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The real cost of peasant farming spelt out

Green Central - Times Online - WBLG: True confessions of guerrilla arable farmer

I broadcast the grains of spelt (an old wheat variety) at the very end of last year, over a patch of maybe 1.5 square yards. The grew up before anything else, much, and thus largely smothered any weeds. For months I watched and occasionally watered, but that's not been necessary recently.

Then when everything looked rather yellow I cut off the heads with a pair of secateurs (not many wheat farmers use those!) and bunged the lot into a thick linen bag and gave it a jolly good pummelling till the seeds had mostly come away from the chaff.

It took a while to winnow the chaff away, which I achieved by grabbing odd handfuls and gently tossing them in the air while blowing - this scattered the chaff but left the grain to fall back into my hands.

Took about two hours

By the end, I weighed just under 700 grammes of grain - more than enough for a loaf of bead, but I have no idea how to turn it into flour...

Not too bad a yield (4840/1.5*0.7) 2.25 tonnes per acre, he should be happy with that, though it was hand tended. Labour costs? Two hours threshing, maybe another two planting, tending, and harvesting? What would you value JPs time at? £5.73 an hour - he should get the minimum wage even though he is unskilled.
£32,000 for a tonne of Spelt - 100 times the market price, so it turns out his labour was only worth 5 pence an hour
And that is why industrialisation of farming is at the heart of prosperity, because he should have been doing else rather than growing spelt with his time, if it isn't to be just a rather interesting hobby.


Actually I thought the real proof of this enterprise's futility was when JP admitted he has absolutely no idea how to profit from all this labour.

Excellent maths!

But if we all did this we'd get our carbon emissions down.

That's beautiful - guerilla arable farmer. And carbon emissions are an issue for him.

So a good size loaf from 1.5 sq yd.
1.5/4840 x 365 means a tenth of an acre for a loaf a day. Assuming he halves the time without too much investment, and chickens eat the grain he misses, it works out pretty well. Still gives him time to make/lose a fortune day trading over the web, use the stalks and chaff to heat the house.
The brutal industrial arithmetic you apply may no longer be the driving force it once was.
I can't see the full 'Good Life' version working (unless Felicity Kendall wants to come round here and help), but the future is somewhere between that and industrial farming.

"1.5/4840 x 365 means a tenth of an acre for a loaf a day"

No, it means a tenth of an acre for 700g of raw grain a day.

A loaf requires rather more - such as grinding, kneading, baking (fuel? oven?), yeast, some sort of fat.

Sounds like on average, a whole day's work just for one loaf of bread.

And if he wants butter to spread on it, or maybe some animal protein, well, he's into two or three days' work for one day's food. Not a great prospect really.

"And if he wants butter to spread on it, or maybe some animal protein, ..."

Plus some fresh fruit or veg if he doesn't want to die of scurvy.

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