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Would a community of around 300 people be able to start producing plentiful food in ~5 years post a civil war and plague?

They were an isolated quite wealthy community, in a sub-tropical area, mainly producing honey from surrounding flower fields and really didn't produce much of their food. Due to their isolation they were left mainly unaffected by the war and plague but their supply of food coming into the village was destroyed. This happened around mid-winter. They had around 4 months of food left if they rationed which gave them enough time to clear some fields and plant crops from dried beans and seeds from home vegetable gardens (~25 of them) etc. Later they scavenged more seeds from destroyed farms further away. A few people kept goats (9) and chickens (15). They had a few retired farmers and some home gardeners who essentially oversaw the whole 'make food' operation.

There was a general understanding that if they couldn't produce their own food they would starve to death and so people were forced to either help or be ousted and probably die. People who couldn't work in the field such as the elderly were in charge of babysitting so that the parents could work.

They developed a source of salt soon after (coast ~8 km away). In order to preserve food for winter.

Am I being too generous with five years or would it probably take longer, if so why?

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    $\begingroup$ They don't produce much of their food cannot go together with they are isolated. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Nov 14 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica isolation does not mean the absence of trade. During real plague in England many isolated viliges survived while keeping trading with outer world through "no-meeting protocol" : they were living surplus in special place and went away, then returned and took money (money were held in jars with vinegar) and list of demands (and then spend that money same way in other special place) . $\endgroup$ – ksbes Nov 14 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ What is the tech level? Modern, medieval? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Nov 14 at 17:30
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5 years is enough. Even 1 would be enough IF there would be some contidions meet:

  • the earth must be growth ready. You write they weren't farming prior to war. That mean it would take around 3-4 years to prepare the bed and make it good enough to produce profit (were talking no natural of artificial fertilizers to speed up the process). Using high profit grains/beans wthwr on bad soil would just leave you at lost. Bad quality soil, but cultivated and fertilized bring you twice the amount of grains ber square meter. IF you plant it in proper time.
  • surplus of seeds to begin with. They need to have a lot of stuff to plant in the soil. Y0u mention rationing and that would also need to include the food you want to eat. AND the amount you will seed will translate to surplus for the next year. For example: to seed one hectare with potatoes you would need around 5 tonnes. Then you could gather 10-15 tonnes from it. (Assuming ex-farmers and gardeners know what soil they have, what type of potates they have and how to properly plant them). With potatoes if you want to have high yeald for planting in the next year you need 50-80 THOUSANDS plants. Around 25-40 thousands potatoes. To grow them for food you need 40-45 thousands. Per Hectare. You would need around 250-300 grains per square meter to gather 500-600. On good quality soil.
  • goats and chickens. Tropical goats don't have seasonal heat, so you don't need to wait for particular time for breeding. BUT. It is stopped/halted if the goats don't have enough food. So you might start breeding them in the late autumn while having a goat specific food surplus (which is easy, just stock on everything that is green). Goats have very high probability of fertility index - around 80%. So you could count on tripling the amount of goats in 5 years. As gots need two years to mature (and assuming you have 8 females). A good milky goat could give you around 800 litres of milk per year but you could lower that amount to 1 litre per day. So with 8 femals a nice stash of cheese.
    Chickens - here we need to assume yours are the fertile and you have enough roosters. So 2 roosters and 13 sitters. Here you might have a problem. If you want food quickly you wil have around 13 eggs a day. If you want grow your heard you would need to put all those eggs into incubating nad check in 7 days to see if there is embryo. A 7 day old eggs kept in warm place is not good for eating. But chcikens also need food. You might want to stop the breading for few months until spring bring natural food. Which should be plenty regarding the flower fields. Which bring us to nest thing
  • soil - they would need to prepare the earth. Those gardens would need to be destroyed to distribute the soil to make it better and more nourished. So ou would need to destroy some flowers fields you have. The amount should be proportional to A) seeds/grains/beans/veggies you can plant B) the amount you wish to harvest and replant in next years. From the start you would need to destroy forest/flowers fields you would want to have in 5 years. So they would be at best condition to produce food. And with a few square metres to spare to give the earth time to breath.

So it is doable in 5 years but would require very good planning, a lot of additional work (like buidling greenhouses to speed up seeding and maybe count of two harvests a year), extra industrial work (you need to store the food, you need to have methods of gathering it, seeding, keeping sicknes out etc).

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With sufficient desire to do so, they could do it within a season. It might not be the most balanced diet, but that wasn't requested.

The coast is within striking distance, the coast will have boats, boats can catch fish, and they're all set. Even if the coast doesn't have boats, it probably has fish, if there's a river it probably has fish. The fish may be seasonal, sardine migration, salmon spawning etc., they'll have to learn about this if they don't already know.

To farm they must produce excess in the first season. Part of the crop is the seed for the next season's crop. If they fail to produce sufficient to save some for seed then they're in trouble. If the farms in the first year don't produce enough to feed everyone and seed, then they must supplement their diet with some form of hunting or gathering.

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It depends on their kind of supplies and farming before the war and plague.

In modern farming farmers do not self produce seeds, they rather buy seeds or young plants from suppliers, since it guarantees a better homogeneity of the plantation.

Similarly, if you were to plant a seed from stored food you have at home (fruit, cereals), what you would get would be a plant less productive than the one which gave the seed, if not a sterile hybrid at all.

On top of that modern high yield crops are far more sensitive to pests, and require much more care. With no suppliers of suitable products, the productivity of the fields will be heavily affected.

I remember that when I was a kid in a dry region with no easily accessible water sources, my grandfather used to plant a variety of tomato which was well suited for our region: it required watering only in the first time after being seeded, then it would grow well even in dry weather like the one we had. That variety has been replaced by more productive ones, and now nobody can grow tomatoes without daily watering them.

On the other hand, traditional farmers self producing their seeds and carrying them over across generation generally have lower yield per unit surface but better resistance to adverse factors.

Long story short: they would not get a high productivity as before the event. They will be much more sensitive to climate randomness and at higher risk of famine. A single frosty night in spring or hail would mean impeding starvation. Basically they would return to 18th century European farming.

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  • $\begingroup$ It was not incredibly advance before the collapse. Most crops grown were like our heirloom varieties. $\endgroup$ – Elfie Nov 14 at 9:22
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5 years is unlikely with a medieval agriculture, but realistic if the community is well positioned to take advantage of modern technology.

Many factors are stacked against the community:

  • They don't have experience doing traditional agriculture;
  • They don't have sufficient seeds;
  • They don't have sufficient number of animals;
  • They don't have prepared fields;
  • They (apparently) don't have beasts of burden (but, in modern setting, they should be able to get tractors);
  • They have limited amount of agriculture tools and no infrastructure for maintenance of those;
  • They have to start with just 4 month supply of food, and would have to wait at least 8 month for the first harvest;

Vegetable gardens would produce a little food, but it's not going to be sufficient - unless running those gardens is already a popular thing in the community, and virtually every house has a cultivated plot of land. This factor can be a game changer for the community.

Either way, the community won't get its first harvest until late in the summer, and it wouldn't be great - because of all the factors listed above. If the setting is modern, they might be able to plough enough fields and seed them with corn or potatoes, yielding enough food for the next winter.

For a medieval farm, a number of things should work in the favor of the community to be able to succeed in 5 years:

  • They should learn best agriculture methods;
  • They should learn how to make and fix agriculture tools;
  • They should be able to grow their herds;
  • They should be able to find enough horses or oxen to do work;
  • The harvest should be good;

Otherwise, they still may have a surplus in year 5, but only because of significant die-off in previous years.

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