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Home Forums General Discussion A rough Guide to how much land it would take to feed a family of four

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    I suspect the poster was coded to prevent exactly what you propose to do.

    More to the point lets look at the content. The term average family or average use appears frequently. So this compilation is a statistical chart. I believe it was Mark Twain who said “ there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics” Keep in mind also that a man whose head in encased in a block of ice and his feet held to a fire will ‘on average’ be fairly comfortable temperature wise.

    An old farmer told me it takes one acre of grass meadow to graze a cow for a year. Two things to keep in mind. You only keep a cow that long if it’s a milk cow. If you are raising a calf for meat it is born in spring and slaughtered in fall. (Six months)

    If it’s a milk cow it does not wander free in a pasture unless you want weird tasting milk. Too many plants will taint the milk flavor. So a milk cow will need less space.

    Several of our suburban friends who do not own farmland have an arrangement to graze a calf on somebody else’s range land.

    Another statistic I recently came across said every American uses 75 gallons of water each day. Not according to my experience but then again I am not an American. Where I live many people do not have wells and have to truck in all their water. They buy a 5 gallon jug of RO water for food use and maybe 200 gallons per week for the whole family. That’s a far cry from 300 gallons per day for a family of 4

    A vegetarian diet according to the chart supposedly requires 0.44 acre to grow the required food. A neighbor who grows enough to afford to give away surplus only cultivates a plot 100 feet by 50 feet and a 6 X 15 greenhouse..

    If you have fruit trees and chickens you can let the chickens free range in the orchard area. We did and got fantastically good eggs. Pigs should probably not be allowed there because they tend to root around and could damage the tree roots. However consider espalier methods for growing fruits in cultivated rows. The trees can also be used as fences or wall climbers.

    Considering the work involved in preparing the ground for growing grains, and planting seeds, a community effort on a co-op acre or two for grain might be more cost effective. Buying whole grain and grinding it yourself makes more sense. This is what friends do.

    There have been countless articles published on mixing plants for greater crop yield or non chemical pest control this also reduces the overall acreage neede. I have seen farm & garden magazines publish data that suggest a family of four can grow a surplus on half an acre to feed not only themselves but have extra.

    Statistics can be wonderful but also very misleading. It’s a pretty poster though and provides a country atmosphere for decorating.


    Here is an image I found to be very interesting and I wanted to share it with you. Clearly there will be discrepancies in this due to varying different types of land ect but it is a interesting overview.

    Can someone let me know how to use the image display code as i have used PHP and HTML but to no joy.




    No it is not coded like that as it works on other pages. I just need to knopw what to type ie [codeforpicture]…URL HERE…[/codeforpicture]

    I totally agree stats are all well and good but never give a 100% picture as thats impossible just as asking people a question you will always have different answers.

    I saw it as a good guide to get an idea of space and how to fill in the basic needs.


    Okay enlighten us. How does the coding of the poster relate to off grid.

    I can see the content being pertinent even if we have different opinions concerning the exact numbers.


    A common and relevant question is how much money does it take.

    Never mind that such a question will differ widely depending on the location of the questioner and the answer will depend on the experience and background of whoever answers.

    In a similar manner the question of how do we go off-grid probably has as many answers as there are readers of the forum.

    I went off-grid when I was 21 and bought a boat to live on. Hardly suitable advice to someone living mid continent.

    Living off the land sounds good unless you happen to try it in the desert.

    In some countries unlicenced hunting is very illegal as is owning firearms.

    I’m not saying such advice is useless but it is very impractical in some places.

    Outlining how to plant a variety of crops needs to consider the growing climate I would love to grow oil producing plants for bio diesel fuel production. Unfortunately such plants will not tolerate the deep frosts and short 4 – 5 month growing season that we have.

    Going solar sounds great until you realize we only have 1.9 hours of insolation in winter when we need solar the most. It works great for someone down south but not here. Regions with lots of cloudy weather will be similarly affected. Yes they get some power froma solar panel but not enough to deliver on the promises based on full rated output.


    Jay – The HTML code to add that image to a web page is:

    <img src="" alt="Backyard farming" />

    Plus any other formatting you want to add.

    But in looking at the chart, I have several issues with it.

    1. .44 acres of vegetables per person is high. I have close to a 500 sq. ft. vegetable garden (7 raised boxes 8×8) and if I wanted to feed my family of four only from our garden (we prefer a variety from the local farmer’s market too), I would plant 1500 sq. ft. at the most. That’s less than a quarter acre for a family of four. It’s actually 0.034435 of an acre. This would give you plenty of space to replant throughout the year providing you with veggies year round. If you’re vegetarians, go with 3,000 sq. ft., which would still only be 0.068870 of an acre.  I leave the corn and wheat to the people who have the equipment to economically harvest it. I will trade pork for the corn and wheat we need.

