Self Sufficiency

17 07 2007

How much land do you need to be self sufficient? Again inspired by Red State Green’s recents posts I decided to do some research on my own. Prior to this, in a comment on “A matter of national security”, I used some somewhat high output figures I found on another site that basically said about 0.11 of an acre would be all that is required for a family of four. I decided to find some better numbers and also instead of just going by 2000lbs of food per year per preson, use the recommended portions of the CanadaFood Guide.

Assuming everyone followed Canada’s food guide, and using chicken for meat and dairy alternatives and/or trading or somehow offsetting the cost of purchasing some of the food, this is how I see it breaking down (weights of food taken from http://www.stambaughfamily.com/equiv_1.html):

Food Guide per adult male:

10 servings (1/2cup) of vegatables and fruit. Lets say your servings are 1 cup of tomato, 1 cup of spinach, 1 cup of carrot, 1 cup of cabbage and 1 cup of potato. That corresponds 74kg of tomato, 50kg of spinach, 55kg of carrot, 110kg of cabbage, and 83kg of potato per year.

8 servings of grain products. Lets use 4 servings of oats and the equivalent in flour of four servings of bread. That corresponds to 21kg of oats and 20kg of wheat flour per year.

2 servings of dairy. Lets assume soy drink, 1 cup ea. or approx. 23kg of soya beans per year.

3 servings of meat and alternatives. Let’s use chicken for all three (75g ea.) That’s 82kg per year.

More after the fold.

These calculations when applied to food guide amounts for an adult female and two 9-13 yo children result in:

222kg of tomato
150kg of spinach
165kg of carrots
330kg of cabbage
249kg of potato
71kg of oats
68kg of wheat
138kg of soya
246kg of chicken

Outputs per acre for these crops, taken from various sources and hopelessly approximate (there are no authoratative datasets that I can find but I mostly used the following site: http://www.gardensofeden.org/04%20Crop%20Yield%20Verification.htm), shape up to the following space requirement for our fictional family:

0.044 acre for tomato
0.030 acre for spinach
0.019 acre for carrots
0.053 acre for cabbage
0.036 acre for potato
0.070 acre for oats
0.024 acre for wheat
0.145 acre for soya
0.006 acre for chickens (minimum, not free range and not counting space for growing feed, if required)

That equals 0.427 acres, not too bad, about 0.1 acres per person. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to try and grow EVERY part of your diet your self, the 0.145 acres for soya for milk alternative is a little excessive and trading with a local dairy farmer might make more sense. Without the soya and say doubling the chicken as a trade for the milk, you get 0.288 acres! The space required to grow feed for your chickens, might increase the total to about 1/3 of an acre, but using even a small portion of your land to produce a more valuable commodity like say more tomotoes could easily cover the costs of buying feed from another grower. This does not count feeding table scraps peeling to you chickens which they love and reduced the need for grain feed.

So it seems by this simplistic exercise that a maximum of 1/2 an acre should give you everything you need to be self sufficient food wise. Of course, there may be higher yield crops out there and this does not take into consideration mixed gardening which can increase output per acre as some crops can use the same piece of land during different times of year. Nor does it take into account the possibility of using permaculture and greenhouse techniques to boost productivity.

Realistically, a family of four growing just their vegetables on about 1/4 acre (about a 100′x100′ plot) would be a huge amount of their food supply and quite manageable if you were willing to put in the work! Of course city dwellers and some suburban homes may not have a 100×100 plot to work with, but those of us who do should be taking advantage of our resources. From a cost standpoint the food costs for these veggies (using Strong’s Market prices):

222kg of tomato $483.96 + taxes
150kg of spinach $1584.80 + taxes
165kg of carrots $178.20 + taxes
330kg of cabbage $283.80 + taxes
249kg of potato $323.70 + taxes

For a grand total of $2,854.46 + taxes, I don’t know about you but for a few hours (or more) a week and the cost of a few packets of seed and tools, I’d say it’s a pretty good return.


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49 responses to “Self Sufficiency”

18 07 2007
The Sietch Blog » How Much Land Would You Need To Grow All Of Your Families Food? (12:21:51) :

[...] just posted a very interesting piece about just how much land a family would need in order to grow all the food they would need for a year. How much land do you need to be self sufficient? Again inspired by Red State Green’s recent posts [...]

