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Grow Your Own Food
by Katy Purviance on 02/18/10 @ 10:35:06 pm
Categories: Articles | 581 words | 1892 views

I’ve talked about growing your own food here before, and while I know that it isn’t strictly related to architecture, I also believe that a lot of my preferences about architecture – namely, that it be vernacular, economical, environmentally-awesome, and DIY – relate very much to my ideas about food.

So here’s an article by Roger Doiron that I just read about a couple who grows all their own food. They decided to weight all of their produce so that they could precisely figure out how much they were saving every year by growing their own food.

(Hint: It’s a LOT)

Here’s the article:

When the Going Gets Tough, Grow Your Own Food

Michelle Obama’s White House kitchen garden got everyone talking about the health and culinary benefits of growing your own food. This Maine family proves its economic value.

Last year, my wife, Jacqueline, proposed that in addition to crunching on our own homegrown produce, we also crunch the numbers to see how much money our garden saves us. This sounded about as appealing as a heaping plate of overcooked broccoli. In addition to raising three busy boys, managing two careers, volunteering and growing most of our own produce, she wanted us to weigh and record every item from our garden and spend leisurely winter evenings doing garden math? Jacqueline, a former economics major and a native French speaker, answered with a simple “oui.” The project began.

We filled our log book with dates and figures, starting with our first salad greens in late April and ending in mid-February with the final cutting of Belgian endive, forced from roots in our basement. We grew 35 crops: 834 pounds and nearly 10 months’ worth of organic food. We calculated what it would have cost us to buy the same items using three sets of prices: conventional grocery store ($2,196.50), farmer’s market ($2,431.15) and Whole Foods ($2,548.93).

Our costs? We spent $130 for seeds and supplies, $12 for a soil test, $40 for water and $100 for locally made organic compost—a return on investment of 762 percent.

What you need to know

1. Size your garden according to your goals and the amount of time you plan to invest in it.

Certain crops are more profitable and space-efficient than others. A small garden planted primarily with salad greens and trellised tomatoes, for example, will produce more economic value per square foot than one planted with potatoes and squash. Start small with the crops you enjoy the most and scale up as you succeed.

2. Location matters.

Kitchen gardens do best in areas that drain well and receive full sun (at least six hours). Be sure the location is convenient for you. The easier it is for you to get into your garden, the more produce you’re likely to get out of it.

3. In cool climates, extend the growing season with cold frames, hoophouses and mini greenhouses.

Our small cold frame made from scrap materials lets us begin harvesting greens a full month before most gardeners in my area have set foot in their gardens.

4. Don’t try to plant all at once; put in crops over a number of weeks.

If you plant an entire packet of beans in a few long rows in early June, you’ll have a bumper crop in late July, but what about August and September? Planting shorter rows early and often ensures a steady supply. It’s less important to spread out the planting of root vegetables, which are likely to go into long-term storage.


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I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.

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