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Old 05-25-2011, 05:43 PM
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Default Acreage needed for subsistence farm



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I'm in coastal North Carolina. Does anyone know the approximate amount of acreage SF for a subsistence farm for 4 people? I realize there will be many variables, I'm not looking for anything precise, wild assed guesses are welcome, I'm just doing some "what if" long range planning, tree removal, land clearing, etc.
Old 05-25-2011, 06:05 PM
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http://ask.metafilter.com/77287/How-...-a-person-need

This could help.
Old 05-25-2011, 08:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admiral Nelson View Post
I'm in coastal North Carolina. Does anyone know the approximate amount of acreage SF for a subsistence farm for 4 people? I realize there will be many variables, I'm not looking for anything precise, wild assed guesses are welcome, I'm just doing some "what if" long range planning, tree removal, land clearing, etc.
The definition of subsistence is a little different for each person...what's yours? By that, what exactly do you want to be able to do with yours?
Old 05-25-2011, 09:03 PM
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One acre of rich ground will grow a tremendous amount of vegetables if you preserve the food. To add grains for humans and livestock much more is needed, probably another 5 acres. Pasture and hay for livestock probably 2 or 3 acres per cow year around in NC. Add an orchard, another acre or two. Woodlot another 5-10 acres.
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Old 05-25-2011, 09:40 PM
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I get enough for 3 on a quarter acre.
Old 05-25-2011, 09:46 PM
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call your local stock and station agent, or go to your local stock feed or farming store, we have Wrightsons and Elders merchants here and I don't know the names over there -

and ask. find out how much land a stock unit takes in your locale. Find out your local average rainfall. Dig up a bit of dirt. Is it rocky? Is it fertile? So many variables nobody can just give you a number. did you buy land on top of a mountain or in a valley?
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Old 05-25-2011, 10:14 PM
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I can only go by the research I've done as I have little practical experience, but to include meat production on the farm it requires about 2 acres per person, with a minimum of about 15 acres for the first 5 people. This includes growing grains for human consumption; grains, hay, and pasture for the stock; acerage for production of sugar (sugar beets) and cooking oil (canola), a fruit and nut orchard, berry patches, vegetable garden, a milk cow, feeder calf, 2 hogs, and 40 chickens. There would be some excess production that could be sold, but there are certain minimums that must be done to have any at all, such as the milk.

Just my thoughts on the matter.
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Old 05-25-2011, 10:24 PM
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32 acres for 4 people. It was true a century ago it is true in India today. Now... if you add a tractor, and commercial fertilizer and plants and pesticides that number drops.
Old 05-25-2011, 10:33 PM
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1 acre would work for pure survival, the more land you have, the more comfortable you will be but the more you would have to protect...just sayin
Old 05-25-2011, 10:53 PM
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tossing animals/livestock out the window, 1-1.5 acres of good land will grow enough food for 4 people to survive off of. but adding in animals, it increases dramatically. 2-3 acres per cow is a good estimate. plus throw in grain crop for chickens and the such, and things increase quickly.
Old 05-25-2011, 11:09 PM
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Forty acres and a mule.

Seriously. Go to a library and find books written by and about people who lived in your area from 1850 to 1900. I would guess, as was the case in Middle/South Georgia, most farms were subsistence with a few surplus crops for sale, or maybe one "cash crop" like cotton. One set of my Grandparents were basically subsistence farmers. I am 62 years old, and I remember them milking cows, churning butter, keeping chickens and taking up eggs, growing vegetables for canning. (No electricity, so they didn't freeze stuff.) They usually bought flour for biscuits and other baking by the 25 lb/50 lb bag, bought stuff like sugar, salt, coffee, and spices. They butchered hogs in the winter and cured the meat. They dried fruit (peaches, apples, figs) in the sun. They fished out of the creek, and Granddaddy kept rabbit boxes set from about Thanksgiving until Easter. They would "go to mill" periodically to have hand-shelled corn ground into corn meal. They had a corn crib where hand-pulled corn was stored on the cob to be fed to livestock, and some shelled for human consumption. There were wild plums in the spring for eating and making jelly. There were peaches just about all summer. We are in the middle of GA's peach producing area. There were watermelons most of the summer. There were sweet potatoes to be cured and "hilled out" for consumption all winter. There was wood to be hauled for heating and cooking. It was a full time job.

I came in just on the tail-end of those days. By the time I was 12 years old (1960) they had electricity, running water, and a refrigerator. There were still plenty of people who produced most of what they consumed here in rural S Georgia on up into the late 60s.