18 07 2007
Anonymous (12:38:54) :

Growing all the food your family needs for a year on half an acre or less…

Showing that you can grow all or a large part of your food from a very small piece of land….

18 07 2007
Christine (13:06:09) :

You forgot the cost of keeping the animals away!

My family gave up on growing tomatoes. When it wasn’t turtles stealing food it was deer, and when it wasn’t deer, it was something else.

18 07 2007
Joshua McMichael (13:08:05) :

Soy isn’t dairy.

18 07 2007
Pavel (14:43:23) :

Working a few hours a week – let’s say 100 hours a year – to save $2800 a year, only makes sense from an economic point of view if you’re earning less than $28 an hour.

Of course, if you’re growing your own food you’re also not as dependent on the economy, etc. Plus it’s just fun to grow your own food. If I had a house, I’d probably try to convert half the background into a garden.

18 07 2007
Andrew (15:18:28) :

While this is a pretty informative breakdown, you forget to mention the following caveats:
* Crop output is totally dependent on soil fertility, so the Land Capability Class will either increase or decrease the above yields. Hydroponic setups will also require specific fertilizer application rates, which of course also cost money.
* Unless you already own the land you wish to farm, (not the bank via a mortgage or other loan) you are still tied to the market. Another separate post could display how much of a chosen cash crop you would need in order to finance your land purchase. Then again, market prices for land AND crops fluctuate, so it’s hard to give a good, exact figure.
* There are, of course, random phenomena which can decrease your crop yields any given year such as flood, drought, animal/insect pests, and bacterial infection. To offset this inherent risk, it’s good sense to grow more than you need.

Even after considering these factors, it’s a good breakdown that shows how little a family requires if they are willing to utilize efficient farming practices to feed themselves. Well done!

18 07 2007
PStryder (15:38:26) :

You can grow a massive amount of mushrooms of various types in small cooler with the proper research and care. These will substitute for many of the basic food groups at various times…and mushrooms are just yummy. This could allow you to provide even more food using less land.

18 07 2007
Jan (15:46:07) :

Hi man,
your claim

….”but for a few hours a week and the cost of a few packets of seed”….

clearly shows that you have never done any garden work at all.
It needs way more to grow anything than just seeds.

Get a life!

18 07 2007
greenspree (16:14:38) :

Christine & Andrew; yes there are a myriad of factor’s that could either boost or lower efficiency and labour required but I chose to focus on a generic example with as few conservative assumptions as possible. This article was only meant to be an example of the order of magnitude in terms of land resources required for a family to grow there on food. I am sure I could be off one way or the other depending on your precise circumstances, but it’s fairly safe to say I am not 10x off the mark in 99% of cases.

Jan; averaged over the year, a 100×100 garden shouldn’t take more than a few hours a week to tend provided you are well versed in passive weed control and other handy small scale gardening techniques. I average under an hour a week on my 20×20 vegatable garden now.

Jashua; Soy drink isn’t dairy, it’s a dairy alternative, as listed under the Canada Food Guide.

Pavel; Most everyone I know in Atlantic Canada makes under $28 an hour, and you also have to figure the time you would have spent driving to and from a grocery store and cost of fuel, etc. to make a fair comparison. Suffice to say the I think my time gardening is more enjoyable than time wandering a supermarket once a week, so I would put different dollar amounts on them!

18 07 2007
Ol' Goat (16:26:58) :

Please allow a bit of credibility for my grey hair and many years of gardening experience. It would be best if you shoved your caculator in the desk and worked a garden hoe before writing another fertalizer load of gardening economics. Have you any ideas about prepairing two hundred live chickens for the freezer ? ( Desk jockeys will hurl before getting a good start.) Anyway, the “profits” from gardening a half acre will be absorbed by the hardware store for several years. Is your rototiller/ garden tractor paid for ? Bottom line: Your half acre is a second career and a long term commitment. Then, if you value your labor at anything above five bucks an hour …. well, use your calculator. — Pavel: 100 hours will cover weed controll. Christine: Animals – bugs – slugs – weeds – diseases. And nary a word about how ya process 200 KG of tomatoes.

