30 Acres for Self Sufficiency

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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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24 Comments

  1. We have just moved out to 51 acres. Probably not far enough from a city in a shtf moment (50miles) but enough that one of us can work and one stay. Agree regarding livestock space for cattle etc but miniaturized breeds help with reducing land requirements for not a huge loss in production. Here we have a bonus though. A plentiful kangaroo population that are better suited for production or hunt but technically only in a shtf situation as they are a protected native species. Build an earthship and you complete your picture as you will be able to grow food in the front of the house out of season also.
    Cheers

  2. Check into the Joel Saletin method of cattle production. Solar powered electric fencing for the cows for rotation grazing reduces the need for permanent fencing, increases the amount of grass produced and improves the soil. The cows are followed by chickens that eat the fly larvae in the manure and also spread out the manure for fertilizing the grass. This reduces the need of chicken feed by about 40%

    1. Frisky,
      Chicken tractors moved daily does not reduce feed costs 40%. Maybe 15% and I have been using Salatins methods for 10 years.

      1. Our 16 birds (14 pullets and to roos) have ZERO feed cost… they free range the property, and give us 10 eggs a day… let a bird go broody every 4-6 weeks, and you always have fresh cockerels ready to butcher. As an aside, there is snow on the ground, and the birds are still finding their food… they DO get some kitchen scraps… they eat what they want from the compost pile.)

        1. During the winter, how do you keep your compost from freezing for the chickens? We get LOTS of snow, not sure how your winters are.

  3. If it gets to the point you need to have total self sufficiency to survive then you can calculate that there will be a die off as well because clearly most people cannot do this. So your biggest worry might be keeping the cows and your family from being poached for a period of time until there are less people. A shelter underground might be necessary for livestock and humans. Then why worry about having state blessed ownership of your little kingdom? You’ll be surrounded by surburban yards abandoned which will become instant pasture. By then hopefully you have linked up with a few other survivors to create a tribe.

  4. Consider the enormous energy put into growing grains to feed cattle. Up to 5000 gallons of water for is required to raise one pound of beef! According to the US Department of Agriculture statistics, one acre of land can grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes. That same acre of land, when used to grow cattle feed, can produce less than 165 pounds of edible cow flesh.

  5. Found this page by accident. Don’t mind me if I join in? I was born and raised on wild food with farmland for livestock, grains, fruits and vegetables. So I’ve been reading all the comments with interest.

    Firstly. You do not need to supplement free range chicken’s feed with grains. As long as the hens have access to woodland and good pasture they don’t need anything more. However, you may need a little incentive to get them to come in at night to protect from predators – that’s where the corn comes in. It’s the cream cake for chickens. Don’t over do it. I recommend you grow some linseed to treat chicken lice, though. Even free range hens will get them and they itch like Mary Bells.

    Secondly. You need to tandem plant your vegetables to deter insect pests. For example carrots between rows of onions will keep them free of carrot root fly. And don’t forget to rotate your crops and leave a section fallow/meadow for hay each year, better still two years. If you don’t, the soil becomes sterile and useless.

    Thirdly. I’ve read some comments on sites like this that recommend getting rid of hedgerows to increase the space for grass to ‘improve the soil’. In fact, this will have the opposite effect. You leave your land open to becoming a dust bowl. Leave the hedgerows in. They not only provide cover for your free meat – small birds, rabbits, squirrels (all edible) etc – they also provide your free wild fruits and nuts that will augment your diet. It also helps to secure the soil in situ and protect your crops against the weather.

    Fourth. Don’t be so hasty about dismissing wild vegetables. There are hundreds of ‘old’ vegetables that have fallen on the wayside because modern supermarkets don’t consider them viable or edible. Elderberries, burdock root, cobnuts and dandelions are just as good for you as white currents, potatoes, hazelnuts and rocket. And they taste better when you’ve found and picked them yourself. Although, go easy on the burdock, or it’ll go through you like a bag of plums. As an aside to this, get hold of a book about mushrooms and enjoy. Chicken Of The Woods really does taste like chicken.

    Fifth. I know it’s not considered animal friendly, or may be a waste of space for some, but shed-wintering small herds of animals can be a viable alternative to overwintering in a field. You’ll have to spread the muck yourself, but that means bigger muscles.

    Also, has anyone thought of fishponds?

    Toodles

    1. What is shed wintering mean? I’ve never heard anyone use that terminology.

    2. Blue Fire you are right on about the hedge rows. Hedge rows provide shelter for the predators that eat the pests that eat our crops.

