amount is different. If you not have the right kind of soil even at 20 inches rain (the optimum productivity rain range) there wouldn't be any productivity at all (for example if slope of land is high, its all rocks with soil washing away with rain etc). Please give me further information about this. My email address is m_atif16 at yahoo dot com. I honestly don't have data about growing season. Please do tell me about this.

"As I mentioned in my above post I have a large pond on my farm and significant amounts of fish (and turtles) have been harvested from it for decades counting the previious owners and myself. No one has ever fed the fish and products from the farm. It is a self contained and functioning ecosystem."

You are absolutely right that no farmer would like to grow crops then dump it in a pond for fish to eat. You are also right that a pond is a self-contained eco system but I would like to add that it is the case when you do dump whatever you take out of the pond later back to the pond in some form (human and animal excretions and dead body parts).

I was trying to calculate how much meat per acre can be produced. The idea is that if you are having chicken or any types of birds (who have small life spans of about 6 months before being eaten) you can feed them with 4 kg of grain and get 1 kg of meat back. Ponds do consume land as farms do, so I estimate that for each acre of pond you can expect to get 100 kg of sea-food-meat back. That is essentially similar in my opinion to grow grains on 1 acre 400 kg and feed it to chicken to get 100 kg chicken-meat back. Please do update me here about your real pond data. For now we assume that all sea animals, fish, turtles, prawns etc have the same plant-to-meat efficiency.

"You mention in one of your posts that it is not possible to farm more than 10 acres per person without resorting to industrial agriculture methods. Do you include the pre-combustion engine methods of the Amish and Menonites in this statement? My father grew up farming with horses as the Amish do today. Typical Amish farms in my area are 80-100 acres and my grandfathers farm was 320 acres. Interstingly the above also matches the 10 inches of rain vs 40 inches of rain situation. Equivalent levels of productivity were obtained."

I do not have data on Amish and Menonities (who are they???) methods. What do Amish grow in their 80-100 acres farms? Suppose you have a large pasture on which grass grow on its own without any effort from your side or a forest or a garden where you settle down with whatever land grow for you (at a lower productivity rate ofcourse) then each person can happily work on 1000 acres of land. My 10 acres calculations are strictly if you grow the above diet for each person. It takes 1 hour of effort to grow 10 kg of wheat. Working 1200 hours per year each person can work on 30 acres of land. If you do have vegetables and fruits on your farm plus some animal products you have to reduce farm area per person to 10 acres. That is if you work 4 hours per day, 1200 hours per year. If you are healthy enough to work more ofcourse you can work on twice or thrice that much land. About your grandfather's 320 acres farm, how many workers were working on it?

Once again thanks a lot for your corrections. Please keep in touch through my email.


If I may ask. Are you a teacher or professor? I have seldom met anyone who is so interested in the details of the exact figures of inputs and outputs. Most farmers are not operating using such precise details.

"But you are right, france was more inclined towards 100kg to 200 kg wheat range, whereas sindh was inclined towards 200 kg to 400 kg range. I guess that is what you mean that 10 inches rain area is MORE productive than 40 inches rain area. That is ofcourse with assuming that the type of soil is about the same, only rain amount is different."

Not exactly. In the circumstances that I was describing the 40 inches of rain location was the more productive than the 10 inch. This is where the differences in basic soil fertility comes into play. For example in rain forest locations (say the Amazon) there is a very high yearly average rainfall and the land "appears" to be very productive due to the large amounts of vegetation. In reality the soils are not productive and if one attempts to use the land for cropping they will obtain poor yeilds. This situation would be like your example where lower a rainfall location produces better than a high rainfall area. Another factor, which can reverse the situation, is the length of the growing season. In many locations in the world the most significant determining factor on yeilds is not soil fertility, soil, type or rainfall amounts, but rather the length of the growing season. This is the period between the last Spring frost and the first Fall frost. In America, for instance, the number of days of the growing season can vary widely. In my location the average number of days is 183. In New England there are locations that have only 120-130, while to the south of me there are locations which have 240. In the far south of the country there are locations have well in excess of 300 days. This has a very large impact on the amount of food that can be grown. ALL other things being equal.

