Food Production of Dwarf Kingdoms

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Eriol_Eandur

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#1
I heard about some discussion was going on on discord about how dwarfs farmed their food. Discord is not really suited for such discussion (I missed it and I can't find it now that I know of) but it seems quite important to me. So I'd like to start a discussion here or if you think the discussion on discords as already finished and sufficient, please post the results here so we can refer to them later.

I don't know any lore about food production by dwarf and only found one mentioning of elvish farms (at Nargothrond) so I think we are quite free in this point.

Aside from lore accuracy we decided to aim for realism, so here are some facts I found:
  • Almost all plants are using photosyntesis to grow and gain energy. There are a few exceptions which are parasitic from other plants or fungi. Photosysntesis doesn't require sun light. You can grow plants under artificial light. Main problem is that most plants need A LOT of light.
  • Fungi don't need light to grow and are of similar nutritious value as vegetables to humans. Fungi get their energy from decomposing organic materials.

I see these options for dwarven food production:
  1. Underground farming of fungi. Seems very reasonable to me just requires to bring in organic materials (wood for example)
  2. Underground farming of plants. Seems somewhat reasonable to me as the dwarfs were able to illuminate the huge halls of Moria with their lamps. So why not using these lamps for plants.
  3. Surface farming of plants. Seems somewhat reasonable to me at the West Gate of Moria. At the East Gate the terrain is too mountainous.
  4. Trading foods with humans and elves. Seems most reasonable to me. Dwarfs were mainly miners and craftmen so they had goods which were high valued by elves and men. But what should they trade for their products? There were quite some humans east and west of Misty mountains in first half of Third Age and the dwarfs of Moria were always friendly with elves.
Did I miss anything? Additional information and constructive feedback is very welcome.

Let's try to make a compressed collection of information here and not an expanded thread of fun comments. If you agree with something just like the post instead of replying unless you want to add some information.
 

RubenPieterMark

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#2
Hello all.

There is a cave in Moria, with farming fields. Basically there are farming lots with grey bushes and red berries. There is no light source in the cave. I'll post several points on why I think this is not okay, and I'll explain alternatives to food resources.

  1. Every plant needs sunlight.
Every plant needs sunlight. As said above, there is no light source in the cave. Do all plants really need sunlight? Yes. What about mushrooms? Mushrooms are no plants (Plantae) but Fungi. Mushrooms also don't need sunlight, they can grow with almost zero light. (Sun)light does significantly increase the growth though. But anyways, we weren't talking about mushrooms but about crops. All crops (plants) need sunlight. The sun sends energy in the form of photons to the chlorophyll, which turns the energy of the sun, carbon-oxide and water into oxygen and glucose. You all probably already know this, and that it's called photosynthesis, but there are several problems in Moria that would obstruct this process. The necessary carbon-oxide is not a problem, there would probably be a lot of CO2 in Moria, because of the lack of plants and the forges. The needed energy from the sun however, would cause a major problem and would make it impossible to grow any crop in Moria. There is no air hole, so a natural light source is not in question. Even if there was a hole, it would not nearly provide enough light to effectively grow any crops.
Now some people will say: what about fires or the crystal chandeliers? Light comes in different waves and the wavelength of sunlight is unique. Every plant on earth has adapted itself to it. The wavelength from fire is very different, and the light of the crystals would definitely have been different as well, so that's out of question as well. The crystals or fires would not have provided enough light anyways.

2. Soil

This issue would not be an issue as much as much as sunlight, but still it would make farming in Moria quite impossible. As kid you have probably grown cress in cotton wool. Cress is quite an exception, that it needs so little nutrients and minerals. But it still needs a soil to root in and that can hold water. Very few plants can grow on bare rocks, and no crops. In fact rocks are probably the most horrid places for plants to grow on.
But oh well, couldn't the Dwarves just have imported some sand from outside? Yes they could have. They wouldn't have a lack of water either. The issue here would be the nutrients. This problem could have been fixed as well though, by fertilizing the soil with dung from their stables. This would not be convenient, but not a major problem.

Now I will address some arguments I've heard from various people, supporting the idea of Dwarven farms.

"How would they get food then?"
This is a very good point, but Tolkien explained this quite elaborately. Wherever Dwarves settled, they always seemed to have set up an alliance with men (sometimes Elves and Hobbits) and even encouraged men to settle near their halls. Examples: Ered Luin (TA) with the Shire, Erebor with Dale (the Dwarves of Erebor even helped the Dalians to construct their town), Ered Luin (FA) with Elves of Beleriand, Avari and first men in Eriador. The Dwarves of Moria were mentioned having trading relations with many folks of the Vales of the Anduin, and later with the Elves of Eregion. So that is really the way the Dwarves got food, trading.
In “The Quest for Erebor” in Unfinished Tales Gandalf notes that Thorin dismisses the Shire-folk as “food-growers” who live on either side of the Dwarves’ ancient road. In another passage he admonishes Gloin not to mistake the hobbits’ generosity (in their dealings with Dwarves) for simple-mindedness or gullibility. In the essay “Dwarves and Men”, published in The Peoples of Middle-earth, Tolkien noted that the Dwarves preferred to trade for their foodstuffs with neighboring peoples.