18 07 2007
greenspree (16:37:57) :

I never said it would be easy, nor would it be a short term commitment. I only claimed a small vegetable garden would be a few hours a week. I don’t slaughter chickens, I don’t raise them now. My brother-in-law/next door neighbor does 50 a year, he takes them to a slaughterhouse where they dress them for him.

Our 20×20 plot we have now (we are building a house this summer and decided to go small) required no tilling and will require no tractor, ever. And yes there will be work involved in preserving, but my point wasn’t about the amount of time required, simply the amount of land.

Thanks for all the comments everyone!

18 07 2007
J. (16:55:33) :

Good for you … ignore the naysayers & keep on encouraging people to “home grow”! You have my support, for sure!

Even if all a person can do is grow a bit of veggies on an apt. balcony, it’s tastier – definitely a *lot* healthier – and very little cost. And a Community Garden plot is a great [inexpensive] way of significantly increasing the amount and variety that can be grown … along with knowledge transfer & good comraderie from other gardeners.

Cheers
J.

18 07 2007
Ol' Goat (17:56:30) :

Guess i missed your meaning and got stuck on your closing line. -Gotta say that gardening “profits” can’t be fully measured in dollars. My garden replaces golf green fees and Saturday bowling. – Same workout with better returns. …… For small scale garden returns, i would put oats and wheat aside, and do berries and fruit trees. For one thing, they taste better raw, and a couple gallon of blackberry wine will trade for an awful lot of flour.

18 07 2007
redstategreen (18:26:28) :

For those of you who think producing your food on such a small lot is impossible, check out Path to Freedom. This family of four produces all their food on an urban 1/5 acre lot, enough to sell food to local restaurants as their home business.

18 07 2007
desert gal (18:38:13) :

Add in to your calculations the fact that you can take out your frustrations with a hoe or a pair of pruners and none of the plants talk back- that should be worth several hundred dollars of therapy.

Have you heard of square foot gardening? I wonder how that would change the numbers.

18 07 2007
Mr. M (22:11:18) :

I work in hydroponics, and it can be done organically or traditionally, but one of the benefits of it is that you eliminate weeds, pests, and certain soil born diseases. Also, the planting density is much higher [more in less space] and you can harvest year round. UF has some studies that discuss how 1/10 of an acre can provide a whole lot of food. You can also grow things that are out of season or exotic and would normally retail for high prices. While there is an initial investment, this can be offset by a little ingenuity in design and function. Also, fertilizers do cost $$ but if you have a fine micron filter, you can turn worm castings, dung, etc. into liquid fertilizers by mixing with water and filtering prior to feeding. Just a thought. This is great, I like your research.

19 07 2007
anywho (00:03:00) :

Very interesting. I think it probably downplays the labor involved, but interesting none the less. A good read, and a good reminder of the path I want to take to live sustainably — it’s always nice to reaffirm your goals, and this helped me do just that.

19 07 2007
Josh (02:23:19) :

averaged over the year, a 100×100 garden shouldn’t take more than a few hours a week to tend provided you are well versed in passive weed control and other handy small scale gardening techniques. I average under an hour a week on my 20×20 vegatable garden now.

I hate to rain on your parade, but a 100×100 garden is 25 times the size of your 20×20 garden….

19 07 2007
greenspree (07:27:20) :

Josh;

True, a 20×20 garden is much smaller than 100×100, but I only spend about 15 minutes a week on the 20×20 garden, using a no till method bed which also keeps weeds from encroaching (other than from air borne seeds).

25 x 15 minutes is a little more than 6 hours, however some chores are not going to take 25 times more time just cause there is 25 times more area. For example, the perimeter is only 5 times bigger, so perimeter pest barriers don’t take 25 times the time to maintain.

Irregardless of the time it takes to maintain a garden of any size, the aim of my exercise was to show that it is quite possible to grow enough food for your family on a half acre or less.

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

19 07 2007
Brad Luyster (07:59:28) :

I still think you’re vastly underestimating the amount of time and effort a larger garden will take. You could probably manage it in addition to a “regular” job, but it would become a second job in and of itself. Nothing wrong with that, but it limits any other hobbies you might take up.

There’s also no way you’re going to be able to live all year off that garden unless you live somewhere along the west coast or way south where it never falls below freezing. You’re also not going to be able to preserve enough for a well-balanced diet through the winter. It would do in a pinch, but this isn’t a plan for long-term self-sufficiency.

