What follows are answers to some of the questions people ask me or that I’ve needed to answer as I work through the mechanics of this project. I will continue to update this page regularly as my information gets better and as more questions come up.
Q. Can you buy organic wheat?
A. The answer is, unfortunately, no. Commodity wheat is sold on the premise that it is a standardized unit with no distinguishing characteristics besides price and contract end date. The wheat I buy will be industrially-grown.
Q. Why don’t you buy organic wheat from a small farmer?
A. As much as I would love to, it would undercut the point of this project which is to remove an ever-so-small quantity of wheat from the industrial ag system and transform it into something that provides real nourishment.
Q. What are your plans for documenting this project?
A. This project is pretty non-material and focused on the experience of the participants and myself, as opposed to the process of documenting. Still, quite a bit of writing and photography will be necessary to communicate what I’m learning and the process; perhaps there will be a little bit of video and sound recording too. I want to use both analog and digital media – this blog, zines, posters, booklets – and also create some visually compelling displays of the wheat / flour at key points in the project. The organizations and people that take some of the wheat or flour will be requested to document what they do with it, in whatever way they want. I will compile that documentation at the end of the project.
Q. How do I get involved?
A. See here and/or contact me: sarah “at” industrial harvest “dot” com. We would love your (yes, your) help and participation – after all, that’s the point of this whole thing!
STATS AND NUMBERS
Although the calculations here are not that difficult, I would be grateful to hear from those who have more substantive knowledge on these topics. And if you notice any math mistakes or funny numbers, correct me!
Q. How big is 1000 bushels of wheat?
A. 1 bushel is 1.2417 cubic feet, so 1000 bushels = about 1,242 cubic feet. This would be a cube roughly 10 x 10 x 12 feet square.
Q. How much does 1000 bushels of wheat weigh?
A. A bushel of wheat weighs about 60 pounds, so that would be 60,000 pounds for the whole pile. Weight will vary a bit depending on the moisture content of the wheat. See: http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G4020
Q. How much space is needed to grow the wheat?
A. The ‘seed rate’ or how thickly you sow the seed depends quite a bit on the variety and the growing conditions, and a lot of the information out there is just a little too specific for the stage this project is at right now. The best information I was able to find without going overboard was for growing Soft Red Winter wheat in Wisconsin. This indicates a range of between about 1 1/4 and 1 3/4 bushels per acre, which dovetails with other sources I’ve seen and people I’ve talked to. You can get a lot of wheat from just one acre. See next question…
Q. How much wheat will you grow, and how much will that yield?
A. I won’t be growing much of the wheat, probably just a few acres total. As to yield, wouldn’t every farmer would love to be able to know that ahead of time…! Gene Logsdon uses 40 bu/acre as an estimate, and it’s a nicely conservative number in line with historical data. Since 2000, wheat yields in Illinois have ranged between 31 and 94 bushels per acre.
Q. How much land does it take to grow smaller amounts of wheat?
A. In Gene Logsdon’s book Small Scale Grain Raising, he estimates that a 109′ x 10′ plot will grow 100 pounds of wheat, enough for a family of four for a year. The Organic Consumers Association says that a 10′ x 10′ plot will yield 10-25 loaves of bread.
Q. How much will the wheat cost?
A. It’s complicated, and depends on the relationship between futures and “spot” (e.g. cash) prices at the grain elevator where I take delivery, but generally costs will depend on the price the day I buy it. Wheat seems to hover at around $5/bushel, but the past couple of years there have been extreme price fluctuations from time to time. To actually take delivery of the physical wheat there are costs for load-out, inspection, etc. which will add about 10 cents / bushel to the cost.How much flour will you get from a bushel of wheat?
A. 42 pounds of white flour, 60 pounds of whole wheat; with the white flour they throw out all the nutritious stuff to give it a finer taste and texture.
Q. How much flour will you get from a bushel of wheat?
A. 42 pounds of white flour, 60 pounds of whole wheat (with the white flour they throw out all the nutritious stuff to give it a finer taste and texture).
Q. How many loaves of bread is that?
A. Approximately 42 loaves of commercial white bread and 90 loaves of whole wheat bread. So, 1 bushel of wheat = 42-90 loaves, 100 bushels = 4200-9000 loaves and 1000 bushels = 42,000 – 90,000 loaves of bread – !
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