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Old 09-25-2010, 08:51 PM
Mule Skinner Mule Skinner is offline
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Default How big is a subsistence farm?



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Assuming a family of four, in a four-seasons climate with good rainfall: how much acreage would they need to be self-sufficient in food?
Old 09-25-2010, 09:32 PM
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Assuming a family of four, in a four-seasons climate with good rainfall: how much acreage would they need to be self-sufficient in food?
That's a really hard question to answer without more detail (even then it's still hard).

You'd need to know specific soil conditions, micro-climate details, and the type of diet and animals you'd intend to raise and whether or not you're going to use power machinery and store-bought (hybrid) seed, fertilizer and pesticides.

If you're planning on eating any kind of red meat for protien, you're going to need a lot more land. If you're not going to bring in (buy) fodder for the animals, you're going to need a lot more land. If you're going to heat the house with timber, you'll need a wood lot also.

I'd want, as a general guideline, at least 5 (probably more) acres per adult, not including the house, eating mostly a vegetarian diet (unless hunting for most of your meat) and buying hybrid seeds and commercial fertilizers and peticides. You'll still probably need to horse trade for some basics that you can't grow...sugar, salt, spices, etc. and to do that you'll need surplus produce from you land. You won't likely have any.
Old 09-25-2010, 09:49 PM
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If you rule out any area with droughts [Far-West, mid-west, South], I could see 40 acres.

But if you were subject to an annual drought season, or a cyclic drought pattern [like every 4 -6 years] then it would certainly required more.

Assuming average or better soil, and you had 5 to 10-years before hand to prep the farm and make it ready to support you.

No matter where you go; if you have less than 5 years, before you expect it to support you, then you will likely starve.

If you never experience a drought, then after 7 to 10 years all fruit trees would be in production, fences built, house built, crop land cleared and enough micro-organisms living in the soil to support annual crops.
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Old 09-25-2010, 10:09 PM
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The communist doctrine was 1.5 acres per person, how did that work out for them?

So much going on with that but 80 acres would be a good start if you wanted to farm raise stock and possible make extra money off it. That is if it is paid for.

Truck farming some folks can manage about $5000 and acre in sales of produce but I think really about $1200 an acre is more likely. That is with work. I cleared $3600 on 2 acres of garden this year, plus stored a lot for the family about 7 months worth of food for 6.

As for just feeding your self well it takes work more than acreage 2 acres will make allot of produce for you to store.

Now if you want protein then what is the grazing ratio for your area? Around here 8 acres for one cow. One cow would be say 600# of meat a year of its off spring. which means 16 to 24 acres to keep one beef in production a year. A goat or sheep require about 2 acres but you get less protein.


Then if you want fruit trees or nut trees you need to figure room for those. Growing hay unless you are going to buy feed in the winter.

Get want land you can, then make it work for you.
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Old 09-25-2010, 10:13 PM
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id say you could do fine on 5-10 acres if you are a good manager of things chickens need minimal maintenence pigs are living waiste food disposals

and if you plant things that have high yealds like greans wich cn be grown almost year round in cold frames and mushrooms can be grown on logs and come back for several years ect its doable
Old 09-27-2010, 11:11 PM
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Here in the Deep South, people my age (61) are just about two generations away from living in a semi-subsistence economy. My grandparents, married in about 1908, probably produced 60% of what they consumed. They would buy staples, sugar, coffee, flour, salt, and other spices. They raised hogs and chickens for meat, and kept one or two milk cows. They "went to mill" periodically, and had corn ground into corn meal. I remember my Granny drying copious amounts of fruit, peaches, apples, pears, figs, by slicing them thin and putting them on screen wire on the South facing roof of the house. They "put up" (canned) jars and jars and jars of corn, beans, tomatoes, soup mix, peas, butterbeans, etc. They hung up bags and bags of dry peas and butterbeans in a crib. These were for seed and consumption. Hams, shoulders, sides, and sausage hung in the smoke house. That's where the salt comes in, because you can't cure meat without salt. My Granddaddy was probably farming 30 or 40 acres.