Your data on meat production from the pond is a good point. Enevn if I do nothing to help the fish grow it does occupy space and if part of the overall production figures. An additional, very important, benefit of the pond is that I have it for irrigation purposes when rainfall is inadequate. As the water flows from a year round spring (even in severe drought conditions) that is on the property I own the source and this invaluable. For it is not just the total rainfall, but also providing water to the crops at exactly the correct rate which also determines high yeilds.

In sum (when considering all of the factors of growing season, soil fertillity, rainfall, soil type, soil condition (state of soil nuitrients, tilth, etc), elevation, lay of the land, etc) it is possible for any one of the above factors to dominate in a determination of what the yeilds are going to be. A farmer can also adapt what he is growing to maximize his yeilds to his specific farm situation. In my location soil types vary widely over very short distances. On my 11 acres (5 hectares) I have 3 distinct soil types. On one type it is essential to use raised beds. On the others it is not necessary. The soild have different fundamental PH levels and require different micronutrients to remain fully fertile. As you know rainfall in excess can leach minerals from certain soil types very quickly. Different crops perform better on the different soil types. Also one needs to plan their crop rotatons so that what the current crop leaves in the ground is what the next crop needs to grow, and so on. This is one of the primary purposes of rotations (the other being breaking up the pest and weed cycles).

The Amish and Mennonites are two religious groups whose people who practice largely preindustrial agriculture by choice. There are also many thousands of others in the US who also do this by choice. Primarily they use horse power to work their farms. As communities they are fairly self-sufficient. Their farms are run as you would have expected to see in the 1800's in America. They are very diversified. They grow crops, dairy, meat production, etc. They are not necessarily using strict organic methods but their practices are close and have much of the same effect. They rotate crops, use animal and green manures, compost, companion planting, undersowing, cover cropping, etc. All of the sustainable practices our ancestors had to use to be able to survive long term. They are very interesting to study. They tend to have very large families and everyone works to their capability.

YOur figures on farmer workload are very different than what I am familiar with. For example, I have taken only 1 day off from work since the 1st of March. I work at least 60 hours per week sometimes much more. This is typical for all types of farming that I am familiar with whether it be industrial, organic or similar to the Amish methods. Some types of farming such as large dairy operations are much more labor intensive. A quick calculation tells me that I have already passed 2000 hours this calendar year. Animal intensive operations do not have an off season like vegetable growing, where one has a few months of winter and a relatively lower workload, and I am certain that many of them easily exceed 3000 hours a year.

On my grandfathers farm the number of people employed varied depending on the time of year. In the winter it was only the family and the children spent most of their time in school. From planting to harvest everyone worked full time except for Sunday mornings (but no one got the whole day off except young children). The number varied from 7 down on family members as the older children grew up and moved away as adults. During extreme workload times there would be migrant farm workeres brought in to help with harvests and I don't know how many of them there might have been.

Well the sun is starting to come up and I have to get to work. Wyo

RE: Amish & Mennonite self-sufficiency.

Rural western NY where I live has a fairly large Amish/Mennonite community. Use of internal combustion is fairly routine for equipment like tractors and sawmills. Logging/milling operations are a common business. Many men also work as carpenters or cabinetmakers using many modern tools. I see these families shopping at the same stores I frequent virtually every time I'm there. They get rides from neighbors with cars/trucks/vans. Perhaps less dependent upon our modern system than you and I, but very far from self sufficient.

Hi Wnc

Can you tell how many grams of silage can be made from one kg of fodder and how many calories per gram do silage contains.


Hello Wyoming

You mention you have 11 acres and its you and your wife working on it. Can you tell how many person-hours are worked on your land per year. What is the output per year of fruits, vegetables, cereals & grains, milk, meat etc. Please let me know about these things, it would hopefully be of great help. Please also tell how much amount of land is unused at your farm.

Oh, and how much is an acre there. Here it is 4840 sq yards or 4000 sq meters.

WFP:  You would be better to click the "Reply" link at the end of the post you are replying to, rather than the "Start new thread" link or another button.  The way you are responding breaks up the link between comment and reply.


You mentioned that you work atleast 60 hours per week and your wife work 10 hours per week. Lets assume both of you together work 80 hours per week, 50 week a year, total 4000 hours per year. You also mentioned you grow food for atleast 50 people. That means at most 80 hours work growing food per person. My calculations were 120 hours for that.