If you’re planning for a doomsday scenario, then you might have your numbers close to correct, otherwise a 20×20 garden will be more than enough to significantly supplement any family’s groceries.

19 07 2007
Mike Roberts (12:58:18) :

I have a 2,000sq ft garden. It takes 12 hours per week of my time to maintain it (2 hours almost every day). When high weed season hits (now), I just have to let things go a little bit partially because the weeds are growing at a supernatural rate, and partially because I’ve begun to harvest (20# of cucumbers, 1.5# of beans and 3 okra yesterday!) which takes up half of my maintenance time.

My garden takes care of all the vegetables my wife and I can eat for 6-8 months with a healthy surplus for family and friends. So your land usage estimate is probably correct.

You’re talking about something 5x larger than my garden. If it scales linearly, that’s 60 hours per week. Even my seat-of-the-pants estimate says it’s a full-time job. None of this takes in to account the time you’ll need to spend to preserve your food. Even if you just freeze your food, there’s blanching, cleaning, and packaging to be done.

This won’t be feasable for most people, but it’s an excellent idea if you have the time. If you are growing all of your own food, you’re probably saving a lot more than the $2,900 you mentioned because you’d also cut out purchased beverages and eat at home much more than the average person.

If you really want to save money, you’ll need to get good at preserving your own seed for everything next year. Seed for a 1/4 acre garden will cost $300.

Weed management is a big problem unless you’re okay with spraying. Herbicides are a MASSIVE time savings. If you are going with black plastic to keep the weeds down, you’re going to break the bank paying for it. Lawn clippings work very well, but you need another acre of grassland just to create your mulch.

There are a lot of little things to learn, so starting with a smaller garden, even 6×6 is a great way to learn when to plant, how to fertilize, pest control, etc. I think you’d spend 25 hours on it in a year.

Easiest plant to grow: potatoes. They don’t need a lot of water, grow densly enough to shade out the weeds, produce a lot of food, are easy to preserve, and is simplicity itself to develop seed potatoes. They even grow in clay!

19 07 2007
greenspree (13:10:03) :

http://www.dacres.org/No-Till%20Garden.htm

This site illustrated how we setup our 400sqft garden, although we used cardboard rather than paper.

As I said previously, we have very few weeds.

20 07 2007
NH (20:01:33) :

Regarding keeping animals away, get a dog. We have six raised beds in an area through which all manner of animal pass, including bear, deer, moose, rabbits, chipmunks galore, squirrels aplenty, moles, voles, muskrat, turtles, snakes, (shall I go on?), and we have never lost a leaf, a bud, or a piece of produce to any of these critters. Why? Our black lab goes to the bathroom all over the area surrounding the garden. Sure, we scoop poop. But we have no animal pests bothering our garden.

As for harvesting, our kids love to harvest the produce in our garden–at first. Then, when the blush wears off, they get sick of it. But that’s tough. Part of being in a family is pitching in, and picking produce is a chore well-suited for children.

The time commitment for a larger garden is definitely greater than for our beds, but the ability to produce safe, unmodified, uncontaminated, pesticide-free food for my family (that I know isn’t full of contaminated processed substances from China) and reduce my carbon impact by avoiding the purchase of produce that has been trucked thousands of miles to my local grocery is worth it to me. Plus, the peace of mind I gain knowing I can provide for my family even if the just-in-time supply chain collapses is, as MasterCard says, priceless.

21 07 2007
naught101 (10:18:49) :

Interesting piece, and very interesting comments! I have no doubt that it is possible (even easy), to live off the land (assuming you’re not being persecuted by some nasty despot/corporation), and it’s interesting to see this kind of area estimate. Two questions:

246kg of chicken, that’d be something like 80 largeish chickens a year, right? Hen only raise chickens once a year, right? maybe twice? and you’d have around 5 chicks per lay, so you’d need at least one rooster, and 8 hens constantly, say 90 chickens all up. I don’t think you could in any way call that humane, and I recognise that you didn’t, but even ignoring that, that’s a LOT of chickens on a half acre block. I think that left to their own devices, the population would quickly decline due to lack of food, which means you’re going to have to import chicken feed, right? But you could just get your protein from beans and nuts, and the odd egg (I’d say 2-5 chickens woulld go nicely on a half acre), your iron from dark green leafies, and most other requirements from vegies, which have a MUCH lower footprint than animals (which are higer up the food chain). Would this work better if you were a vegetarian, or even just ate very little meat?

