Farming at Sea
June 17, 2009 at 11:30 pm #964
Been lurking for the last few weeks and fining all this very interesting. Particularly growing food at sea. I am a long time sailor and have been planning to go to sea fow a while now and have thought alot about growing my own food while cruising.
Right now, I live in the city (Pacific NW) and grow a lot of my own food. During the summer I am able to grow enough food to provide for about 60% of me an my wife’s needs in about 128 square feet of space. I don’t have a greenhouse but am pretty sure if I did I could maintain this level of production about 9 months out of the year (during the fall I can get a few salads a week and there are always plenty of swash and rood vegetables around still). If I were in the tropics, I could do this year round.
I gather all of my own water off my 750sqft roof and store in 6 55 gallon barrels which seems to get me through the summer here. I produce my own compost via a combination of worm composting, traditional bin composting and humanure composting. I continually harvest and plant and every square foot is always growing something (read squarefoot gardening for more info)
In all the forum topics about growing food it seems like people are coming up with really complex methods for producing huge amounts of food. If the idea is really independence, why are you looking for ways to do this? I spend about 10 minutes per day watering and an hour or two on the weekend weeding and replanting. It doesn’t take that much time and is easy to do.
My plan for world cruising was to grow enough salad crops for at least one salad per day for me and my wife. I’m pretty sure I could do this on a regular sized catamaran. If I were to have a seasteading size vessel, I bet I could manage 300sqft of space to grow most if not all of my food? Is there something wrong with my thinking or am I missing part of the discussion here.June 18, 2009 at 2:52 am #6598
it seems like people are coming up with really complex methods for producing huge amounts of food.
It depends on how many people you plan to feed, and how self-sufficient you want to be. If you only need to worry about 2 people, and you will just be supplementing your food supply with stuff you grow, then you can get away with a small garden and a compost pile.
If you plan to feed an entire family of 5-6 people (or even more depending on the size of your seastead) and you plan to supply 90% of the food yourself with only occasional shipments of exotic stuff (red meat, twinkies, etc) every now and then, then you will need some “complex methods” to produce huge amounts of food.June 18, 2009 at 2:22 pm #6606
Tom, that’s very interesting and inspiring. However, as I understand it, you’re only growing salad vegetables? The major components in a diet are carbohydrates (wheat, rice,corn etc) and protein (meat, eggs, pulses etc). So it’d be very intersting if you were growing grains as well. Are you?June 18, 2009 at 3:38 pm #6611
I’ve never grown wheat or other bread grains but have have grown flax, quinoa and sunflowers which are very easy to grow and are high in carbs and protein. In fact quinoa is a complete protein and is a great substitute for rice in many dishes. I grow peas and green beans which I either eat fresh or freeze. I hate shelling other beans so I just buy them now but they are easy enough to grow. I also have grown potatoes vertically and got about 30 pounds out of a 3′x3′ space (I got blight the second year I tried this so am holding off until next year to grow potatoes again.)
My parents had chickens when I was a kid but my wife and I travel so often that for us it would be tough to do now but on a large enough vessel keeping chickens would be easy. When ever I spread out a load of worm compost the birds in my neighborhood go crazy and chickens would love this too. With nothing more than my kitchen scraps I estimate right now I grow about a half pound of worms a month. This could be ramped up significantly and would provide a lot of protein for chickens.
As a vegetarian I don’t have to worry about meat but I’m sure with chickens and fish seasteaders can get by well enough. Pigs might also adapt to life at sea and are great additions to permacultre farming. The tough thing about meat is that it takes 10 pounds of feed crops to produce 1 pound of meat as well as tons of water. Meat production at sea would be very tough I would think. I imagine that seasteaders would get the majority of their protein from plant sources.
The last thing I grow is sprouts. Very easy to grow, store and no soil is needed. Great protein and nutritional content. http://www.sproutpeople.com/nutrition.htmlJune 18, 2009 at 6:31 pm #6614
You’re doing what some on here have suggested can’t be done with a vastly larger space! As for protein, don’t forget the sea around you because its full of it. A point though about chickens: worms are bad for them and the people who eat them.June 18, 2009 at 8:18 pm #6618
“I imagine that seasteaders would get the majority of their protein from plant sources. “
I agree with wohl1917, in that the majority of seasteaders probably wouldn’t be vegatarians, so they would be more likely to dip a net over the side and snag one of the thousand fish using their slow moving flotsam as home.
Vegatarians and vegans will probably find protein sources derived from algaeculture more than anything, supplemented by other grown items as well, surely.
There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. Each to his fate.June 18, 2009 at 8:33 pm #6620
Another way of getting food is buying it from someone else who produces it efficiently in large quantities. DIY food will probably be very expensive by comparison. This logic of course goes for all products a seasteader will need.
