Land use

scorcher21August 6, 2008

Our family is currently in the process of planning for off the grid living. One of the many questions we have and are finding difficult to find is what amount of farmable land is needed per person per year?

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I had a large and detailed response written, but then it said there was some kind of error...

If you have excel, you can punch in certain amounts of the foods you feel you could grow into the usda nutrient database, then copy and paste to a spreadsheet. Look up the requirements and put them in a column, then add to see if you have the requirements. Here is the page for the reqs:

Once you do this, go around and find the yield per acre. Use the lower end of the estimate. Multiply your need per person per day by 365, then divide by the yield. This will give you the number of acres per person for each needed crop.

If you want to depend on vitamin/mineral supplements, then life is much easier, and you just have to get daily intakes of protein, carbs and fats sufficient to get daily energy needs, and fiber.

If you don't want to depend on supplements, consider building a diet around cow's milk, spinach, sunflower seeds, with some kind of grain and legume. You will need 2.25 cups of milk each day, and about 3/4 pounds of fresh spinach, along with 1 ounce sunflower seeds. You will still need carbs, some more protein, calcium, and iron. It really depends on what grains and beans you like to eat. Sesame is a nutritional powerhouse, but it and spinach contain an anti-nutrient called oxalate, which you should not have too much of in your diet. The spinach is almost pushing it. Try an find some seed crops that give plenty of calcium, iron, and fiber. You will get more than enough calories and protein by the time you satisfy those.

good luck!

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 2:54PM
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Problem is I don't know what you guys like to eat, and what you are willing to eat... that makes a HUGE difference. The cow also messes things up because it provides way more than one person needs. If I suggest some absolute minimum based on esoteric crops like amaranth and rose hips, you may be like, "This guy is too granola... I want some meat dangit".

Sorry to not really answer your question, but if you fill in some more blanks, I may be able to give you some good ranges on land needs.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 3:00PM
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There is abook "security on 5 acres " or a similar title . check your local lbrary for it . Also poultry and rabbits produce meat in small areas if needed. so can hogs, goats sheep . Aquaculture can supply fish .Read up on the things you plan on growing and what they can supply per acre and decide .

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 3:31PM
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Thank you for the input. I understand no one gan give an exact number for area per person per year. I was just looking for a general starting point. I do have excel and will use that formula and as to what we eat, we are basically meat and pototes type of people. Goats, hogs, and chickens are already in the plans as well as being in an enviroment close to fishable waters.
Any extra input is welcome, there is no such thing as too much information.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 4:51PM
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"5 acres and independence" by Maurice G. Kain. It is a great place to start. The problem is they didn't know as much about human nutrition as we do now, so it is hard to arrive at a minimum, especially when yields of certain row crops are so much higher now.


Meat huh?... I am a vegetarian, so I won't be much help there. Remember you need to raise enough of anything to eat it everyday, otherwise you need to raise something else to get the same nutrients on the off days, or buy food (which I am not figuring on). Hunting and fishing are not as dependable as things you raise and grow yourself, they don't have that every day dependability.
Meat will always require more space and/or labor than milk, eggs, or plant protein. You must have animal sources of food to have natural sources of B-12, and the source that gives the most of it per land unit is cow milk. Meat, milk, and eggs CAN require less labor and farm inputs by allowing animals to harvest all of their own food from pasture.

This is the way I would do it, all grass fed with hay raised in the row crop/garden areas during the off season for winter and emergencies. The smallest cow, a dexter gives enough milk for 10-20 daily doses of b-12. If you want to raise chickens, raise a "feral" chicken like hamburgs, fayoumis, or campines for eggs and just give them kitchen scraps, extra milk, and restaraunt scraps from some place that you pass on the way to work every day to avoid using up space/money... try and minimize scratch and grain usage. You want to minimize the amount of hauling of food to animals, or the amount of grain concentrate you have to grow/purchase for animals. Always keep some grain ready to feed if you see the animals performance falling, and try to use a rotational system in pasture so they use it better. Meat production with fewest inputs should work the same way.

I am of the opinion that a ruminant should NEVER recieve grain concentrate if you want to minimize cost/ labor/fuel usage, unless it is under distress or perhaps pregnant. A good quality pasture of roughly half grass and half legumes should be all it needs. In areas with severe winters, feed hay, not grain that should go to PEOPLE or non-ruminants.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2008 at 6:19PM
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I think you can pretty much do it on a few acres if the land is very fertile. With poor soils you would have to have many many acres. The biggest challenge is mastering all the various methods to store food. You can grow a lot of food in a small space but the problem is that everything ripens at the same time so you are at a mad scramble to harvest and put up everything all at once. You will always be able to barter goods from other farmers so you won't have to grow everything. People like to share and to help other people out.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 11:19AM
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The spinach area you would divide by 9... and stagger the plantings over a year. Use the most bolt resistant varieties you can find. The grains and beans you would have to store in a manner that vermin could not get into them. Tight fitting metal garbage cans, maybe with a cloth to make sure there is no gap for flour moths to get into.

Try and eat stuff in season... it tastes better, and requires no effort to store. You can get good results by staggering most fresh veggies in 2 or 3 plantings.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2008 at 2:38PM
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