THE MICROFARM - OVERVIEW
A Microfarm is where the farmer thinks, plans and farms in square metres rather than hectares.
It sets out compelling reasons why this should be a new paradigm for agriculture as global population surges to ten billion, soils are degraded into inert substrates, water sources dry up, cheap energy and phosphates become scarcer, mass unemployment threatens social order and climate change threatens us all.
Ask yourself, as I did in 2001: how many kilograms of food could someone produce in a year from a hundred square metres - the size of a typical allotment in Europe - and keep producing it for the next thousand years?
Answer: 2,000 kg - two metric tons.
- Someone on less than two dollars a day,
- Food which is fresh, nutritious and rich in vitamins, proteins,
- An allotment receiving only 500 mm rainfall a year,
- In a place, for example, with only 200 frost free days a year but with summer temperatures often going up to 35o.
Averaged over the year, this represents about 6 kg a day or, for a family of 6, one kilo per day per person! That's a big helping of cabbage, potato, carrot, spinach, onion etc! Alternatively, sell half and buy what you haven't grown. Useful money, too.
And the outlay for this?
|[See the evidence: "But does it work?". Year three's total veg production from my 99 m2 was 1,974 kg. Compare this with typical commercial cereal yields on farms of 3 tons/hectare, or 30 kg per hundred m2].
- Sweat - no tractors here,
- basic knowledge of the Fertility Cycle in agriculture - it used to be called Common Sense,
- materials with which to store rainfall for the dry season if no other irrigation water available,
- and, of course, access to 100 m2 of reasonable soil
So we have here a new paradigm for agriculture. It should work anywhere where there's a spare bit of land. It will empower presently un(der-)employed people in a Project which could feed them and many more, reverse the degradation of the soil and our environment generally, check climate change, fix the growing epidemic of diabetes and obesity and be immune to growing shortages of conventional agricultural inputs.
And to get there, we have to
- realise that agriculture - growing food, with its sweat, muck and smells - can be cool, as it has begun to be in the developed world with its attendant TV images and city farms,
- show young people that growing and eating your own food rather than stuff from a (super)market of unknown provenance both saves money and is better,
- and persuade some researchers to get to grips with the few remaining technical problems like:
cheaper and easier ways to store surplus rainfall,
safe and low-cost methods of pest control and
back-of-the-envelope methods of calculating daily irrigation need .
In other words, how to make even better use of modern materials, sunshine, rain, unused bits of land, the energy and imagination of youth, and what we dare to call WASTE.