land area and farm production

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land area and farm production

#1 Post by Grayson » Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:12 am

Hi again!
I was wondering if anyone has ever come up with or seen a program or spreadsheet that calculates all the land needed to be farmed to feed the people in a village along with the total size of the village itself. Welsh Piper comes close, but no farms are mentioned.
How do you calculate how much food a family needed? I've read online posts that 500 liters of grain was needed per an adult for one year just to live. Elderly and children about half that.
What are your thoughts?

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Re: land area and farm production

#2 Post by Eder » Tue Sep 12, 2017 3:55 am

It's actually quite easy if all you want is a *rough* figure.

1 bushel of rye yields about 100 000 calories. If you assume that roughly 80% of your calories come from rye or similar grains, and that an acre might yield 8-12 bushels (by definition, 1 bushel is what you need to seed 1 acre, so it's 7-11 "net" bushels), 1 acre might yield about a year's worth of "grain" food for a hardworking adult (interestingly, the adventure 100 bushels of rye states that 6 bushels is the "bare minimum" for survival), or two for a child or very sedentary elderly person. The remaining 20% of calories would come from the occasional egg, bit of meat, milk and dairy, honey, fruit and other product from the vegetable garden, all of which (according to the original Harndex) cost about as much as the remaining 80%, but provide a balanced diet (and are accounted for acreage other than cropland, see below). So, to support a family of 3 hardworking adults and 2 children, you'd need 4 acres of cropland under cultivation.

But that's only terrain being actively farmed for crops. At least as much will be left fallow and possibly grazed, and some additional terrain will be used exclusively for grazing and for growing hay for the cattle. According to EH3 manor rules, only 40% of cleared acres, at the very most, can be under cultivation (which means another 40% is left fallow, and another 20% is used as "permanent" pasture). So, you need some 10 cleared acres to support a household, at subsistence level. Note that this is roughly the minimum a serf household needs to be called half-villeins.

Of course, most rural folks live a little above this poverty threshold (if anything, to save something for lean years)... plus they have to pay taxes/rents/fees/aids etc. So a more realistic figure might be around 20 cleared acres/household. Note that a household could probably farm a bit more, maybe a total of 30-50 acres; if serfs, they probably do it for their lord (the demesne), and if freemen they might instead run "part time" a business like milling, or provide feudal service as yeomen. And of course, this only covers cleared acres: there's woodland and waste acres, which might increase the total land/household by maybe 1/3. So, a manorial fief with some 50 acres/household (say, very roughly 10 woodland/waste acres, 20 cleared demesne acres, and 20 cleared tenant acres). Fewer acres will mean that some households "waste" labour; more acres will mean that some acres will be left unproductive or less productive than they could be.

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Re: land area and farm production

#3 Post by MDMann » Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:07 am

A family of cottars or half villeins form part of the familia and can expect work on the demense or for other serfs to provide additional nutrition. Some might have other sources of income such as fishing, trapping or rating.
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Re: land area and farm production

#4 Post by Grayson » Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:04 am

What about the type of grain? The yield from wheat is less than that of barley per acre. So which grain does one use? Most serfs were not used to having their bread made from wheat, so they went with barley.

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Re: land area and farm production

#5 Post by Grayson » Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:11 am

And then there is the the size of the village itself. Buildings, walking paths, crofts and tofts of people and the size of their cottages, the distance between the houses, etc. I like to detail as much as possible to bring the village to life.

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Re: land area and farm production

#6 Post by Rothesay » Fri Sep 22, 2017 3:36 am

You are using HarnManor or Manor (EH3) right? Each has data on these questions, though HarnManor has more.

(Be warned some people don't like HarnManor and can be vocal about it.) 8)

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Re: land area and farm production

