Mark Shepard in his book "Restoration Agriculture" proclaims

[...] small-scale backyard gardening which has shown in study after study to produce more food per acre than broadscale grain farming.

Unfortunately, he doesn't cite any studies or goes into more detail. Is the main point here that grain farming is particularly low on biomass production, or is there a reason why backyard gardening can in generally have higher yields than industrial farming? References would be very welcome!

  • $\begingroup$ Home gardening also requires drastically more labor than commercial agriculture . It trades human labor for increased food production. No problem for a hobby garden. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2020 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ if you grow grain in your backyard you will probably harvest about the same amount of grain per sqm as the farmer does from his field. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2020 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ Quite clearly home gardening requires much more labor and is not practical for large-scale commercial farms. But lets assume that's completely ok - why would we get inceased yields in a home garden? $\endgroup$
    – w382903
    Dec 28, 2020 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ Possibly more corn per sqm. My point being that a home garden may use 100 X more labor per bushel than agribusiness ; there are now 24 row corn planters ( etc.) . ( I needed to update the planter capacity) . A home garden can be more productive for many reasons such as : immediate detection of insect or disease, - hand weeding, - watering at first sign of need,- generous of fertilizer use that would be impractical on a 1000 acre field,- and real fields have different fertilizer needs from area to area ., etc. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2020 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @blacksmith37: The labor really depends on what you're growing. Many fruit trees, for instance, require nothing beyond a bit of pruning once they're established. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 29, 2020 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


Efficacy of food production per square foot/acre differs from soil quality and rate of regeneration. It's also a case of if you can produce year round. Some permaculture specialists, monitored one case in an article of "Green America" A 500 sq foot garden producing 300 lbs of produce per year. Among other's. Soil nutrient recycling is a key aspect of producing food year round, along with temperature (Green houses).

  • Composting
  • Soil/air temp
  • Growth rate of produce involved So the answer is "Yes" if dedication is involved.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks! Are you referring to this entry in the "Green America"? More generally 300 lbs on 500 sq foot makes around 26.136 lbs, that's quite a lot (here is a nice comparison table as reference). The article in "Green America" reports much less (< 10.000 lbs / acre), so you are probably referring to a different one? $\endgroup$
    – w382903
    Dec 30, 2020 at 19:38

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