30 Acres for Self Sufficiency

August 2, 2010, by Ken Jorgustin

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I received an informative email from “Smitty” regarding the opinion that 30 to 50 acres of land may be ideal for complete rounded self-sufficient survival living after a worst case doomsday scenario. Make no mistake about it, true self-sufficient living requires a tremendous amount of work and enough people to make it happen. Here are his thoughts.


I have some thoughts on size based on (a) complete collapse, doom situation, and (b) complete self-sufficiency for food and water.

Now, as a “suburban survivalist,” I know that I can maximize vegetable yields by vertical growing methods (pole beans), potato cages, etc., but my almost 1 acre lot will not support my family of 5. There seem to be a lot of varied opinions on how much land a family of 5 would need, but I figure we’ll need at least 5-10 acres for vegetables, fruit orchard, and grains, but it will depend on the hardiness zone, what we can grow, etc. Can you or your family really work this much with only hand tools?

I don’t think anyone will survive on just vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts. So, we need to think livestock and beyond just chickens. Think dairy cattle – Jersey cows are smaller, but better disposition than a Guernsey or Swiss Brown. After the first calf, a Jersey is going to produce 2-4 gallons of milk per day. More than enough for a family of 5 and the excess can be used to feed other livestock (e.g., hogs). I figure 2 cows to be bred to a beef bull (might want a second steer for clearing, plowing). Will need at least 1 acre for summer pasture, 1 acre for winter pasture (both a red clover-timothy mix), plus grain supplement. Will need at least another acre for hay (probably 2, harvested three times a year with scythes). The cows will eat 2 tons of hay in the winter. Breed the cows to a bull for calves (should be able to get 2-4 calves a year, depending on the mineral and protein content of their feed when they are in heat). Any cow that doesn’t produce a calf becomes hamburg. Will need additional acreage for a pen, feedlot/finishing, corrals, etc.

In reality, pasture will have to be rotated (which is why you have summer and winter pasture), but probably need 5 acres for winter, 7 acres for summer, and 5 for hay. This needs to be done to control parasites and prevent overgrazing.

Fencing – this is expensive, as the different pastures will have to be fenced. So, look for a survival retreat that is already fenced. You really need one hot wire to prevent the cows from leaning on the fence and bringing it down. Problem is – there isn’t going to be any electricity. Cows will walk right through 3 strand barbed wire. This will be a problem to deal with and lots of hard work.

Based on the above, you are probably looking at 20-30 acres. If you are going to hunt wild game on your land, you’ll need more. (I doubt there will be much wild game left in the scenario we are contemplating, unless you are in a very remote location. The wild game will be gone or will go nocturnal. I hunt a lot and find that when I hunt deer on pressured public land, the deer go nocturnal. Plus, don’t expect to pick up your rifle and do a Daniel Boone. I’m happy when I bring home 50 pounds of venison during white tail season.)

Goats are a good alternative, but it will take 5 goats to produce the milk of 1 cow. If your retreat is timberland or scrubby land with no good pasture goats are the alternative. They’ll clear the land, but they’ll also eat your garden and berry bushes. Again, if you think you are going to hunt, the goats will compete with the deer for forage.

Bison is another alternative, as they will mostly just graze. But, fencing is very expensive. In fact, you really can’t fence in bison, but they will herd and be happy. Plus, they bring a premium for their calves, meat, and hides. You’ll need to have a front end loader (and fuel) since you can’t move bison by hand.

Just some thoughts. I’m thinking 30-50 acres.



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