    3. You clearly know what you´re talking about! Especially about those ‘wild’ vegetables – if you have a piece of forrest, its easy to tweak it to grow more of the plants you can eat. Plant a sweet chestnut tree, it takes zero care yet will produce up to a 100 pounds per season of tasty nuts once grown. Rowans, Oaks and Beeches produce fruits you can eat in a pinch, but will also feed and attract wild animals for you to hunt. ….and don´t forget a herb garden, Mother Natures Pharmacy ;-)

  6. Getting first to, and then from full economic, environmental and social collapse, to then true SHTF scenario(s), to overcoming years of post doom “re-balancing” which will include both (at the very minimum) huge domestic and foreign challenges including various invasions/migrations (survival of world-wide fittest to the best lands) in a “hoped for” Utopian self- sustained world …all in a single generation (any of our remaining life time) seems way beyond probable/possible, if at all. Wars will happen.

    I would say at the very least fifty years time would have to pass to see an endless stream of both modern and practical variables come into play which are barely addressable in any kind of simplistic shorthand. Example: if a true collapse, eventually how many hundreds of nuclear plants would go “offline” within weeks/months of each other? We don’t have a clue what effect this may have environmentally (nuclear laden-ed rain clouds/water supply – did anyone bring their fallout suits and anti nuclear pills?). How many unintended nuclear blasts will be survived from various systems that go “hot” or lose orbit? The point, these too not-so-great examples (and so many more) wouldn’t be good nor easy to avoid no matter where we hide. The almost assured and resulting meltdown of hundreds of the “friendly” cores alone, left unattended much less neutralized would create how many hot spots throughout the world? That is a challenge a move out in the country can’t and won’t solve. You are best literally digging down and living subterranean for a generation or two…that might be sustainable.

    Then there is good old and all the new diseases, viruses, etc. to add to the die off…so on and so on. How do you really (I mean REALLY) prepare? It is a long long list that goes way beyond how many rabbits you have in your hutch (no offense to the great write-up previously) – I just wish it all so simple as in the movies…it is so not simple.

    I believe in self determination and independence but I think the word we need the most is sacrifice. What are we willing to give up?

    It seems we need to either stand and in some way fight for what we have today (bad as it may seem, we must figure out how to turn things around and make life at least tolerable for as many as possible (here in the US and many other countries we have that and more) …that is where this survivalist process should focus its attention. Just a better place and maybe we all learn at least a little more as to how we move off the grid.

    But to survive in a post fan hitting world? I think the bugs and other creatures have the better edge. For us humans – given if we totally screw this up (meaning we don’t figure it out as a society – and it somehow ends after a great loss of life and our “humanness” – to a handful of survivors remotely similar to who we are as people today living the “good life”)?

    Ha.

    One in a million literal chance. It is almost as if you could not prepare unless you had the resources to defend and develop an offshore island. And there you are, all by yourself…with all your family and friends. Please. We of course would all want this, but the answer seems to me to be elsewhere. Fight the machine.

    Or, create a Nation State of all like-minded people. Best examples would be Australia or New Zealand, maybe more examples but here in the US? That was our pre-Civil War point of opportunity and we have blown that sky high years ago. It may be too late for the previously mentioned but at some point a new group of people and a logical politic must take over and cause change.

    And that may take the ultimate sacrifice of either giving one’s life or working hard at changing our system. Sorry, we can’t simply run away.

    We need leaders.

    I don’t see any of us (beyond say a world-wide population of say 10,000,000 people to be able to exist in a survivalist sort of way – probably less …and BTW, first most who survive would be opportunistic Nomads…then start the cycle all over again).

    We have got to fix what we have, pool our resources as a world and aim for colonizing some distant planet. Nuclear fuel in space hurts no one. Multi generational exploration is possible using the same methods discussed here…we know there are now 100’s of very, very distant bodies in space that might be reachable and potentially habitable. Even if just a few hundred make it out of 10 Billion, isn’t that a higher purpose? We will all turn to dust…so what should our legacy be: that we survived all the other suckers and here we are on our 3 or 50 acres? Don’t think so.

    Kennedy was right. We gotta dream.

  7. This was outstanding. Exactly what I was looking for. I need a layout for my square foot raised garden beds so I can rotate them successfuly. I know you have to rotate your crops so the next crop you plant will replenish what was taken the year before. My garden needs to feed 4 adults. I haven’t purchased any of my animals yet. I do have 20 acres. currently I have 3 rabbits and only 1 rooster and 1 hen. I know I need more chickens and want goats for my meat and milk products. There is about 2 acres open never been planted. this open acreage is not all connected. can you help me organize and utilize my farm. My house will be built this fall. Do you have an email or something so I can communicate with you in reguards to my need?

