Gardening is often pitched as a relaxing, therapeutic activity—and it is relaxing and therapeutic! But it’s also a sign of how advanced society has become that we can regard growing food as a charming hobby instead of an absolute necessity. On the one hand, that’s a clear sign of mankind’s mastery over the world. On the other, it’s left us remarkably dependent on a system of farming and delivery logistics that has been shown to be distressingly fragile.
Anyone who has ever successfully grown a tomato plant in their backyard has wondered if they could go “off-grid,” grow their own food, and be done with their local supermarket. The answer is yes, but that’s the wrong question. The question isn’t whether it’s possible—the question is how. It’s all about the logistics: How much space do you need to grow enough crops to feed you and your family? Math will help you figure this one out.
If you’ve only ever gardened for fun, or to supplement your store-bought groceries with some tasty home-grown treats, you might not be aware of just how much space is required to feed someone. You may have noticed that family farms are kind of large, and there’s a very good reason for that (though some of that space was traditionally given over to livestock and draft animals). Estimates vary. Different crops require different amounts of space, for example, and some gardening gurus estimate you’d need at least 4,000 square feet per person , with more space allotted for stuff like lanes between crops.