The Challenge of Being Self-Sufficient

Is human kind turning back to the times where they were hunters and gatherers? Can anyone actually be self-sufficient?

For quite some time people in Ireland have been becoming more and  more interested in organic growing; growing their own vegetables and getting their hands dirty in the garden in order to provide their family with some green and organically grown food, and to enjoy the reward of home grown crops.

Some of us take it even further: We want to become not just green but self-sufficient! Can you actually achieve that? I confess the idea is intriguing, but let’s face it: most people live in urban estates with a small front green and a back garden that can be anything between a towel size and an eight of an acre, where they grow flowers and shrubs.

So if you are lucky your back garden, which provides enough privacy to do what you want, is just the opportunity to do that… Or is it? Somebody recently brought up the question of how many potato plants would you need to feed a family through the winter season.

Let’s just think about it: for a family of four you might need as much as 500 pounds of potatoes to get through to the next harvest. That takes into account that you don’t put potatoes on the table every day, and that you have proper storage facilities to keep them healthy.

If you get an average harvest of 5 pounds from a single plant, this translates into just 100 plants you need to grow successfully. That requires at least a bed of 25 feet length and 5 feet width and includes 4 rows of staggered potato plants (25 in each row).

For many people this is all the space they have in their back garden. You see how this in reality limits the opportunity to those of us who have either a field or a huge garden. And the potato is only one of the crops you’d need.

So, will we all become hunters and gatherers again? I don’t think so. You really need a substantial amount of space to grow enough vegetables. The small example gives you some idea.

If you want to change your entire lifestyle in order to challenge yourself and to make the world a little bit greener, then do it. Grow your own crop, become your own food provider. Get your hands dirty and become self-sufficient. Beware of a demanding challenge though.

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Published in: Gardening


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  1. For sure growing some of your own food is the best thing a person can do, not just for themselves(fun and saves money) , but for the environment too!
    I also suggest keeping a few free range hens for egg production. But to be fair, I dont eat my hens, just their eggs, I cannot kill my trusting friends.

  2. Yes, that’s where I would have doubts myself. Not that I have any hens, but just the thought of it is terrible. Anyway, there is a new movement here in Waterford/Ireland, called the Waterford Food Producers Network (, where people who are interested in this topic, regularly (once a month) meet and discuss everything around growing your own vegetables.

  3. Intriguing and interesting article! I’ve been thinking about the idea of self sufficiency too. Yeah, it’s hard to become totally self sufficient (if you take it to the end, things like making your own clothing, etc.) but I think that moving in a “partial self sufficiency” is at least a good first step. We do raise chickens (for the eggs — we only have hens), we have honeybees, and a garden and small fruit orchard. Our food bill (with 4 kids!) is still high, but we do what we can. Anyway, I enjoyed this article. Nicely done!

  4. Good tips for backyard gardeners…there will be a lot of people interested in small space gardening in these times

  5. Very interesting article, I don’t have a large enough garden to grow my own food etc but would love the opportunity to try .. very well written.

  6. A topical article at the moment August 2009. In the Uk the Government are trying to get people to grow their own food!!

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