  8. Have you researched Yaks? Goats are great – but I feel that Yaks might actually suit the needs much better in either a small farm or a doomsday farm… And not the pure Yaks that can’t survive below a certain grade of sea level, but the crossbred type. This will be the meat of the future, btw. Mark my words… Yaks eat like goats, are hearty in the cold, and taste like beef. They are a triple threat — milk, wool, and meat. And they are an easy animal to work with. Just my 2 cents in the pot…

  9. No doubt many of you have already realised that, if the S does hit the F, armed gangs will probably invade your utopia as law\order will have collapsed…the only way I can see to avoid them is to stay under the radar…hide like your life depends upon it…because it will…pick a remote spot in a national park and clear some space for food farming…won’t be any national park rangers at that point to stomp all over you.

  10. One way to make sure you will have good hunting if you have any acreage is to start planting fruit and nut trees in the woods for the wild animals… Like chestnuts for deer….So if the SH ever does hit the F… you will have a large well fed population of turkey and deer on your land.

    Someone mentioned how many pounds of potatoes you can grow on an acre… It is a great point…But humans need more than starch… Fruit and nut trees can supplement the diet and provide much needed protein ( nuts )

    Buying a few trees and then propagating more is cheap…I would suggest planting 3-4 times what you think you will need in terms of fruit and nut trees… plant as many types and varieties as will grow where you live to make sure you are harvesting some form of bounty from the fruit and nut trees for as much of the year as possible. ( fresh food is better, you may not have refrigeration ) Planting extra fruit and nut trees means there will plenty for wild animals and any animals you want to keep on the farm. Also fresh fruit and nuts will be worth their weight in gold to trade with neighbors. Please add Berries to this list as well… If anyone had plans on keeping Bees.. Fruit, nut and berries all over your land will mean lots of honey… Which is also worth it’s weight in gold because of the sugar….

    Personally I think that you need to plan a little bigger… Make sure you have friends and family that would come with you in a crisis… and have a large woodlot ( wood will be a valuable fuel ) It does not have to be on your land just nearby… If the SHTF there will not be a lot of people around to stop you from cutting trees down ) But my point is say 15-20 people you now and semi trust come to your retreat.. that is a large enough number where you can defend yourself and there will be lots of hands to divide up for chores… but that is also a lot of mouths to feed…So you might have to think bigger…50 acre woodlot…20 acres of orchards ( fruits, nuts, berries… Then grassland to feed animals in winter… and open land for gardens… I am thinking 100 acres minimum.. you can plant orchards on hillsides… and the wood lot does not have to be level… but you will need 40-50 acres of somewhat flat arable land to farm… So it would help if there was a year round creek or stream running through the property… which would allow you to have a few ponds and some fish as well….

    The point about getting out of the city is great… If you are more than an hour from a big city I think you will be okay as most people are too stupid to know what to do…They would stay in the city and fight amongst themselves for whatever resources were left… It would get ugly. I do not think you want to be 500 miles from where you live… If the S ever does hit the F… How will people be able to get to the retreat if it is a long way away? you have to balance that with the desire to be out in the middle of nowhere.

    Someone mentioned elderberries… and dandelions…But I would think you would need to research and plant dozens of things in your woods that will provide you not only with food for yourself and animals… but medicines to fight of sickness and disease… I mentioned elderberry because it is a miracle cure all for plagues and flues… Having lots of honey, ginger, garlic, ginseng will keep the people in your retreat alive and healthy… Remember that there will be no clinic or pharmacy to run to if the S… ever does hit the F…

    One thing I have done…Is buy books… Lots of books… Do not count on there being an internet… a 20 year old set of encyclopedias are an amazing investment from a yard sale…Books on farming, gardening, beekeeping, first aid, herbs, nutrition, poisonous plants, basic medicine… Are also going to be worth their weight in gold… Stock up now.

    Sorry this was too random…

    For all of the reasons I mentioned above we opted for the Cumberland plateau/mountains…Moderate climate… decent rainfall… Low population…land is cheap… Lots of forests nearby…and only a couple of hours from my home…If I had to walk there I could( might take me a week..but I could do it. )…The vacant land around me that is not being used combined with what I have would give me access to hundreds of acres if the S ever did hit the F….

    Currently we are buying and growing various types of berries to propagate… Sea buckthorn, goji, elderberry…As well as fruit and nut trees…

    One of the things that I am guilty of all the time is not thinking of simple things that go a long way… Like how many people have a foot powered stone wheel to sharpen knives and tools set up at their retreat How many people have built a wooden hand press to make earthen blocks and bricks? How many people have thought to bury a few tons of coal ( for blacksmithing ) and to gather as much scrap metal copper brass and aluminum as possible? or a manual tire changer ( I built my own from scratch based on models from 70 years ago ) Or even ways to compress air without electricity???

    Start thinking bigger in terms of

    -Land
    -Food
    -Tools
    -Books
    -Medicine
    -Energy
    -Defense/security

    I think people planning to maximize a couple of acres would starve or die if something really bad were to happen….Though they might live long enough for order to be restored in a mini catastrophe.

