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#233790 - 10/15/11 09:41 PM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: Eugene]
ILBob Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/05/10
Posts: 776
Loc: Northern IL
Subsistence farming is a full time job and a very hard life.

The hunter/gatherer model is even harder.
_________________________
Warning - I am not an expert on anything having to do with this forum, but that won't stop me from saying what I think. smile

Bob

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#233793 - 10/15/11 11:53 PM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: dweste]
dweste Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Particularly interested if anyone actually has figured out how much land is needed. I do not care so much about the particular environment, but just about the factors and calculations used, and the source of data for each factor.

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#233802 - 10/16/11 02:17 AM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: dweste]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
The environment is going to control the figures. Five acres in the Mohave Desert will produce less than five acres in Grass Valley or somewhere in the central valley there.

With decent soil, I read a reference some years ago that it would take about one-quarter acre to feed a family of four. But that has to be some intensive growing with considerable experience, IMO. I don't know if that would include two teenage boys who are constantly hollow, though.

One acre or more might be closer to the truth for beginners climbing the knowledge ladder. Keep in mind that if you produce tree fruit, no real crops can be planted within the dripline (or further) of each tree, so that cuts down on the actual amount of available ground area.

The USDA has a chart on how much you would have to plant for X number of people. I would like to find that again and print it out -- it's kind of hard to find. You could start from that, figuring how much you would need per person, how many plants it would take to produce that amount, etc.

And an ongoing problem with that scenario is that vegetable cropping uses the more nutrients from the soil than any other type of growing. Those nutrients have to be returned if you want to continue getting a good harvest, it can't just be take, take, take. You either have to recycle your own waste (human and animal) and return it to the soil, or you have to import nutrients from outside your acre. TANSTASFL applies here, as in most other situations.

If you could grow your own fish (for example) and use the fish-wastewater as fertilizer, that would also return some nutrients.

My mother said that her mother told her that when she was growing up in England during the later 1800s, the ladies of the houses on the street would keep an eye out for horse droppings, and would scurry out with a broom and dustpan to collect it for their vegetable gardens.

Sue

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#233803 - 10/16/11 03:01 AM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: Susan]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
FOUND IT!

This is the chart provided by the USDA on how much to plant (vegetables) per person. The info is copyright-free, by the way -- see Conditions of Use

You can print out the whole thing (it comes out in landscape form), and there's a form for you to customize your needs.

It gives estimates for
1. Need in pounds per person (fresh, and if preserving);
2. Length of row to plant per person;
3. Estimated yield per foot of row;
4. Amount of fresh produce (in pounds) needed to produce one canned or frozen quart.

And I'm sure you would want to plan for tree and bush fruits, nuts and herbs, too. Fruit trees come in grafted dwarfs, genetic dwarfs, semi-dwarfs, and standard sizes. Standards get too large for most smaller properties, so consider the smaller types (you'll have to do your homework for success).

Of course, you need to keep in mind that you might have crop failures for different reasons, so don't cut your estimates too fine. And if you can produce more than needed, you can use the produce for trade.

Sue

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#233810 - 10/16/11 09:32 AM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: dweste]
dweste Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Sue, I cannot seem to get there [to the chart] from here.

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#233813 - 10/16/11 01:02 PM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: dweste]
pforeman Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 95
Loc: Iowa
http://www.plant-materials.nrcs.usda.gov/pubs/mipmcot9407.pdf

I think this is the publication you are looking for. Sue?

Paul in MN -

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#233815 - 10/16/11 01:58 PM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: dweste]
NuggetHoarder Offline
Member

Registered: 07/01/11
Posts: 145
Loc: Appalachians
You also have to figure in livestock. If all you have are a few chickens and some rabbits it's not too hard, but once you get into the bigger animals it's much harder to calculate. If you want to keep a steer on your place or a dairy cow, you are talking about quite a bit of pasture to support that animal especially if you want to grow your own hay and straw. One of the best ways to figure this out is to look at your neighbors. What do they do? Most of them probably buy hay and straw but you might find an old timer that is more self sufficient and will let you learn from him.

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#233822 - 10/16/11 06:28 PM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: dweste]
dweste Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Thanks, Paul!

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#233824 - 10/16/11 06:50 PM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: pforeman]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Paul, yes that's it, thank you!

*muttering to self*... Left out the link, what a ditz!

Sue

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#233825 - 10/16/11 07:02 PM Re: Living off how much land? [Re: NuggetHoarder]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Nugget, you're absolutely correct.

Most smallholders need to stick to small livestock: chickens, rabbits, ducks, goats. It's hard to beat chickens: eggs, manure, meat, self-foraging if you choose correctly, and they will eat almost anything in a pinch.

Large livestock simply eat too much -- either you need the land to support them, or you need to import feed. Not to mention if they get into your garden it's usually major devastation.

Again, working with your neighbors in a survival situation is the key. You can produce vegetables, a neighbor has fruit trees, another neighbor can produce chickens, yet another can keep rabbits, a larger property owner can maintain a few head of cattle, someone can keep goats, and you can all trade. It's nearly impossible to do it all yourself. There was a reason for big families in the old days: cheap help. (Also one of the reasons the lifespan was 47.) And they knew what they were doing, which mostly isn't the case these days.

Sue

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