I will talk a bit more on this, and the problems that will come with this. What if Moria was under siege? Well the besiegers would not have a big chance, because the Dwarves of Moria were just too populous and too well armed, and had allies across Middle-earth. But still they could try to starve them out, right? Yeah, kind of, but then again, with a mighty charge out, the attackers would be screwed. But yes, there is a threat that the food supplies would be cut off for years. A solution to this would be laarge, hermetically sealed granaries. As Eriol pointed out a while before, wheat stays much longer good than ground flour. So the Dwarves would want to store the grain as long as possible ungrinded, and they would also have large watermill complexes for the grinding, instead of importing already ground flour. In fact, the Fellowship thought it heard a water wheel turn in Moria, so this is even supported in the canon.

Another argument I heard is: "There were farms, he shouldn't doubt the planning. Every people had farming technology, even Dwarves."
I don't have much else to say to this than that I disagree. Not every people has farming technologies, the Inuit for example did not have farming techniques. This is not by lack of technology, like with some peoples in Africa, but by the impossible circumstances, just like with Dwarves.

I hope the people that the leaders of Moria (I'll @ you @Despot666 @Finrod_Amandil ) will take this in consideration. If you agree with this, I think the fix would not be too great of a deal. The farming cave could become the wheat storage and the watermill complex could be planned in somewhere random.
 

RubenPieterMark

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#3
I heard about some discussion was going on on discord about how dwarfs farmed their food. Discord is not really suited for such discussion (I missed it and I can't find it now that I know of) but it seems quite important to me. So I'd like to start a discussion here or if you think the discussion on discords as already finished and sufficient, please post the results here so we can refer to them later.

I don't know any lore about food production by dwarf and only found one mentioning of elvish farms (at Nargothrond) so I think we are quite free in this point.

Aside from lore accuracy we decided to aim for realism, so here are some facts I found:
  • Almost all plants are using photosyntesis to grow and gain energy. There are a few exceptions which are parasitic from other plants or fungi. Photosysntesis doesn't require sun light. You can grow plants under artificial light. Main problem is that most plants need A LOT of light.
  • Fungi don't need light to grow and are of similar nutritious value as vegetables to humans. Fungi get their energy from decomposing organic materials.

I see these options for dwarven food production:
  1. Underground farming of fungi. Seems very reasonable to me just requires to bring in organic materials (wood for example)
  2. Underground farming of plants. Seems somewhat reasonable to me as the dwarfs were able to illuminate the huge halls of Moria with their lamps. So why not using these lamps for plants.
  3. Surface farming of plants. Seems somewhat reasonable to me at the West Gate of Moria. At the East Gate the terrain is too mountainous.
  4. Trading foods with humans and elves. Seems most reasonable to me. Dwarfs were mainly miners and craftmen so they had goods which were high valued by elves and men. But what should they trade for their products? There were quite some humans east and west of Misty mountains in first half of Third Age and the dwarfs of Moria were always friendly with elves.
Did I miss anything? Additional information and constructive feedback is very welcome.

Let's try to make a compressed collection of information here and not an expanded thread of fun comments. If you agree with something just like the post instead of replying unless you want to add some information.
Ah I hadn't read this yet when I posted my thread, maybe a moderator could merge these topics? Farming in Moria.
 

Eriol_Eandur

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#4
Plants does not need sunlight, they just need (blue or red) light.
The wavelength of sunlight is opposite of unique, it contains all wavelenths of the visual range and also large parts of the adjacent infrared and ultraviolett ranges. Incandescent light sources also emmit a wide range of wavelengths.
On the other hand Chlorophyll which is the active molecule in photosynthesis absorbs a wide range of wavelengths. Basically all visible wavelength except range of green light. This light is reflected and makes leaves look green.
That's why it is possible to grow Cannabis secretly indoors. The real world problem is just the amount of light needed by the plants. But dwarfs with their obviously very powerful lamps could do it.

I agree very much that trading should be the main source of food for dwarfs. Large underground fields with lamps would be much more costly than simple trading.

But I don't think that some fields for food production during sieges would be unrealistic. To me the just seem a bit unfitting for dwarfs :p
 

Finrod_Amandil

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#5
Thanks for the input Ruben. I agree with eriol that trading should be the main source of food; there will be a lot of farming in the Vale of the Anduin to accomodate for that. But I think it's worth considering some sort of food production within Moria. There is a note that when Sauron started the sack of Eregion the dwarves closed their doors to keep the enemy outside: Moria - Tolkien Gateway. The wiki suspects that they completely closed themselves off from the outside world (not only closing the doors to Eregion) and that the seclusion lasted until the war of the last alliance which would be a stunning 1700 years which they definitely could not survive even with massive storages. However I check the referenced source briefly and all it states is that in 1697SA "The gates of Moria are shut.", but nothing else. It could be something else instead of crops, if there is something edible that could be produced in these circumstances.
 