    In a few years I want to retreat full time to my land whether the Sh… hits the F…. or not… By then the fruit and nut trees will be producing and I will have plenty of things to pick and harvest

    1. Benevolance, you come across as very knowledgeable. I’d love to pick your brain more. I like your way of thinking. I’m just getting started, planning what I’d ultimately like to have. One small step at a time. I think I’ll end up using your comments as part of my planning.

  11. Also someone mentioned Yaks because they can give you milk, wool, meat and be used as a pack animal… I would advocate sheep… for milk, wool and meat…

  12. Connie, Girls hunt too.

    I think you need to specify who you want to have a correspondence with. This way they will know to contact you.

    Cheers.

  13. I am thinking about moving an RV onto my 80 acres in Colorado, which is flat land. I will need electricity, so only need a well. The land is scrubby with no trees. Do I need to clear the land or get some goats? Have no idea how to get started, so need lots of suggestions. Thank you.

  14. @ Joe Dunkelberger
    Joe, my first suggestion would be to sell the land in CO (to many regulations) and buy in NM or WY.
    NRP

  15. Im a going Amish, slowly. looking at land in Colorado too. as far as regs go its county by county. There are seven counties that have no regs at all as long as you use 12 volt everything and if you are far enough out and keep everything covered quiet and not smelly you can do just about what you want even in the regulated area’s. by covered I mean that google is making it very easy to spy on you for the county and state. I don’t think the fed give a rip about what I do on a small peace of land but they sure will give you money to do it if you ask for an SBA loan (if you don’t mind them nosing around.

    on the solar side I been thinking about making shudders for my panels so if it starts hailing we could shut the shudders. if we are looking at SHF then there will be no replacements for them. having manual pumps around would not be a bad ideal too.

    As for the gent then mentioned going underground you could if you had a nuclear reactor to run the power. otherwise your only other way would be solar and they would be gone in days if you did not leave a security force on the surface. witch would attract attention to your food reserves underground etc. best bet for this is in the KC area as it is home to some of the largest man made caves in the world. google underground city, Kansas city. but even then how do you power it?

    History shows that we have the ability to outpace our food supply and even with oil based fertilizers we can’t, or will not, feed everyone now. So when there is 10B on the rock and the petroleum runs out you will need to have a plan or be just another family that died out during the Great Tribulation.

    personally I don’t want to watch my kids starve to death so I am prepping the best I can. part of that is making and storing huge quantities of hard tack with vitamins added. it tastes like an old sock but it will keep you alive for a long time. Thrice-baked British Hardtack

    Ingredients

    -10 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (I use Enriched)
    -3.5 Cups Water (Filtered is ideal)
    -3 Tablespoons Iodized Salt (Starting to see a pattern?)
    -2 Tablespoons Salt Set-Aside

    Directions

    hardtack c Hardtack can be baked into whatever shapes are convenient.
    Hardtack can be baked into whatever shapes are convenient.

    -Preheat Oven to 250.
    -Combine Salt and Water; stir until salt is no longer visible.
    -Combine Flour and Saltwater into a dry dough. You should have to compress the dough in your hands for it to stick together.
    -Place on heavily floured surface; roll out to 3/4 inch. A hardtack cutter is only $10. Invest in one.
    -Cut with cutter, or with knife into roughly 3″x3″ squares.
    -Create the ‘docks’ (holes). At least 16, but I use 25.
    -Sprinkle tops with 1 Tablespoon of set-aside salt. Flip and sprinkle with remaining 1 Tablespoon.
    -Bake on ungreased sheet for 3 hours; flip hardtack halfway through.
    -Turn off oven and let cool with door closed. Remove hardtack when oven has fully cooled.
    -Reheat the oven to 250 degrees. Bake again for 3 hours, flipping halfway through.
    -Turn off oven and let cool with door closed. Remove hardtack when oven has fully cooled.
    -Reheat the oven to 250 degrees. Bake a third time for 3 hours, flipping halfway through.
    -Turn off oven and let cool with door closed.
    -Let hardtack cool and harden for 3 days. Ideally, in the oven, but a counter top works just fine.
    -Package and store. Salt and Desiccant packs are excellent preservers.

    If kept dry, this will provide basic nutrition for an indefinite amount of time. We have hardtack from the Roman Empire that is still edible. Plan ahead, package properly, and this is a very cheap way to bulk up your supplies. I spent $50 on ingredients and I made over 5,000 crackers. So much that I actually gave a few boxes worth away to friends.

    Keep in mind, the addition of ANYTHING else (honey, berries, butter, lard) will significantly reduce shelf life; from centuries to months.
    this is my favorite one so far and it is copied from another site but last forever.

    God was on my side says all the survivors.

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