Saturday, March 4, 2023

Growing food in arid climates


11.5 trees with 20' diameter canopies in 22,000 square feet.
So for this particular terrace, 16% of the surface is covered with trees and the other 84% is "dust mulch" that absorbs winter rainfall that the trees and grapevines mine throughout the growing season.

Other terraces had 20% of the surface covered with tree-canopy.

How arid?

An average of 8.5 inches of rain a year

The terraces in the lower right were growing grain and vegetables.

Olive trees. Photo by Paul Jeffrey


Olives, figs, grapes, fruit trees, such as olives, apples, walnuts, apricots

Forest trees such as oaks, hawthorn, buckthorn, maple, sycamore, carob, pine, eucalyptus

Grains such as wheat, barley, chickpeas, fava beans, peas, beans and others

Vegetables like onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, melons and eggplant

Herbs such as thyme, sage, anise, wormwood, bitter herb, wild mint, and milk thistle

Incidentally, I have a friend growing in an area that would be well adapted to olives IF he can find a seed-line or land-race that can survive temperatures of 8F every five years. None of the commercial cultivars can do that but there may be some old seedlings in high-country of northeastern Spain that can bench-press those temperatures but you can't find pits from those trees in commerce.

In a rural village there might be 3 cattle per 100 people, 40 (sheep+goats) per hundred and 25 poultry per person. These numbers are highly variable and depend on population density, availability of wild forage. It is highly likely that there were more cattle (and donkeys and horses) before tractors were common.

There are also likely to have some beehives.

A few links:

Traditional Palestinian methods are sustainable methods

Agriculture in Ramallah

An example of "vertical" agriculture in Israel.

Another picture from Israel showing the tight integration between villages and their nominal food sources. Distance from plant-to-plate is hundreds of meters, not thousands of miles.


  1. I love those terraces

  2. As someone who studied Buckminster Fuller in college I find this Dymaxion farming fascinating.
    As someone who studied Orwell in High School I find this Dymaxion farming terrifying.

  3. The permaculture guru Joel Salatin has a fascinating article on his blog about farming in Israel ( It isn't crops, but it shows the difficulty of being a farmer in a 4G war zone. As one would expect, his solution for their problem is radical and obvious once you think about it.

  4. Watched a Youtube video on how much land Saudi Arabia has reclaimed due to circle crop watering. Farmer in Kansas invented it in the 40's. They've reclaimed an astonishing amount of land.

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