One of the best ways to prepare for an extended crisis is to relocate to a remote property where you can live off the land and be as self-sufficient as possible.
If you’ve been a survivalist or a prepper for any amount of time, you’ve probably figured this out and have at least begun to think about how to make it happen. One of the primary issues most people face when trying to secure property to become self sufficient is determining how much land is enough to live off of successfully.
When you begin to think about buying land where you can live self sufficiently, there are a lot of things to consider.
The standard recommendation for a family of four looking to produce the majority of food they eat is somewhere between 2 and 10 acres to feed themselves.
The Food and Agricultural Organization estimates this number much higher, at 17 acres per person for complete self sufficiency.
But how much land is enough to live off of? The truth is there is no one right answer. In general, the more land you have, the more plentiful your options are.
But, it is possible to live somewhat self sufficiently on very little land if you modify your lifestyle. It all depends on what your family needs, the methods you choose to produce food and income, and what level of self sufficiency you desire.
As a rough guide, assume a calorie intake of 2,300 per person for a family of four who prefers a vegetarian diet.
For a total of just over 9,000 calories daily, a traditional garden space would need to be about 1 ¾ acres or 76,666 square feet. For a diet that includes meat, dairy, and eggs, you need to add additional square feet for animal housing and grazing.
To figure out how much land is enough to live off for your family and be self sufficient, you’ll need to look at a variety of additional factors.
- Diet and Nutritional Needs
- Growing Season
- Skill Level
- Soil Quality
- Alternate Power Needs
- Size of Home and Number of Outbuildings Needed
- Nearby Available Resources or Bartering
Start by calculating the number of calories you need per day and per person. Determine what types of food you prefer to meet the needed calorie requirements.
Do your own research on animal care needs and explore the various methods of gardening to adopt a plan for your land.
You will need more land if you are raising livestock but you can get away with less land if you are following a vegetarian diet and using space saving gardening methods. Consider what level of self sufficiency is your goal.
How Much Land Do You Need to Provide Food?
One of the primary tasks associated with living self sufficiently on your land is to have a reliable source or sources of food. For many people one of the most obvious food sources is a garden.
We are all familiar with the traditional gardens done in rows, but there are several different ways to garden. The size of garden you need based on your family size and the gardening method you choose will have a great impact on the amount of land you need to live off of.
Gardening methods to consider include:
- Traditional Row Gardening
- Lasagna gardening
- Companion Planting
- Hydroponics (there are several hydroponic systems to choose from depending on your needs)
- Portable Container Gardening
- Vertical Gardening
- Edible Landscaping
- Raised Bed Gardening
- Trench Gardening
- Micro Farm Gardening
Many people have been successful with gardening on much smaller pieces of land than the recommended amount by using alternative gardening methods.
The easiest gardening system for you may be container gardening. It allows you to start with just a few plants and just a little bit of soil ,and grow from there. Plus, you can move the containers around, inside or outside, depending on temperatures, so a frost won’t screw up your garden.
The video below shows an example of a family who is successfully living off their land with an urban garden that produces 90% of the vegetarian diet for a family of four on just 1/10th of an acre.
In fact, this urban homestead produces over 6,000 pounds of food annually and the family sells the excess to pay for other items they need.
Other Ways to Provide Food
There are many other ways to provide food for your family, including raising poultry or livestock such as chickens, milk or meat goats, meat rabbits, beef or dairy cattle.
Some families may choose to hunt using rifles, to trap using snare wire, and paracord, to fish using fishing lines and fish traps, or to forage for wild edibles to secure food.
If you choose to raise cattle or goats for meat and/or milk, you may need more land than if you choose to raise smaller animals such as chickens or rabbits.
Be sure to calculate the number of each animal needed for self-sufficiency as recommended in this video below to have a realistic plan and avoid becoming overwhelmed:
But it’s not enough to just think about food, you also need to have a good source of fresh water as well as systems for alternative power and heating your home.
Keep in mind that when it comes to water, to be truly self sufficient you may need to have more than one well or install a rain catchment system to backup your main water source.
If you decide to use wood to heat your home and to heat water, you’ll need more acreage that is wooded in order to avoid having to purchase wood regularly.
Below is a video of a family who has gradually become more and more self sufficient on their acreage over the last twenty five years. Their property includes edible landscape gardens at the front, along with multiple varieties of fruit trees, olive trees, raised vegetable and herb beds, berry plants, bee hives, and more.
They also raise poultry including ducks, quail, and chickens, to supplement their diet with meat and eggs.
And this Connecticut family below has a very productive homestead on approximately ten acres that includes turkeys, ducks, pigs, and free range meat birds and egg layers to sustain a family of six for the entire year supplemented by a newly developed permaculture food forest.
Sources for Income or Bartering
For most people, becoming self sufficient means living off the land but it also means developing multiple sources of income that can be used to buy needed items, pay monthly bills, or at least to produce items that can be used for bartering for things you need.
As explained in the video below, becoming self sufficient on your land is really about producing more than you consume. This means learning to save money as well as how to be resourceful and creative in your endeavors.
Some additional methods for earning income or bartering to consider include:
- Heirloom Produce
- Heritage Breed Animals
- Trapping and processing animal pelts
- Raising chickens to sell or trade eggs and meat
- Breeding goats or cattle and raising for meat or milk
- Worm Farming to sell for bait to fishermen
- Making handmade craft items
- Carpentry or other “handyman” skills
- Gardening and selling or bartering excess produce
- Homemade dairy products such as cheese and yogurt
- Homestead made jams, candies, bread, or pies
Many people find that being able to live completely self sufficient is a gradual and ongoing process that is best done in stages or layers. If you are just starting your journey toward self sufficiency, look for sources that will be easy to expand so you can then sell excess food to bring in additional income.
Select one type of animal to raise when getting started and add additional types of animals slowly to prevent becoming overwhelmed. It’s critical to understand breeding, health, and nutritional criteria for each type of animal you choose so that you can properly manage your livestock.
To summarize, there really is no “right” amount of land to live off of. The amount of land you need to live self sufficiently will greatly depend on a number of additional factors including:
- Climate and growing season
- Current soil quality
- Family size
- Skill level of group members
- Methods used for securing food
- Projected expenses and budget
- Space or acreage needed for income sources
- Level of self sufficiency desired
The choices you make regarding how you will secure food and keep your home operating will determine how much land is enough to live off of and it will be different for each family.
How much land do you have now and what portion of your needs are met through living off the land? What changes will you make in the coming year to become a little more self sufficient? Let us know in the comments below.
update 10/21/2020 by Dan F. Sullivan