#7 Post by Eder » Fri Sep 22, 2017 6:14 pm

Grayson wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:04 am
What about the type of grain? The yield from wheat is less than that of barley per acre. So which grain does one use?
It does not make that much difference, if you factor in everything else. A bushel of wheat, for example, contains 90-95% of the calories of a bushel of rye. You needed rough numbers, which are in the second post in this thread -- 10 acres for a family of 3 adults and 2 children is the minimum amount of land to provide nutrition. Double that to account for taxes, a little slack for bad years, stuff other than food etc. (of course a family can survive on less land by helping other cultivate theirs in exchange for some of the produce). Double that again to obtain the maximum amount of land they can cultivate devoting all their time to it. Note that an individual household can have more land than that if they get someone else help cultivate it; and conversely they can have less than 10 acres if they have some other source of revenue (e.g. they help someone else cultivate their land in exchange for some of the produce). If you need more precise numbers, you really start needing a far more precise picture of the entire situation, including -- say -- what footwear people use.
Grayson wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:04 am
Most serfs were not used to having their bread made from wheat, so they went with barley.
Actually, that depended on where. I'd say that in the british isles rye (which is the grain I gave you numbers for) was more common than barley for making bread; barley was mostly used for brewing ale. Brewing ale was a way to make water safe to drink, but ale was also an important source of calories -- and although barley-for-ale yielded fewer calories per acre under cultivation than rye-for-bread, "spent" barley remaining after the brewing process was an important source of fodder for animals... so, it's very hard to disentangle it all.
Grayson wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 1:11 am
And then there is the the size of the village itself. Buildings, walking paths, crofts and tofts of people and the size of their cottages, the distance between the houses, etc. I like to detail as much as possible to bring the village to life.
In general, the size of the buildings (and walking paths etc.) was a negligible portion of the fief. If you allocate 1 acre per household -- enough to cover a large vegetable garden too -- you are taking away just 20-40 acres from a fief of 1200-1800. Cottages where typically 3-bay affairs -- think three square rooms, maybe 15-20 feet to a side, in a line. To get a sense of distances and how stuff was "organized", just get a look at many of the fanon maps freely available from download from lythia.com
Rothesay wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 3:36 am
You are using HarnManor or Manor (EH3) right? Each has data on these questions, though HarnManor has more.
(Be warned some people don't like HarnManor and can be vocal about it.) 8)
That would be me! But let me qualify. Harnmanor is pretty good for almost everything except for stuff that gets measured in d (for which it's pretty terrible).

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Re: land area and farm production

#8 Post by blackhorde » Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:43 am

Rothesay wrote:
Fri Sep 22, 2017 3:36 am
(Be warned some people don't like HarnManor and can be vocal about it.) 8)
*gasps!*
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Re: land area and farm production

#9 Post by blackhorde » Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:49 am

Can't we just guesstimate 5 acres/person with more acres meaning better health?
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Re: land area and farm production

#10 Post by Rothesay » Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:48 am

blackhorde wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:49 am
Can't we just guesstimate 5 acres/person with more acres meaning better health?
It all depends on the level of detail one needs.

For my campaign, I need top level revenue data and a general idea of the economic health of the fief. Others may need more granular data on the serfs than the system is designed to proved. If all one needs to know is the peasants are they eating, then I think 5 acres/person is a fine rule of thumb.

One of the great things about Harn is how easily is scales up or down as those needs change. 8)

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Re: land area and farm production

#11 Post by blackhorde » Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:55 am

Rothesay wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:48 am
blackhorde wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:49 am
Can't we just guesstimate 5 acres/person with more acres meaning better health?
It all depends on the level of detail one needs.
Yes definitely. But I am referring to the opening posters question about how much land is needed to feed a village or family, etc.
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Re: land area and farm production

#12 Post by Caden Grace » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:27 am

blackhorde wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:55 am
Rothesay wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:48 am
blackhorde wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:49 am
Can't we just guesstimate 5 acres/person with more acres meaning better health?
It all depends on the level of detail one needs.
Yes definitely. But I am referring to the opening posters question about how much land is needed to feed a village or family, etc.
Well the Harn system is totally whacked with its numbers. It takes no where near that number of acres nor is it even possible to do so with the number of people present. Preppers and Homesteaders are pretty versed in this area and of course communities like the Amish and they have decades and centuries in the respective histories on the subject. But, generally 1 man can work a single acre and that is pretty much his maximum for a permaculture type farming where a mix of crops and small animals are being husband. A family of four can meet all of the "modern" nutritional needs on a 2 acre plot that is well-planned and worked by them. Less modern times might get by with less than 2 acre to achieve their nutritional needs considered normal for their technical age.

Crop farming requires less man hours since it is a single crop cultivation.

The problem with using actual numbers in the Harn system is that the Harn system is built on using faulty assumptions. The game also assumes the an LQ of 1.00 is normal but most LQ of real world farms is about half of that and they feed millions just fine. I recommend GMs just using a rough set up that works for them, I do not think the game world will stop revolving if they get it wrong. It is the effect that matters not the accounting. Personally, I reduce my manors to a field of 5 acres per man employed, with 1 acre being worked, 1 fallow, 2 in husbandry and 1 in fruiting bearing trees and or medicinal plantings. A manor has a lot fewer acreas in my system but I leave the d rate per acre in place, less money, more food.