Also, what about communal farming? I have a feeling that the more land you combine together, the better use you get out of it, for instance, less fences=more sun, and you can share work hours, seeds, chickens (natural weeders and insectivores), herbs (which everyone grows, but take up more space than they justify). If you have a street full of half acre blocks, would you be better off converting most of it into a large area that a lot of people could work on? Or even better, rip up the road, and plant that out…

thanks for the brain food.

cheers
ned

28 07 2007
The Sietch Blog » Feeding Yourself In Six Simple Steps (17:59:45) :

[...] post on the plausibility of feeding yourself (see also GreenSpree’s interesting article on small footprint farming) she went on to explain in 6 easy steps ways you can feed [...]

8 08 2007
One Measly Dollar » Blog Archive » links for 2007-08-08 (15:42:02) :

[...] Self Sufficiency Great info that will come in handy when we finally start our garden. (tags: gardening green diy diet) [...]

13 08 2007
The Sietch Blog » Egging On The Sustainable Food Discussion (22:09:38) :

[...] those that have been following the previous posts discussing sustainble eating practices, I recently read this Times article that may be of interest. [...]

30 08 2007
wecare (03:49:27) :

I find your figures to be pretty accurate, I have been checking into square foot gardening and rotating crops and figuring lower than what plants say they will produce still would have enough for my family of 6 and a couple neighbors with a 50 x 50 (that’s raised beds 4 foot walk ways).

As far as the chickens go, I have a hen that has set every year now for three years. We never bother her nest which she loves to hide behind our tool box.
She has three nests every year without fail, her lowest hatch was 14 her highest 24 but she usually comes closer to 18 or 19. In all reality a good hen is worth her weight in gold. We was very lucky that she and her off spring all have a big urge to set nests, she was our first out of 3 years to do so. We have always used incubators to hatch ours. So far all of her offspring have also been setters (the ones we kept). 1 good hen if temps don’t get really hot or really cold will lay an egg every 25 hours for 10-11 months, depending on her molting time. We eat a lot of eggs and give eggs to friends and feed to other animals and still get over run at times with around 25 hens.

I know what you mean about not much time in the garden, I planted, water with a sprinkler, have very few weeds (due to planting thick), and my 3 year old grandson will throw fits if he doesn’t get to do the harvest no matter how big.

Thank you for the article…….. now if I could just figure out my ducks?

28 09 2007
Affiliate Marketing Forum (01:27:48) :

Is everything about marketing?…

I searched for this article about how much land it takes to feed a person so that he can be self sufficient.

Self Sufficiency

It’s about 0.1 acres per person (Of course you gotta also combine yo……

4 10 2007
Dora Renee' Wilkerson (14:11:46) :

Wow, that’s great information.

We do a little here and there at our home in Ohio but with our new place in Alabama we plan to do more.

Right now I am growing sprouts for my chickens. Easy to do and doesn’t take up any outdoor room (I am doing it in the house.) I think it’s pretty cool.

Anyway, loved reading your post.

Dora Renee’ Wilkerson

13 10 2007
Rob Wilson (13:43:11) :

Wait until the distribution systems collapses, or food gets so costly to move from one end of the country to the other (not to mention overseas) that you and I cannot afford it. All these calculations (which are great – exactly what I was looking for) will go out the window and most folks will wish they had learned how to grow their own food, work and “costs” be damned.

21 10 2007
Nessala (01:17:58) :

great discussion, this answered a lot of questions for me…keep it up!