    2. Three pigs would feed two families of four. I also raise pigs and two pigs are more than enough for a year. Two pigs do better than one (social creatures). We do two for a family of four and give/sell/trade over half a pig to our less fortunate neighbors. Two pigs do fine on 100 sq. ft. indoor pen and 100 sq. ft. outdoor pen. I wouldn’t go much less than that because pigs poop plentifully. And there’s your source of fertilizer or methane.

    3. I also disagree with the chicken data. I have 14 hens in a 120 sq. ft. area. I would free range them but there are too many coyotes, raccoons, eagles, owls, and mink up here. I lost 12 chickens to a mink in one night once. The chickens lay enough eggs for my family plus I use eggs to barter with the locals for things like honey and blackberry wine. I used to give the homeless people around here eggs every week, but Arild had a better idea so I now hard boil those eggs first. The manure is also good fertilizer or can be used to produce methane.

    I wonder why the chart doesn’t mention turkeys. They are a good food source that requires relatively little room. We try to raise 12 turkeys a year (one for each month) and they take up as much room as 2 pigs need (200 sq. ft.).

    Arild – I love the block of ice analogy. BTW from calf to slaughter a beef cow takes two years to grow unless you want veal. ;-) Veal usually comes from a yearling male milk cow. You need to breed a female milk cow to bring her into milk, if her offspring is a female you keep her for milk production, if she has a male you would either keep it for a breeding bull or sell it for veal. Most dairy farmers will go the veal route because the world is already too full of BULL.



    I know that all these issues need to be taken into consideration. Thats why it might be worth its weight in gold if there was a set of topics that people each filled out on their system, Location and general setup and costs.

    This data in turn could be used to help people figure out what area/country they want to live in. For example I have been doing research at the moment and I have found some books that I want to read but I am afraid that at the current time there is no kind of format to information for anywhere. As you both have stated there are several different types of setup and it varies from boats, Vehicles, houses, yurts, hut ect as does the animal setup, the land.

    I think we could get a set of information together it would be great.

    A sample might look like this :

    -Year you moved off grid:

    -Initial cost:

    -How much land Purchased: (did it come with buildings or if you had to build elaborate)

    -Type of dwelling you have and costs/equipment needed to do this.

    -How you get electricity – initial costs/how much you generate in that location and what equipment you use on this setup.

    -What animals you keep if any and how many mouths they feed

    – what veggies grow in your area best and how many need to be grown to feed X amount of people.

    -How you get water.

    -how much a year you spend on goods or do you trade.

    -miscellaneous costs per year

    -Average seasonal weather.

    – what equipment is needed from day one.

    All this info could then be added to say a custom google map with locations added and over time become a comprehensive guide for more people.

    If anyone agrees could they let me know as I would love to kick start this idea with the help of people here. And we could get a more detailed document together.


    Jay I take it you are volunteering to be the keeper of the data display. <smile>

    Some possible permutations. Part off-grid. Where people have limited access to one or two services. I am helping one person where the water system is jointly owned by seversaa property owners but municipal style services is not expected to reach them for 10 years if ever. So they each generate their own power and provide their own heating. No natural gas provided but the road does get snow plowed. No garbage collection; but of course taxes are collected.

    A system common in Europe and becoming popular here is rented garden plots.

    My grandfather provided all his vegetables from a 10 meter square plot. It was a five kilometer bike ride from where he lived. This concept is catching on in urban areas with lots of empty building lots.

    Who says you cannot go partially off grid even in the city.


    In an urban or sub-urban area water and sewers is probably the most important service you do not get rid of. However if you live in a small house it could be possible to cut off the natural gas and install an EPA certified low emissions heater and you find and provide your own fuel. I know one guy who built a co generation system so he makes his own power and hear using waste vegetable oil he collected from restaurants,

    If you live with a good southern exposure passive solar is a possibility for heat and maybe even some light.

    Even if you have to rent, its possible to get a long term lease with an agreeable landlord.

    I once rented 1/4 acre which used to be a hobby farm There was an orchard were 7 kinds of apples, 3 kinds of pears both green and red grapes grew not to mention kiwi fruit hazelnuts and walnuts. Unfortunately the landlords wife got fixated on having yuppie type lawns worthy of home and gardens to the detriment of the orchard. At one point we had 50 chickesn free ranging in the orchard until the mink got most of them. We had already cut off the gas and I had a inverter system half built when we had to move.

    Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.