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Re: land area and farm production

#13 Post by Rothesay » Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:45 am

There is a world of difference between modern yields and medieval yields. They are, in fact, not comparable. Harn numbers can only use medieval data, which is admittedly sparse. But anything after the agricultural revolution of the 18th century is near worthless as an analog for Harn.

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Re: land area and farm production

#14 Post by Caden Grace » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:50 am

Rothesay wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:45 am
There is a world of difference between modern yields and medieval yields. They are, in fact, not comparable. Harn numbers can only use medieval data, which is admittedly sparse. But anything after the agricultural revolution of the 18th century is near worthless as an analog for Harn.
The time matters in the minimum, meaning modern farmers can use a better designed crop or understanding of pest control but that is it. Homesteaders, preppers and even simple family farms DO NOT use modern methods and a farmer from 1200 that was dropped on a homestead in 2017 would find nothing odd except that machinery involved if there was any present. Homesteaders farm based on the concept of a total loss of all equipment and a reduction to hands-on only.

I have lived on a homestead. Trust me or not as you will. It is a matter of physics and natural laws not a matter of modernization. One man growing a tomato plant in 1200 vs. one doing the same in 2017 is exactly the same. The difference between the two farms is the modern man has crops that are better domesticated for his time zone. I could grow crops not native to my time zone because I understood their needs and could work around them in good years and plan for failures due to extreme weather in bad years.

Harn's system is a completely made up set up by people who have never worked a farm or grown crops that supported their family. But, that is ok, a system is a system and we are not necessarily trying to be a technically accurate simulation. Rather were are trying to provide a system that those without any knowledge can reasonably pass the information to their players that has a consistent feel to it that violates nothing obvious. If a village has 80 men as its work pool, that settlement only needs about 400 acres in total in the real world to provide a very comfortable living. That does not give that community anything to sell, but on Harn only in Chybisa do they sell their food.

Manors on Harn have a lot of dead land, rock outcroppings, streams, dense woodlands and other uncleared lands and you might equate that to 50% of the total but that puts out a number of 800 acre for a empirical manor land contrasted to ~2500 for an in-game manor. To me, in game manor lands are three times to big at least and maybe 4 times. But, again I emphasize, it is not necessary to know this. A GM only need to have a rough and consistent calculating plan that applies to all manor's in their world.

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Re: land area and farm production

#15 Post by blackhorde » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:08 am

Caden Grace wrote:
Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:50 am
If a village has 80 men as its work pool, that settlement only needs about 400 acres in total in the real world to provide a very comfortable living.
So that is 5 acres per man right?
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Re: land area and farm production

#16 Post by pfstrack » Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:09 am

Caden Grace wrote:
Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:50 am
Rothesay wrote:
Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:45 am
There is a world of difference between modern yields and medieval yields. They are, in fact, not comparable. Harn numbers can only use medieval data, which is admittedly sparse. But anything after the agricultural revolution of the 18th century is near worthless as an analog for Harn.
The time matters in the minimum, meaning modern farmers can use a better designed crop or understanding of pest control but that is it. Homesteaders, preppers and even simple family farms DO NOT use modern methods and a farmer from 1200 that was dropped on a homestead in 2017 would find nothing odd except that machinery involved if there was any present. Homesteaders farm based on the concept of a total loss of all equipment and a reduction to hands-on only.

I have lived on a homestead. Trust me or not as you will. It is a matter of physics and natural laws not a matter of modernization. One man growing a tomato plant in 1200 vs. one doing the same in 2017 is exactly the same. The difference between the two farms is the modern man has crops that are better domesticated for his time zone. I could grow crops not native to my time zone because I understood their needs and could work around them in good years and plan for failures due to extreme weather in bad years.
Technology matters a LOT in food production. 12th and 21st century food production is vastly different. Crop yields per acre have changed dramatically over time. See for example this paper (p. 35):

www.basvanleeuwen.net/bestanden/agriclo ... to1850.pdf

Between 1250 and 1850, yield per acre increased roughly three-fold (exact numbers are in dispute, of course). Most modern homesteaders (including the Amish) are probably using at least 19th century farming techniques, which are much more productive than medieval techniques.

I am not claiming HarnManor is 100% accurate, but I agree completely with what Rothesay said. You simply cannot compare modern (or even near modern) agriculture to medieval agriculture and expect to get remotely realistic figures.

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Re: land area and farm production

#17 Post by Peter the skald » Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:49 pm

And I take issue with the phrase 'cannot compare'. 😆

A comparison can be used to highlight similarity OR difference. In fact putting things side by side is perhaps the best tool for examining difference. What people mean when they you cannot compare two things they usually mean 'they are not remotely similar' Ironically the best way to examine tis is by comparison itself 😅😈.

