how much acreage to grow our food? new math for Kauai

land for food on kauai

So, John Jevons says we could feed ourselves on 4,000 square feet per person. Multiply that times Kauai's 85,000 residents and visitors, and you get 7,800 acres.

So far so good, since Kauai's 356,000 acres includes 92,000 acres of cropland, roughly 20,000 of which is (now) fallow cane land.

Still, if we had to rely on the typical American land use for our diet (up to 30,000 sf per capita), that would sum to 58,650 acres. That's 64% of our Kauai cropland we'd need to grow our own food. Wouldn't it be better to grow our needs on 9% of the cropland, instead?

Oh, and, if we used the American average for all crops, including those grown for export, we'd need 323,000 acres of cropland, or virtually our entire island.

In other words, we've got just over an acre per person available to grow all our needs...including biocrops for energy

Seems like innovative methods to actually grow our food on less than one-tenth of an acre (as Jevons promises) might be a high priority...if only 'cause that leaves a lot of land for other stuff.

BTW, note that our State owns much of Kauai's land, including these prime ag lands:

So, let's see...that's over 21,000 acres of more or less 'prime' ag land we already own. That's more than 20% of the total cropland available.

Shouldn't be much problem with the 'land cost' portion of our local food production strategy, right?

Published by Ken on January 23rd, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities

One Response to “how much acreage to grow our food? new math for Kauai”

  1. Elli Ward Says:


    Thanks for bringing this issue forward. I hope to see more articles along this line. First,

    4,000 sqft/person/year seems remarkable. Can it be done here? What inputs are needed, like hours of labor per week, off island minerals, and water.To be assured of survival, I think we must quickly learn and adapt the best growing systems We need to close the knowledge gap and show people how this is done.. We must focus quickly on making the invisible visible. Much of our inaction stems from a lack of awareness. As a Chinese proverb says, "Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand."

    A report I read from The Department of Agriculture reports that there is 45,000 acres of idle and available prime agricultural land on Kauai and that 3,461 gallons per day per acre is the average year round rate of water needed for diversified agriculture.

    For you and any readers here that may be interested there is a discussion about relocaliztion of farming over at the oil drum. The comments section has a lot of helpful ideas.

    Is Relocalization Doomed?: A Response to Staniford’s "Fallacy of Reversibility"

    The Rise and Predictable Fall of Globalized Industrial Agriculture, gives good reasons why we should be working toward relocalization.

    David Ward