    Elnav is right. I live in the West slope of the Cascades in WA state. My experiences would be completely different than someone living in CA, or Utah, or Canada, or even the East slope of the Cascades.

    Living off grid, to me, means dealing with the environment you are in, with the resources you have. You might have problems with your proposed database because most off-griders I know really don’t want to be found let alone mapped. Sure, you see article written all the time by off-griders, but they usually want to share their opinions not their life.

    This may sound harsh but remember there is a reason (or two, or three) that a person is off grid, and it’s not because it’s becoming a vogue thing to do. And it’s certainly not as easy as one, two, three your off grid. It is much deeper than that. In my last post I talked about raising pigs for food, raising chickens for eggs and for food, and raising turkeys for food. These things need to be frozen or canned. Freezing is usually the best choice. So how do you power a freezer off grid?

    The other day I added 735 lbs. of beef from a Holstein heifer we raised to our food bank. Tomorrow I will add 125 lbs. of turkey (that’s six turkeys) to our reserve. We’re doing the turkeys with minimal water because our well has been having problems for three months now. How would you solve that? Elnav and I have been tossing ideas back and forth for about a month now. Tomorrow we will find out what worked.

    <BTW> If you have a 23 cu. ft. freezer pulling 800 kWh per year, what kind of battery system would you use and how would you recharge the system? How would you back up that system?

    This is the off grid that I’m talking about.


    I have read that it takes 15 acres of land, 5 acres the author said was just too small. Remember an Acre is 208 feet by 208 feet. I think that equates to something like 45,000 square feet, which is a lot for a structure, but not much for farming.


    As Reeboot said it all depends. Results will vary all over the map. Mothe Earth magazine has published articles on food growong in small places. I personally have seen small plots of land produce enough to feed several people. My father was head gardener on an estate. His job was to provide vegetables for the main house In addition to the owner and his family there were 3 live-in staff plus us. We livede in a separate building.

    Where we once lived the orchard produced plenty of fruit and our green house provided tomatoes. Untill the mink killed off so many of them the chickens provided lot of eggs to the point we sold more than we could eat.

    The most useful aspect of the chart is that it serves as a guide in planning.

    Every situation is going to be unique.

    Land use outlined in published books may not include more recent developments.

    This is whe online publications like Mother Earth and Grist are useful guides to recent developments. They may not have in depth articles thjemselves but will provide links to places wher the details can be gotten. I do recall one article wher the author claimed 100 square feet was sufficient to produce enough food for one person. Provided some really intense cultivation methods was used. The photo illustrations suggested the claims were close to being true. Not being there its hard to judge everything. One thing for sure traditional farming techniques is nowhere as effective as newer permiculture methods. Drip irrigation saves water which is an important consideration if you have to create the energy needed to pump all that water.

    Espalier techniques would allow you to grow fruit trees in places you might not otherwise be able to use. The list is endless. Planning ahead a couple of years is a good thing. Among other things it gives you time to practice energy use reduction even if you live in downtown urban ville and rent not own. A meter to measure actual power consumption is not expensive. For propane and natural gas there are techniques for calculating it when a meter cannot be hooked up.


    elnav, you strike me as a forthright, no nonsense person. And really when it comes to the topics at hand it is no joke. This living off grid seems to be more than a notion. I am truly a neophyte to the concept, have beau coup to learn. That’s why I am here.

    Reboot2009 said something that caught my eye and made me go, “Hmmm” – “This may sound harsh but remember there is a reason (or two, or three) that a person is off grid, and it’s not because it’s becoming a vogue thing to do. And it’s certainly not as easy as one, two, three your off grid. It is much deeper than that.”

    I know my husband would love nothing more than to simply disappear and be left the heck alone. It seems much of what we are trying to do to take possession of our land is being blocked by “codes” which wind up costing us thousands upon thousands of dollars for things we can do for ourselves; i.e., they state we have to pay a “pro”fessional mover to place our home onto our land whereas hubby has a source he can barter with to get the job done. The more obstacles we run into the more he is becoming agitated with “the system” and I don’t blame him. It’s like “they” do all in their power to not let people live and feed their families.

    I want to thank you knowledgeable people for sharing with those like us.



    I can understand your frustrations about the house mover. If your husbands contact has the capability and machinery why can they not get the requisite permits to movea building.

    I suspect this may be because they do not meet all the requirements to ensure they can do the job to the satisfaction of the inspectors or whoever.

    No doubt they have to have the right equipment and be able to prove they can cope with any evantuality,

    Imagine if something happened and the house slipped of the truck and blocked the road. How would they cope?

    If you can’t move the house is there some way you can build a replacement home at your intended destination?

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