So come on world, you CAN, you MUST, compare different things....just to see if they EQUATE or not.
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Re: land area and farm production

#18 Post by pfstrack » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:34 am

Peter the skald wrote:
Sun Sep 24, 2017 10:49 pm
And I take issue with the phrase 'cannot compare'. 😆
You are right. I was more than a little worked up when I made the original post. You CAN compare modern to medieval agriculture, and obviously some things will translate. It would be more accurate to say that you shouldn't ONLY use information about modern (or near modern) agriculture without considering what conditions were actually like in the medieval period, because life was very different back then.

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Re: land area and farm production

#19 Post by Eder » Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:51 am

Caden Grace wrote:
Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:50 am
I have lived on a homestead. Trust me or not as you will. It is a matter of physics and natural laws not a matter of modernization. One man growing a tomato plant in 1200 vs. one doing the same in 2017 is exactly the same. The difference between the two farms is the modern man has crops that are better domesticated for his time zone. I could grow crops not native to my time zone because I understood their needs and could work around them in good years and plan for failures due to extreme weather in bad years.

Harn's system is a completely made up set up by people who have never worked a farm or grown crops that supported their family. But, that is ok, a system is a system and we are not necessarily trying to be a technically accurate simulation. Rather were are trying to provide a system that those without any knowledge can reasonably pass the information to their players that has a consistent feel to it that violates nothing obvious. If a village has 80 men as its work pool, that settlement only needs about 400 acres in total in the real world to provide a very comfortable living. That does not give that community anything to sell, but on Harn only in Chybisa do they sell their food.

Manors on Harn have a lot of dead land, rock outcroppings, streams, dense woodlands and other uncleared lands and you might equate that to 50% of the total but that puts out a number of 800 acre for a empirical manor land contrasted to ~2500 for an in-game manor. To me, in game manor lands are three times to big at least and maybe 4 times. But, again I emphasize, it is not necessary to know this. A GM only need to have a rough and consistent calculating plan that applies to all manor's in their world.
Actually, there are a number of things that should be considered.
First, Harn is sparsely populated. Plenty of land, not so many people. So it's ok to use two-field rotation, meaning more land than would be used by modern farmers.
Second, root crops are unknown on Harn. This means a significant reduction in productivity compared to modern farmers, too.
Third, it's not true that food is all consumed "locally", as it wasn't true in medieval times. You need to feed cities; you need to feed armies.
Fourth, you need to produce more than you actually consume to make up for bad years, to produce food that can be preserved, to produce food that is a status symbol. Remember: the lord of the manor might command about half the food resources of the entire fief for his own household.
Fifth, you do not only farm for food. Flax is a crucial crop, for example.

Finally, note that the "typical" manor is not 2500 acres. It's 1500 acres; of which some 20-30% might be waste or woodlands, so you are left with only 1200 cleared acres, of which some 600 might be for the villagers and 600 for the lord. Which is not too far from your 400 acres (keeping in mind what I said: two-field rotation, non-food crops, no root crops) for 50 working adults or so (I'd 25 households, each with 1 male adult working in the fields, 1 female working half-time in the household's vegetable garden, and another "half adult", possibly a young adolescent or elderly person e.g. tending the flocks etc.).

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Re: land area and farm production

#20 Post by pfstrack » Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:57 am

Since I went a little tirade on the topic, I think I ought to at least attempt to answer the original post, though to be honest I agree with everything Eder said in his initial response.

Hârn's human kingdoms have a total population of 640,000, and their manorial lands are made up of about 6 million acres. Not all manorial land is cultivated, however. About 20% of it is "waste": woodland, rocky terrain, etc. So number of cleared acres are about 4,800,000 or about 7.5 acres per person.

In comparison, England in the year 1086 had about 8 million acres under cultivation with a population of 1.7 million (from the Domesday book, exact estimates vary). This works out to about 4.7 actively cultivated acres per person. By 1250, England had about 12 million acres under cultivation with a population of 3.8 million, or 3.2 acres per person. Medieval England's per capita population was supported by fewer acres, but England used more land-efficient farming techniques than in Hârn, namely three-field crop rotation as opposed to Hârn's two-field rotation. Also note that estimates for medieval England vary by a LOT, so take the above figures with a grain of salt.