29 10 2007
James Edwards (15:30:58) :

I’m ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE with the idea of being a COMPLETELY SELF-SUFFICIENT Human being… I think it has something to do with my hatred of taxes… I’m always tearing the internet apart, and making notes on ways to live off the land… Not hardcore, Bear Grylls style… but I’ve been studying Yurt construction, farming practices, and small-scale farming practices. This page has answered a question I’ve been asking myself for more than a few of my 21 years… and It’s comforting to know that I could grow my own food on less than an acre… I have a good mental image of what an acre looks like, and though it’s no patio garden, it IS manageable, especially since When I think of self sufficiency, I don’t see myself gardening for half the day, and then jumping in my car and driving 15 miles to an office, so I can take orders from the man… I would be looking for a way to never have to earn money again… because green paper dilutes the meaning of working hard for what you need to survive… I wonder how many of the posters on this page have ever read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged… I’m still in the middle, where they’ve created they’re own community. I envision something like that, I draw the line at metal foundry’s though… I wouldn’t want to rape a mountain of it’s metal substance… more druidic in that respect… oh, I play dnd too… anyway, if anyone has anymore sites that are worth a good look, or an ongoing discussion, I’d love to get it on it… I’ll check back…

Have a Time!!!

9 11 2007
20 11 2007
self sufficient life » How much land can feed a family? (05:02:57) :

[...] how practical it would be where we live. A little more research on the subject lead me to a great article by Greenspree, which takes a detailed look at how much food a family needs and the yields per acre for different [...]

3 03 2008
Pizzarezept (13:27:04) :

Well, I suggest that we start living in communities with a centralized kitchen! According to your number, it the communities should have round about 1,000 members…

27 05 2008
John From (10:50:20) :

Excellent post,

To the nay sayers: read the article again, it is just stating how much LAND is required, not a complete system by any stretch of the imagination, nor does the poster even imply that it is.

This is something we are planning on when we purchase our house, along with a number of other options to take ourselves off the grid and to supplment our food budget (which is you haven’t noticed yet we are at the beginning of a world wide food crisis).

The short answer is that is entirely possible if you are not a slave to your existing work, I took a job that allows me to work from home and doesn’t require my absolute devotion of all my time. My wife is a stay at home mother and would like to stay that way, this type of ideal would allow her to continue to do so and my son can help out as well.

Yes it is WORK, but it real work for youself and that is more rewarding than anything else. No one who is serious about this doesn’t understand that is alot of work but it completely doable. Oh noes I won’t have time to watch TV, boo hoo, I prefer to read which can be done at any time.

We are looking at using Solar, wind (water if we can get land with a good stream/creek), biomass etc for power generation but we don’t expect to turn into land loving hippies.

I don’t think most of the naysayers really understand how fragile out current infrastructure is (any one remember the NA blackout in 2003, imagine if you can if it lasted a couple of weeks or months, good bye current society).

planning to be as self sufficient as possible is just smart, thinking that the status quo will last forever is stupid, it never has in history and it never will.

Thanks for the info, it has helped my planning.

Cheers!

1 10 2008
john (10:57:44) :

one also should consider hydroponics and aguaponics as a source of year round food supply–in this case possibly one or two small green houses could support the family especially if you use vertical growing methods

26 10 2008
katharine (03:30:09) :

thanks for the information. I’m trying to figure how much we can get from our land in the northwest of Spain. We have 200 square meters, with a well and Northern Spain has an excellent growing environment, wet but never too hot or too cold, avg 25 to 30 celcius in the summer and 15 to 20 in the winter. By your rekoning it looks like we could do well for ourselves with about 300 square meters, but I am still looking to buy more, or sell the house and get another with more land before we retire there in two years.

26 10 2008
Henry (07:27:39) :

Great article and interesting comments – truly inspiring.

I would love to have a crack at living off-grid. I’m looking to buy a house in the Austrian countryside soon for my family (three kids, one wife) and giving it a go. I currently know very little about off-grid life, but am reading voraciously.

I anticipate a very rapid learning curve – the thought of all the generations of peasants in history, who knew more about farming than I ever will, still suffering from periodic bouts of starvation and lean years does fill me with some trepidation. This makes me think that true self-sufficiency, even at the small community level, although certainly a worthy goal that should be striven for, is unachievable. Am I wrong?

28 02 2009
Kevin (20:56:52) :

I’m surprised at the number of nay-sayers in the comments. A garden doesn’t require the amount of time or money that they seem to think it does.

The only tools I use are a spade, a fork, a set of hand clippers, and a knife. If you have to use anything more than that, then you are a farmer, not a gardener. I have been using the French Intensive method for the last ten years or so. My beds are over a foot tall now. They were originally flush with the ground. All I have ever added to them is compost from the compost pile. I’m as interested in growing my soil as I am growing my vegetables.