To answer your question, I would say 40 to 50 acres, depending on soil fertility. That is assuming a fifty acre farm will have about 30-35 tillable acres, 5-10 acres in lots for animals, and five or so acres in buildings, home, etc. A lot also depends on climate. "Coastal North Carolina" takes in a pretty good area. If you are on the Southern end, you will have a longer growing season. Down here, we can get two or even three crops off the same soil. We can plant a patch of grain in late October, after a crop of corn or beans, start grazing that grain in late February, and mid-May pull the animals off and plant a summer crop. Generally speaking, on the east coast of the US, the further South you are, the fewer acres subsistence farming would require.
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Old 05-25-2011, 11:14 PM
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It depends a lot on how and what your doing.

Right now I know a few people who are farming on 3 to 5 acres. Small groups from 2 to 6 people, who produce food and sell at market. In each case they feed themselves, and produce enough to financially support themselves.

4 adults 4 to 5 acres.

But if you want to remove marketing, try to produce everything yourself: food, fuel, fiber, and herbs ... then you may need a bit more.
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Old 05-25-2011, 11:17 PM
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The Traditional Answer in days gone by was 40 acres and a mule. With modern farming techniques some practical experience and book learning you can probably cut that down to 2 or 3 acres (basic subsistence no meat that is not fished or hunted) and 10 to 15 with meat and dairy raised on site.
Old 05-25-2011, 11:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admiral Nelson View Post
I'm in coastal North Carolina. Does anyone know the approximate amount of acreage SF for a subsistence farm for 4 people? I realize there will be many variables, I'm not looking for anything precise, wild assed guesses are welcome, I'm just doing some "what if" long range planning, tree removal, land clearing, etc.
Have more plan was based on 4 acres.
Old 05-26-2011, 08:40 AM
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A close friend of mine has done well the past 15 years with 2 acres [his funeral is Saturday]. He had a small tractor with a rototiller attached. He did beds of gladiolus, leeks and kohlrabi. He has been a member of a local Farmers Market since 1995, selling these crops.

While he was not 'self-sufficient', he did earn enough from his 2 acres to support his family.

I see many others who do not have a tractor, but only use hand tools and organic methods.

In this area small-scale off-grid sustainable organic operations are slowly gaining popularity.
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Old 05-26-2011, 09:24 AM
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Thanks for the replies. If I keep any livestock it would be minimal. I have chickens currently just for eggs. I live on a tidal creek and will have an abundance of crabs, shrimp, oysters, fish, etc. I will definitely be drying and smoking fish to preserve.
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Old 05-26-2011, 09:47 AM
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In the area where I grew up, I saw many examples of hand-crank dredges. Like a steel scoop, cables, and a winch or windlass. Living on a tidal pool, you may wish to consider dragging up 1 yard of that silt each year. It should be very rich soil.

Recently at the Common Grounds fair [a gathering of Organics, off-grid, sustainable homesteaders] I saw where a guy had made such a scoop from a car hood.
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Old 05-26-2011, 04:00 PM
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In "Farmers of 20 Centuries", which covers traditional farming practiced in China, Japan and Korea, 1 acre for a family your size. That assumes 2 crops a year and a rice-based diet with almost no meat. It also assumes the men will work all day every day in the fields, while the women work all day every day in the house.

Here in Kansas, with eating beef and drinking milk, 10-20 acres. Kansas soil is rich but the season is too short to double crop.
Old 05-26-2011, 04:33 PM
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Your location makes a huge difference for anyone planning livestock. Best bet is to talk to your local Extension Agent/ USDA office.

In southeast Colorado it takes 40-50 acres to run 1 cow depending precipitation. In other parts of the country where is it much wetter they can run 1 cow per acre.

Good-luck!
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Old 05-28-2011, 05:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Absolutely! View Post
call your local stock and station agent, or go to your local stock feed or farming store, we have Wrightsons and Elders merchants here and I don't know the names over there -

and ask. find out how much land a stock unit takes in your locale. Find out your local average rainfall. Dig up a bit of dirt. Is it rocky? Is it fertile? So many variables nobody can just give you a number. did you buy land on top of a mountain or in a valley?
If he is in East NC, it is sand. I would say around 35 acres of pasture/hay/crops, and woodlots. As I am sure he knows, Pine trees grow very well down there, you can grow hardwoods, but they tend to grow even slower in the coastal plain of NC than they do up in the piedmont.

There are probably a lot of people who are going to give ridiculously low acreages, but remember, you want to thrive, not just scrape by, and you want the buffer of a poor harvest.
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