Measuring self-sufficiency

When we first began our challenge, we wanted a fool-proof way to measure self-sufficiency. The government tells us we should be eating 2 fruits and 5 vegetables every day, but measuring ‘a serve’ can vary considerably.

I’ve found three reasonably sensible ways to measure self-sufficiency in degrees of difficulty:

Level 1 – Output from Vegetable beds

The Diggers Club claims that “in just 40 square metres you can grow 472kg of vegetables which is enough for four people”. So as there is only two of us, that would be a total of 236kg of vegetables. We would be aiming for approximately 20kg per month.

Level 2 – Average Australian consumption

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2002) claims the average Australian consumes 92kg of fruit, 96kg of vegetables, 54kg of starch with a total of 242kg per person. We would be aiming for approximately 40kg per month.

This was our original challenge, but we have since realised that as our fruit trees are less then a year old they aren’t going to yield any where near the amounts we need, so we’ve dropped back down to level 1.

In comparison, the Chinese may eat less fruit (45kg), but eat a whopping 239kg of vegetables – for those who want to amp up the challenge. Read “The China Study” for the reasons why this could be the healthiest diet in the world.

Level 3 – Growing what you eat

You could work backwards. Jackie French recommends recording everything you eat in a year, and trying to match growing that. Another way would be to measure the (decreasing) quantity of produce that we are buying from the shops, (or the amount we can’t grow ourselves). This would take a few years of practice because you really need to perfect the art of successive sowing and preserving produce. This level is for the advanced gardeners out there.

The only problem with focusing on quantity is that quality is also a really important factor in the equation. Growing our own produce is much more affordable for us then purchasing organic.

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