In the spring and summer I average an hour a day in the garden. Not necessarily because it needs an hour of work. Some days I make work for myself just to be out there. In the winter I only spend about two hours a week, messing with cold frames so that we have something fresh to supplement the stuff we canned, froze, or stored. It is true that when canning season starts I’ll be busy with it almost all of the weekends. I don’t mind. What I put up in those weekends lasts all winter long.

Last year a little over 85% of what we ate (measured in calories) came from the garden. We grew all of this in the small backyard of a small house in the middle of a city. The only things we bought at the store were salt, wheat flour, olive oil, and citrus fruit. We traded tomatoes during their peak with a few neighbors for picking rights to pear and apple trees that they previously let rot. They would have let us have the fruit for free, but I like to keep things even, and I tend to have more tomatoes than I can can up in a weekend.

If it came down to it, we could be self sufficient. All it would take is a little more work on my part. I’m in a position now where I do just enough to enjoy it without it becoming a chore. I don’t feel like growing and grinding my own wheat. Olive, orange, lemon, and lime trees don’t grow very well at all around here, but we could work around that.

If you do things right you will save money. You will save a lot of money. You will be healthier. You will be happier. Keep in mind here that I’m not a hippie or anything like that. I got into all this because I didn’t want to work forty hours a week. I made a deal with my wife where I would work twenty hours a week and supplement the missing income with an equivalent amount of food from the garden. If it didn’t work I would go back to working full time. By the end of my first year I broke even on the missing income. At the end of the second year I had a surplus.

31 07 2009
Dana (12:01:05) :

This observation:

Working a few hours a week – let’s say 100 hours a year – to save $2800 a year, only makes sense from an economic point of view if you’re earning less than $28 an hour.

Only makes sense if you are taking time off work in order to manage your garden. I’d advise taking time away from television viewing which would in turn save money in health costs due to inactivity.

9 10 2009
25 03 2010
Chef B (03:59:12) :

Deer, rabbits, etc. sounds like more food too me.. no problem i’ll take care of that food!

8 05 2011
Grande Ronde Transition | Blog | Do We Have a Moral Responsibility to Grow Our Own Food? (16:57:38) :

[...] much land does it take? Anywhere from 700 square feet of growing space per person, to 1/4 acre per family, depending on the gardening system. Most city lots don’t have that kind of room, so the next [...]

18 10 2011
Occupy, It’s The New Revolution | I Eat Grass (16:01:46) :

[...] crazy ideas (veganism, non-violence, the kkk, revolution, etc.) If you have 1/4 an acre of land, you can feed a family of 4. The most important teacher in a child’s life is you. Create good people and you change the [...]

16 11 2011
6 Ways Food is Being Used as a Weapon | Emergency Survival Food Reserves (12:06:56) :

[...] greenspree.ca at The Sietch » Self Sufficiency – 17 07 2007. How much land do you need to be self sufficient? Again inspired by Red State Green’s recents posts I decided to do some research on my own. Prior to this, in a comment on “A matter of national security”, I used … [...]

9 12 2011
Chris (12:03:05) :

I’m a 28yo male… I have garden when I was the age I can kill bugs. It’s a good idea for people to grow their own food supply but I must say.. start off small and work your way up! Having a 2 acre farm (what the family had) is HARD work but you town folks can convert your siding (the ground/land that surrounds your house) to a garden. The weather, weeds/ground and animals/bugs will be the worst thing you encounter in farming. Now as the East Coast of US is being attacked by Stink Bugs… it’s getting harder to farm in PA, VA, etc. please read a book about farming and treat the ground with respect.

31 07 2012
Rob (20:47:18) :

I know this article is old. I think what you guys did was awesome even if it sparked some critique both positive and negative. He who makes no mistakes does nothing. Another profitable venture I saw was a Christmas Tree farm. This family planted hundreds of small trees and after 5-7 years, they opened a portion of it to customers to pick and cut their own tree. Even had warm shelter and provided hot chocolate. They took pictures and the following year when you returned to cut down your next tree, you picture from the last year was on the board to take home. These people must have done well between the last week of November and 25 Dec. Something to think about if you are close to a city or large town.

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