Going by HârnManor, it takes 20 acres to support a family of 5, 4 acres per person. Not every peasant family has this many acres. Some have more, and can sell their surplus. Others have less, and must work on their lord and neighbor's lands to feed their families (in effect, eating their neighbor's surplus). As Eder pointed out, given the fact that only half the land is planted each year, 2 acres per person goes to feeding the local population and supplying their other needs (paying taxes, housing clothing, etc.).

This leaves an "extra" 3 or 4 acres per person in most manors. Most of this "extra" land will be owned by the lord (part of the lord's demesne). Some of that will be devoted to food production to feed urban centers, others will be devoted to cash crops like flax or grazing land for sheep raised for their wool. If you play with the labor statistics in HârnManor, you quickly realize that Hârn doesn't have enough labor to maximize the productivity of most manors. A typical manor is "under capacity", and doesn't cultivate all of its available acres. Probably only about half of the "extra" land is actually productive, with only about 75% of each manor's lands used effectively due to lack of labor.

Note that, unlike Eder, I am not making a clear distinction between farmland and pasture. Pasture is a less land-efficient way of raising food, but is more labor-efficient (herding takes less work than farming, but uses more land). Therefore, I think Hârn should have relatively more pasture than medieval England, giving its lack of available labor. That points to a larger share of meat in the typical Hârnic diet compared than its terrestrial equivalents, but now I am getting very speculative. It's hard to judge exactly what the actual numbers should be, because Hârnic farmers would also need to cultivate hay to feed their animals over the winter, even considering the fact that most animals would be slaughtered in the fall. On the other hand, pasture manure would help replenish fallow farmland, so it all gets very complicated very quickly, beyond my level of knowledge.

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Re: land area and farm production

#21 Post by bbailey » Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:32 am

Caden Grace wrote:
Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:50 am
If a village has 80 men as its work pool, that settlement only needs about 400 acres in total in the real world to provide a very comfortable living. That does not give that community anything to sell, but on Harn only in Chybisa do they sell their food.
Where do you draw that conclusion from? The supply-and-demand charts in the kingdom modules show that the manors of many settlements import or export various foodstuffs (cattle, grain, sheep), although much of that is with other settlements in the kingdom. Kaldor and Chybisa as a whole export grain and the coastal kingdoms export fish.

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Re: land area and farm production

#22 Post by Shealladh » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:53 am

I have looked extensively at alot of medieval data on crops, sadly most source for gaming is way off.

Example: Three centuries of English crops yields, 1211-1491 : The Data

I cannot remember the best source of material to list here at this time, but if you dig enough you can find alot of translated doomday stuff and others around.

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Re: land area and farm production

#23 Post by Moncreiffe » Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:24 pm

There was considerable variation on medieval English manors. Some exceptionally well managed manors might in a very good year produce yields of 12:1. We know that some monastic farms managed yields comparable with the early agricultural revolution. But those were unusual--more typical yields were 3.5:1-4:1. Modern yields, even those from low-tech homestead farms, are pretty misleading, at least to the extent that historical sources allow us to guage these things.

Now whether anyone cares about these numbers for an rpg is another matter entirely.

Harn's population numbers are very low. Human societies tend to grow towards the carrying capacity of the land--something that the early modern demographic historians of the Cambridge group (Keith Wrightson, E.A. Wrigley, etc.) referred to as homeostasis. Its always bugged me, from a world building point of view. Its just a game, and from the micro perspective of the pcs likely makes little difference. But if we care about making the Harn setting more or less comparable to what we know from economic/demographic medieval sources, something is seriously out of whack. Lower than historical crop yields (ie. a lower carrying capacity for the land) might be one way of bringing Harn back in line with historical analogs. I am sure this has been discussed before--the disparity is so glaring, I can't possibly be the only one bugged by it. Can anyone summarize the earlier conversation?

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Re: land area and farm production

#24 Post by Moncreiffe61 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:01 pm

OK--my memory is faulty. I did a literature review, examining the Agricultural history and Economic history literature on JSTOR for the last forty odd years for medieval English crop yields.

For an average year, yields were about double what I posted above. There is some variation by region, and harvest years varied considerably. For the period around 1250, wheat yields were about 10:1. In a bad year, they could be a lot lower.

Barley yields were somewhat lower, maybe 8:1.

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Re: land area and farm production

#25 Post by Krazma » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:46 pm

Moncreiffe wrote:
Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:24 pm
Can anyone summarize the earlier conversation?
Here's a few threads to check out. Please keep any replies on the population topic in one of those threads, or start a new one if you prefer.

http://www.lythia.com/forum/viewtopic.p ... on#p222100

http://www.lythia.com/forum/viewtopic.p ... population

http://www.lythia.com/forum/viewtopic.p ... on#p213812

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