Now, how to do that today? Here in S Georgia, I could feed a family of four or five if I had a small diesel tractor, 150 gallons of diesel fuel per year, and a few pieces of equipment. You might think you are going to do it with a mule, but remember, mules need corn, and they have to be fed 12 months per year. They get sick and die. A good diesel tractor (30 or so hp) should last two lifetimes under this usage, with minimal problems. Diesel can be stockpiled. Acreage? It depends on whether you want to raise livestock. Cows are probably out. It takes a couple of acres of good pasture for a cow and a calf here. Goats, chickens, and probably a few pigs are the best bet. I would say 15 acres minimum. Five acres of corn. At 20 bushels per acre, that will probably feed out a sow and a litter of pigs. Hopefully, yields will be a little better. Your family needs to get used to eating a lot of peas, both fresh and dried. Where I live, I can get two crops of peas and a crop of greens off the same land. Around here, greens are also a staple crop. I can have greens to eat here 10 months out of the year. Turnips, collards, and cabbage. There is a place for fruit trees, but they aren't going to produce a lot of food usable throughout the year per acre, unless you really spend a lot of time canning and drying. Sweet potatoes are a crop that can be grown in the summer and stored through the winter, and are a good protein source. High yielders, too. Probably an overlooked crop here in the South for subsistence is peanuts. Very easy to dry and store, and a good source of protein and fat. A strong consideration is that Southern Peas and peanuts are legumes. They fix nitrogen in the soil. Crops like greens planted after peanuts require less N fertilizer. Crops planted the next year after peanuts, like corn, also make use of the fixed N. Take corn to mill to have it ground. Buy flour, sugar, coffee, tea, and other spices. Oh, it will take an average of 300 lbs of commercial 5-10-15 fertilizer per acre, plus some supplemental nitrogen, or at least 1/2 ton per acre of chicken house (broiler) litter.

I have read a lot of accounts of British and New England travelers going through this part of the South. They were appalled at what poor stewards of the land Southern farmers were. They weren't used to the loooong growing seasons we have, nor the areas of pretty good soil. Most Southern farmers of this period (late 1700s early 1800s) were "land poor." They could turn livestock out in the woods, then catch them up and feed them ear corn for a month or two, and slaughter fat stock. This was impossible in the climates these travelers were used to.

All this to say that we in the South have a tremendous advantage over most of the rest of the country when it comes to subsistence farming.
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Old 09-28-2010, 12:02 AM
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Water is the real question. Most places in the US you can feed a family on not a lot of land if you have water. It is so key. Believe me after 10 years of farming in drought, I know.
None of the answers you get here will be very correct because land varies by region and climate. The hard fact is you can only work so many acres and a garden is a lot of work. If you have sprays and equipment you can farm a lot of acres. If you are trying to do it with just a rototiller or less you will find a couple of acres to be all your family can manage.
I know a guy with a greenhouse that raises tomatoes. He sells $100 worth of tomatoes per plant. If you are innovative you can do what ever you want on a small acreage.
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Old 09-28-2010, 12:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levelfarmer View Post
Here in the Deep South, people my age (61) are just about two generations away from living in a semi-subsistence economy. My grandparents, married in about 1908, probably produced 60% of what they consumed. They would buy staples, sugar, coffee, flour, salt, and other spices. They raised hogs and chickens for meat, and kept one or two milk cows. They "went to mill" periodically, and had corn ground into corn meal. I remember my Granny drying copious amounts of fruit, peaches, apples, pears, figs, by slicing them thin and putting them on screen wire on the South facing roof of the house. They "put up" (canned) jars and jars and jars of corn, beans, tomatoes, soup mix, peas, butterbeans, etc. They hung up bags and bags of dry peas and butterbeans in a crib. These were for seed and consumption. Hams, shoulders, sides, and sausage hung in the smoke house. That's where the salt comes in, because you can't cure meat without salt. My Granddaddy was probably farming 30 or 40 acres.

Now, how to do that today? Here in S Georgia, I could feed a family of four or five if I had a small diesel tractor, 150 gallons of diesel fuel per year, and a few pieces of equipment. You might think you are going to do it with a mule, but remember, mules need corn, and they have to be fed 12 months per year. They get sick and die. A good diesel tractor (30 or so hp) should last two lifetimes under this usage, with minimal problems. Diesel can be stockpiled. Acreage? It depends on whether you want to raise livestock. Cows are probably out. It takes a couple of acres of good pasture for a cow and a calf here. Goats, chickens, and probably a few pigs are the best bet. I would say 15 acres minimum. Five acres of corn. At 20 bushels per acre, that will probably feed out a sow and a litter of pigs. Hopefully, yields will be a little better. Your family needs to get used to eating a lot of peas, both fresh and dried. Where I live, I can get two crops of peas and a crop of greens off the same land. Around here, greens are also a staple crop. I can have greens to eat here 10 months out of the year. Turnips, collards, and cabbage. There is a place for fruit trees, but they aren't going to produce a lot of food usable throughout the year per acre, unless you really spend a lot of time canning and drying. Sweet potatoes are a crop that can be grown in the summer and stored through the winter, and are a good protein source. High yielders, too. Probably an overlooked crop here in the South for subsistence is peanuts. Very easy to dry and store, and a good source of protein and fat. A strong consideration is that Southern Peas and peanuts are legumes. They fix nitrogen in the soil. Crops like greens planted after peanuts require less N fertilizer. Crops planted the next year after peanuts, like corn, also make use of the fixed N. Take corn to mill to have it ground. Buy flour, sugar, coffee, tea, and other spices. Oh, it will take an average of 300 lbs of commercial 5-10-15 fertilizer per acre, plus some supplemental nitrogen, or at least 1/2 ton per acre of chicken house (broiler) litter.

