Wednesday, March 21, 2007

How much is an acre anyways?

Google it and the first answer you get is, 1 acre = 4046.85642 meters squared, which makes it all the more incomprehensible. It is indicative of a disconnection most of us have with fieldwork that many of us do not have a “feel” for an acre. How many of you have ever driven an ox-towed plow across a field on a hot day? Anyone who has, I am sure, quickly developed a feel for that last acre. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the acre was derived from the area said to be arable by one man driving an ox and plow in one day.

Size does count when it comes to sustainable agriculture. It’s important to have a frame of reference when we talk to growers about their operations. Twenty-seven acres is not like 270. Scale and its economy is what industrial agriculture depends on and is in many ways the root of it harmfulness.

So, how big is an acre? Formally an acre of area is 160 square rods or 4,840 square yards, an equivalent to 43,560 square feet. If you are like me, this did not help much. In order to visualize this area we should compare it to some familiar things. An acre is roughly half the size of a regulation soccer field. If an acre of tarp were laid out on a baseball field it would cover the diamond and about 10% of the outfield. An acre would also cover 91 yards of a football field, sideline to sideline, excluding the end zones. The Alemany Farmer’s Market is approximately 3 acres if you include all the parking asphalt. Golden Gate Park is about 1017 acres, of which the Japanese Tea Garden comprises 5 acres.

Maybe you have a good mental reference. If you do post it as a comment.

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