Feeding a Family of Five with a Portable Farm in 125 sq ft
by Colle and Phyllis Davis
Starting with USDA data for a healthy diet and accepting that a majority of carbohydrates will come from grains and root crops, the table vegetables for one person can be grown in 25 sq ft of aquaponics grow tray space. So a family of five will need 125 square feet of grow tray space or a Grow Tray 5′ wide by 25′ long.
A climatically adapted greenhouse that is 10′ by 30′ will feed the family of five year round, forever. That space is only slightly larger than a modern living room. Some of the protein source for the family will come from the fish that are grown in the Fish Tanks of the Portable Farm and the settling tank waste can be used to grow other crops and fruits outside the structure. Plants love the nutrient-laden settling tank waste water and reward the Portable Farmer with exceptional crops yields. The waste water can also be added to compost to speed up the process.
The average family of five consumes one head of lettuce per day for salads, garnish or sandwiches. The lettuce is planted on 8-inch centers in the Grow Tray. The lettuce needs approximately 30 to 40 days from ‘planting to harvesting’ which means there will be 40 lettuce plants in the Grow Tray at all times. 40 lettuce plants require 27 square ft of grow space. Each time a lettuce plant is harvested, a new seedling is placed in the same space to be ready to harvest in 40 days.
What other favorite vegetables are enjoyed by your family? Zucchini, any variety of peppers, egg plant, basil, Swiss chard, kale, cucumbers or maybe you would like a little space beans or bok choy. Find the spacing needed on the seed packet and begin planning out ways to fill up the rest of the Grow Tray.
With 90 square feet to fill up, the space that is 5′ wide and 18′ long will be beckoning to you even in your sleep.
Here is the trick that is the hardest for new Portable Farmers to grasp: THINK AHEAD AND PLAN LIKE A FARMER! Refrain from planting all of the space at once. That is 27 square feet of open space for lettuce will tempt you to fill it up. Don’t do it. Plant a new baby lettuce plant every day into the gravel. Yes, it will be incredibly hard to do until the entire Grow Tray is finally full and you can stop buying vegetables at the store. It will happen, be patient and know that you are doing the best possible planning for your family’s survival.