I have read a lot of accounts of British and New England travelers going through this part of the South. They were appalled at what poor stewards of the land Southern farmers were. They weren't used to the loooong growing seasons we have, nor the areas of pretty good soil. Most Southern farmers of this period (late 1700s early 1800s) were "land poor." They could turn livestock out in the woods, then catch them up and feed them ear corn for a month or two, and slaughter fat stock. This was impossible in the climates these travelers were used to.

All this to say that we in the South have a tremendous advantage over most of the rest of the country when it comes to subsistence farming.
Good comments. A lot depends on how much precip and if you have to pay off the land based on you crops and livestock, or if the land was bought for cash and you are just growing food.

In the western ozarks we get 40-50 inches precip and I could feed four people on 15-20 acres with a large garden, orchard, grain crops, and small livestock.

Second the advise on the diesel tractor.
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Old 10-01-2010, 07:09 PM
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Have more plan is based on 8 acres.
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Old 10-06-2010, 11:39 PM
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aquaponics, 6 year rotation garden...lot smaller area than you might think. plenty new Austrlians, especially Greek Italian, Eastern Block nations and Asian folk run large house holds on one acre.

I like aquaponics set ups & 6 year rotation gardens can get just about chemical free and they don't take up a lot of room. Now if you're going to make ethanol to get around on etc well yeah you're going to need more room...plenty of hippysstill living on guinea pigs, rabbits and home grown fruit and vegetables. Depends what you think you can and would like to live on.
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Old 10-07-2010, 06:49 AM
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aquaponics, 6 year rotation garden...lot smaller area than you might think. plenty new Austrlians, especially Greek Italian, Eastern Block nations and Asian folk run large house holds on one acre.

I like aquaponics set ups & 6 year rotation gardens can get just about chemical free and they don't take up a lot of room. Now if you're going to make ethanol to get around on etc well yeah you're going to need more room...plenty of hippysstill living on guinea pigs, rabbits and home grown fruit and vegetables. Depends what you think you can and would like to live on.
isnt that a bit technology and fertilizer/energy intensive maby im thinking of something different
Old 10-07-2010, 12:06 PM
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isnt that a bit technology and fertilizer/energy intensive maby im thinking of something different
Solar pumps are cheap. Around $30.00

You can also use a gravity or labor intensive method, but you loose efficiency.

To feed the fish, you simply install a 3.00 solar light in your fish tank. At night it will cut on, and bugs will fly into the water. Fish eat bugs, bugs don't eat your plants. Win Win.
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Old 10-08-2010, 05:41 PM
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an ld rule of thumb, 3-4 people per acre of decent land imo
but again it depends on your location and the such
Old 10-08-2010, 05:59 PM
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There are so many variables, quality and amount of top soil, growing season, winter temps, days of sunshine, precipitation (both rain and snow and their timing as well as amount), irrigation water availability and quality, topography, etc., then there's how much do the "farmers" know about growing crops, raising livestock, etc.??
Some people can live quite well on two or three acres for a family of four, others would starve on 40 acres or even 100.
We have more than ten, less than 20 acres, and do fine in our climate.
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Old 10-08-2010, 07:21 PM
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To me it's more about work and knowledge than just pure acreage.
Set up 1 acre well and have all the things it needs to grow right, it'll put out better than 8.

It all takes a lot of work. Put work into the ground, you can turn a plot of dirt into something that will grow.
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Old 10-08-2010, 08:47 PM
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I seem to remember an article in Mother Earth News that described a 4 acre farm that would serve a family of 4. Maybe you could google micro-farms or something like that!
Old 10-08-2010, 08:56 PM
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No matter how many acres you have it would be a lot of work for a family of 4 to do the work needed to be self sufficient without modern equipment.
Old 10-08-2010, 09:16 PM
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an ld rule of thumb, 3-4 people per acre of decent land imo
but again it depends on your location and the such
3-4 people per acre is only possible even at good locations if all eat 'nearly-vegan'.

Substantial meat and dairy consumption reguires at least 1.5 to 2.5 acres per person even on good sites and that is only if thinking short-term. Longterm look at 10 to 15 acres per person.
Old 10-09-2010, 01:09 AM
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I do suppose more beats less.
Old 10-10-2010, 09:22 AM
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Smaller acre will require irragtion in most places. Irragation systems for the most part are reliant on modern engineering and power systems. If you have the water avalble to irragate and you are not relying on the grid to get it then you can get alot for a little.

I do not have irragation and will work under the asumption that an irragation system will fail, in my area that is the case. For that reason I have a larger garden with a higher plant poplualtion to get the yields I desire.

Would love an artisian well bubbling water out of the ground, but I dont have it. So I will do it the way my grand dad did, plant more to get more. Pray for rain, start the day with an Azada.
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