View Full Version : How Large Should That Farm/Crop Be?

05-24-2012, 03:32 AM
I am currently planning a fantasy map, and I need some help with my research.
I know absolutely nothing about farming. Yet there are a number of farms featured in my novel that the map is based. I need to know how large a crop would need to be to support one person (thus I can scale it appropriately for the number of people then needed to be supported by the produce).
I am working on the assumption that the farmer would harvest two crops a year for the same patch of land (i.e. the winter crop and the summer crop). It wouldn't necessarily be the same produce.
How many square meters would the land need to be to generate a safe return of produce to support one person?

For ease of example, assume that the product in question is spelt/wheat.

Thanks in advance :D

05-24-2012, 04:22 AM
According to medieval demographics made easy (http://www222.pair.com/sjohn/blueroom/demog.htm)

A square mile of settled land (including requisite roads, villages and towns, as well as crops and pastureland) will support 180 people. This takes into account normal blights, rats, drought, and theft, all of which are common in most worlds.

I hope this helps.

05-24-2012, 05:48 AM
Thanks so much for the link; the site helped answer a number of questions.

05-24-2012, 06:00 AM
To further answer my own question, some basic research so far:
According to Permies.com (http://www.permies.com/t/12422/intentional-community-city-repair-ecovillage/Amount-land-per-person) (forum) 0.5-0.6 square acres is enough to support an individual. This includes meat, as well as crops.
A user on the site backs these figures:
The 0.5 hectacre/person fits with my experience here in rocky, wintery, northern Vermont. I can provide all of our five person family's food and energy needs on four acres. Everything else is bonus.
I've shamelessly attached an image representing the amount of land required for crops vs. meat production (as found on the site).
Another user stated that

In our region we can graze ten pigs per acre.
That is about 1,600 lbs of meat a year after slaughter and cutting.
This is grazing without grain or commercial hog feed.
Likewise we can produce about 16 sheep or goats or about two cattle.
We're not on fantastic soils but rather high in the mountains on rocky land.
Perfect for pasture, not for cropping.
Down in the valley the land is far more productive.

Here is some more figures:
Wiki Answers (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_average_yield_of_wheat_per_acre) states that

It depends greatly on location, type of wheat, and different farming practices.
In top wheat producing states Kansas, North Dakota, and Montana, non irrigated wheat yields are typically 30-50 bushels per acre with there being 60 lbs in a bushel. Irrigated yields in certain areas are over 100 bushels per acre.

The highest non irrigated or dry land wheat yields in the nation are in the palouse region of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Winter wheat yields in Whitman county Washington averages 83 bushels an acre and Latah county Idaho averages 82 bushels an acre. Yields of up to 150 bushels an acre have occurred there.

For a medieval novel, or area (in which so many novels are often featured), it should be safe-ish to assume 45 bushels per acre is produced. This produces 2,700lbs of grain.
The Living Prepared blog states (http://livingprepared.blogspot.com.au/2010/04/how-much-wheat-to-store.html) that:

A single loaf of bread uses 1 lb. of grain to make a single loaf, and that in "disaster times" (could this be put towards individuals living in a rough-medieval society?)
On a per person basis... each person in your family or group will consume the equivalent of 3-4 loaves of bread items per week!
Thus, a single individual would consume 200lbs of bread-items per year.

Therefore, one acre of wheat crop will support twelve (12) to thirteen (13) people!

05-24-2012, 03:45 PM
depends on the culture. ~vertical 'vietnamese food forest'

a lot of westerners don't think outside of the 'meat and potatos' wheat-based box. the current socio-political paradigm likes to weight the interpretation of the past to reinforce its model of supply and demand. i just don't see my welsh ancestors as farming a lot of grains.

i know folks that live off-grid and the largest ag plot any of them has is about the same footprint as a suburban home. then again, you can compare this with the eg. viet rice paddy economy, which is vast.

<iframe width="425" height="350" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" src="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&amp;source=s_q&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=+&amp;q=havasupai&amp;ie =UTF8&amp;hq=havasupai&amp;hnear=&amp;radius=15000&amp;ll=36.17764 8,-112.727324&amp;spn=0.119479,0.078189&amp;t=h&amp;output=embed"></iframe><br /><small><a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&amp;source=embed&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=+&amp;q=havasupai&amp; ie=UTF8&amp;hq=havasupai&amp;hnear=&amp;radius=15000&amp;ll=36.177 648,-112.727324&amp;spn=0.119479,0.078189&amp;t=h" style="color:#0000FF;text-align:left">View Larger Map</a></small>

if that didn't embed..

05-24-2012, 05:16 PM
Part of your calculation should take into account how many people can live in an area and NOT be farmers.

I used some of my own research (as well as the Medieval Demographics link above) to come up with this base line set of numbers:
Simple Farming statistics

An average production to support a population of non-farmers works out to the following. With one square mile to work (640 acres) a community of 35 people can provide enough surpluses to allow 4 non-farm workers to live there. Each person farming (ages <7 is 0 worker, 7-11 is worker, 12> is 1 worker) contributes 2.8% to the yield.

Here is the link to my site with some of the background numbers and further information to do quick and dirty population summaries.



05-27-2012, 09:04 PM
Thank you everyone for all your feedback! It's been really helpful. Thanks for providing the excellent links as well. :D