Of course if you are opposed to trade and willing to pay the extra cost in money/time/effort for making your own food, then by all means go ahead.June 18, 2009 at 9:39 pm #6622
I’m well aware that most seasteaders won’t become vegitarians and I did mention fish in my last post as a source or protein. But most americans eat way more protein than they need. I’ve seen some sources say that the average American eats 300% of the reomended amount. Authors like Michael Pollen have discussed this in his many books.
One of the crisises that the world is coming nearer to is the loss of major fish populations in the oceans. As the world population continues to grow there is going to be more and more competition for those resources and seasteaders are gonig to be in the thick of it. Having the resources to grow protein is going to be more and more important.
Also, if seasteads end up around the various garbage gyres in the oceans the issue of polution/contamination of sealife becomes a major issue. I prefer my food not be filled with plastic particals.
I am aware that seasteaders can always purchace their food but the problems that may arise with taxes, port fees, etc cause me to question the long term feasibility of this.June 18, 2009 at 10:10 pm #6623
Small scale food gardens are extremely cheap. Being able to produce my own compost means I never buy any fertilizer. Using raised beds (which is gonig to the only option on seasteads), crop rotation and companion planting prevents any significant pest/disease problems so I don’t need any chemicals or sprays. I am able to save seed from year to year. After years of doing this crops can be selected for what ever climate you are in as well as saving me the cost of buying new seed each year. My lettuce that I grow is much faster growing than any seed I can buy since the store bought stuff is produced in the southern parts of the US rather than in the Pacific NW where I am.
In the last few years I have spent less than $100 total on my gardens but I pull out hundreds of pounds of produce per year. That is way less than I would have spent on mass produced food. In addition, I don’t worry about fecal contamination on my spinach or chemical pesticides/herbicides on my root crops.June 18, 2009 at 10:22 pm #6625
Can you please provide some sources about issues with chickens and worms. Please note that I’m not talking about parasitic type worms, but “red wiggler” worms. Parasitic worms are problems but chickens love worms, slugs, caterpillars, beetles, etc. and all would have been part of their wild ancestor’s diets. Watch chickens for a while and you’ll see them running around clawing up the dirt looking for anything like this.June 19, 2009 at 6:06 pm #6638
My mother just started keeping chickens and she’d read that little blurb somewhere. At the time I pointed out what you said to her because it didn’t seem reasonable to me either. I just called her to verify the source and now it seems that shes decided it was a non-issue after all. Sorry for the miss information.June 20, 2009 at 3:58 am #6644
Hi. I think what you’re doing is great, and it is basically my own plan for later on. The only reason I can think of that many discussions have leaned to hydroponics and “complicated” farming is because they are thinking of production on an industrial scale to feed hundreds if not thousands of people. See the “high road vs. low road” debate- basically, people who want a single platform to hold a city vs. people who want a mobile home on the sea. Anyway, I get the impression that many potential ‘steaders (myself included) don’t know how to raise so much as a simple houseplant, much less a farm. Do you know any good resources for learning how? For getting to know what you know? Your sailing info would also probably be neat. Thanks.June 20, 2009 at 4:41 pm #6649
My first tip would be to start with sprouts. It is a quick and easy to get started at any time of year.
Before you start growing get a copy of the book, Square Foot Gardening. It completely changed the way I had been taught to grow food. http://www.squarefootgardening.com/
Second, start simple and small. Try tomatoes and lettuce. Both grow well in containers so you don’t need a full garden. And both are great ways to start learning how to save seeds.
Every year I focus on one or two new plants. I try different types of soil, different varieties, and I mix them in with other plants to see if any combination of plants works better than others. I’m on my seventh season. I wish I had started this before my grandparents had died because they were raised in a time when your garden was your source of life. They survived the depression because of their gardens. If you have anyone from that generation still around, TALK TO THEM!!!
I also talk to my local farmers at the farmers markets. They give great advice and know what works and what can scale.
Last thing I almost forgot… Get good tools. Nothing can kill your motivation like working with tools that are not comfortable to hold or feel flimsy. All you need to get started is a hand shovel and a watering can. So don’t skimp on those. (or do, and then when they break get better ones the next time!)
Good luck and let us all know how it goes.June 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm #6670
I’ll see what I can do.June 25, 2009 at 7:05 pm #6712
If you are interested in sailing and small-scale food production, check out the book Sailing The Farm, by Ken Neumeyer. It is old, but it is the only book I know of on the subject. Self-sufficient live-aboard boating sounds like a great way to start the low road seasteading lifestyle.
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