Merluin

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#6
Plants does not need sunlight, they just need (blue or red) light.
The wavelength of sunlight is opposite of unique, it contains all wavelenths of the visual range and also large parts of the adjacent infrared and ultraviolett ranges. Incandescent light sources also emmit a wide range of wavelengths.
On the other hand Chlorophyll which is the active molecule in photosynthesis absorbs a wide range of wavelengths. Basically all visible wavelength except range of green light. This light is reflected and makes leaves look green.
That's why it is possible to grow Cannabis secretly indoors. The real world problem is just the amount of light needed by the plants. But dwarfs with their obviously very powerful lamps could do it.

I agree very much that trading should be the main source of food for dwarfs. Large underground fields with lamps would be much more costly than simple trading.

But I don't think that some fields for food production during sieges would be unrealistic. To me the just seem a bit unfitting for dwarfs :p
Lol, I have a test about that tomorrow

So yh the photosynthesis part is tru
 

Smaug_Niphredil

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#8
Mîm the dwarf from the Children of Húrin had a special root plant that only dwarves knew about. I can't remember what it was called or where it grew but I know that it was a very good food source.
 

Eriol_Eandur

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#9
They had no name. Mim and his sons gathered them in the wild. Doesn't seem like someting as big as Moria could make use of.
 

HeartseekerDK

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#10
They shut themselves off to Eregion, but not to other sources of food production. The fact that they shut the doors to the rest of Eriador for so long should indicate that they had other entrances to bring in supplies, and not the opposite.

Here's what it takes to be totally secluded:

A whole system of advanced underground farming, a rare plant species that doesn't require light but can feed a whole colony of dwarves, a huge leap in technology such as UV lights, a whole new aspect of lore, magic crystals, or a list of possibilities and improbabilities in order to make total seclusion possible.

Here's what it takes to prove they weren't totally secluded:

They had food, they had another entrance besides the western gate.

Why go through several questionable hoops to prove the first hypothesis when you have the perfectly reasonable second?
 

Despot666

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#12
You guys are no fun. I say magic rings are physically and rationally impossible. Also flying ships. Burning demon-like creatures too. HA.



"Farming" caves were disgned mostly to keep diversity within project and add something interesting to it; break a sequence of halls, etc. There were not the main food source. More like secondary one. As for arguments saying its impossible - for us. We do not even know the most of the depths of our oceans...
 

HeartseekerDK

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#13
Oh sure, there is magic. But what makes the magic so fantastical? A grounded reality where miraculous things aren't an every day occurrence.

Extravagant uses of magic weren't commonplace and this doesn't just include magic.

So why use magic as a straw-man to deflect criticism towards something that not even magic should be needed to explain away? Lol.

The reason why staples of food diet are often grains like barley, corn, oats, wheat, rice, lentils, etc are because they are cheap and easy sources of filling carbohydrates that are yielded by the plant converting water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight to what is essentially a form of sugar. Without those carbohydrates, a plant is essentially unable to become a staple of dietary need. So without access to a staple carbohydrates and without access to anything other than curred meat, which I doubt would last hundreds of years. What would the poor dwarves eat? Nothing beats magic and fantasy out like a good ole caloric deficiency.
 
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Ardelenia

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#14
I am sure we had this discussion before, near or before the start of moria. Weren't the textures for blue stained glass and green terra-cotta supposed to be something like lenses and mirrors, with the purpose of providing sunlight for farms? Of course, that would only be logical near the top of moria in the upper few levels, and you would not have sunlight for long given the mountainous location. Still, I think it would be reasonable to have a relatively small number of plant farms, to supplement traded items and fungi. We can pretend that they are shade-loving cultivars or exotic equivalents to other grains/plants that don't need much sunlight.

Relatedly, are we to take it that they raised animals in the caves too? Or was the meat all traded as well? Who knows, perhaps they ate blind cave crickets!
 

ryttyr

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#15
Something they might have actually had is fisheries. We know that there are underground lakes with fish in them present in the Misty Mountains. Granted that was further up the mountain range and thus doesn't necessarily have anything to do with Moria but we know that there's potential for underground lakes that can support aquatic lifeforms underneath Moria. Whilst such lakes would not be anywhere near enough to support the entire dwarf population with fish other than as a rare luxury I do believe that's exactly what it would be. As there is no practical waterways that leads to Moria they'd only be able to trade locally or with trade caravans and fish is not something you can haul over land for days and still keep fresh so the potential lakes beneath Moria (or well... probably in Moria, considering its depth) would be the dwarves' only source of fish and other aquatic foods.
However whilst this would be an interesting and believable thing to build in Moria it still wouldn't solve our dwarf nourishment problems.
 
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