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Ideal Homestead Size

 
master pollinator
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I was wondering what people felt the ideal Homestead Size was?

I know many people feel that the most land they can buy, the better, but after a few years that notion is quickly dispelled. Between the idea of getting financing for excess acrage, to paying property taxes, to just managing that much land, it quickly comes apparent that smaller is often better.

But what size?

My wife says it would be 5 acres, but I was thinking it would be more like 10 acres. I got several 30 acre plots in distant towns, and it would seem to me 30 acres is too big. Maybe 15 acres, but much more than that and it would be unmanageable.


 
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I think it really depends on the person/people involved.

Too much land isn't really too much if it's viewed as wildlife habitat in my opinion.

Just keep some trails mowed and keep a check on certain invasive plants. I find it enjoyable to let the wilds take back over some otherwise abused hay fields. Seeing the amount of pollinators and wildlife going about the wildflowers is amazing!

I think a little precision cutting back here and there will maintain the essence of a woods/wildflower meadow.

Personally I like the idea of more (only if you can easily afford it!) because there is the opportunity of options. Future woodlot, grazing land, etc...

But "more" to me might be a drop in the bucket to some

Where I'm sure there are also plenty of people who think anything over an acre would be too much!

For me, the sweet spot is somewhere between 10-30 acres, I chose on the high end of that and glad I did. Not a problem for me to only focus on a small portion for projects and let the other areas be your wild buffer zone.

...Fencing costs should be considered but luckily our entire property already is surrounded by 8" cedar posts!





 
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I think I will be able to raise all the food I'm able to on about an acre.  The rest of our 20 acres is for privacy, firewood, and wildlife habitat.  Because I prefer not to have neighbors very close, for me 20 acres is the minimum total size.

 
pollinator
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That's a huge it depends question. I think it is a delicate balance, and what that is depends on what is being weighed. I am assuming that this is your opinion, too, and want to flesh the question out using the massive processing (*cough* bullshitting *cough, cough*) power here on permies. This is my take on it.

So you have your property taxes on one side, along with all the costs associated with actually making use of it, which often requires some material outlay, such as for a dwelling or renovation thereof, equipment specific to any operation being undertaken on the property, and the associated outbuildings, not to mention infrastructure for access and animal barriers. I like to keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.

On the other side is the cashflow you can generate off that land. What you can do on that land, practically speaking, is limited by your resources on that land, unless you're willing and able to bring stuff in, say to amend soil, which becomes a more expensive and difficult option where it comes to broad-acre operations.

You'd know better than I, Travis, but I would say that along with soil and water conditions, climate is a large deciding factor in terms of what can be done where, and how great the yield. I think that more options are available if, as you have said in other posts, you properly evaluate your land to choose the most site-appropriate operations so you aren't fighting your land.

One other thing that you have brought up in other posts is using the socio-political landscape to your advantage, and the legislative one. Applying for grants for specific best-practices or tax-breaks for this and that protective environmental feature can tilt the balance in your favour, if it doesn't negatively impact your operations on the land, such as if grants for wetlands protection and riparian stewardship translated to not being able to use it for wildcrafting or carefully managed selective rotational grazing.

I am in an interesting position, where I am living in something like the second-most expensive city in which to live in Canada and working a job, like a lot of us, that pays not enough money, trying to pay down my debt, and looking for options out of the city where I could work a full-time job, ideally carry a mortgage on a house with a bit of land, and carry on with carrying on.

For me, my ideal homestead size for right now would be the largest, best property I could afford now, or soon. I might have to compromise, too, and rent a dwelling out of the city, and find a bit of land to rent, or rent-to-own, ideally, on which to run a market garden and animal fibre or meat operation, unless or until I can buy some outright.

In terms of practical numbers, I think J.M. Fortier, who, if you aren't familiar, applies permacultural techniques to intensively managed market gardens and (as far as I can tell) uses only unpowered walking-plow-scale garden machinery, said that the largest market garden he could operate by himself, in the style he operates, was something like 3/4 of an acre. I don't recall how much food he was producing, or if the focus could be shifted to provide a mix of in-season garden produce and produce that overwinters well.

For scale, I believe that it was generally acknowledged that potatoes grown in poor soil could feed two adults per acre per year.

And then there are orchard crops to think of.

Without going into absolutely everything, I think that it will depend on how much of your property-derived income is outer-zone operation, usually needing more space to be profitable, and how much will be inner-zone, intensive operation. I think the more intensive operation you have, the smaller the property can be, to a point, but that has to take into account what type of work and how large a workload you can or want to handle.

Honestly, I think that you have to go with your experience. That is the path of least stress. If you are comfortable with the sort of work you do with large equipment and property conversion, maybe you need to be looking at 15 acres, or maybe larger. If it's more taxing for you to operate a half-acre intensively-managed market or kitchen garden than it is to convert forest to pasture for sheep, say, the ideal is the larger quantity.

Sorry for the ramble. I have been going over this for myself a lot, and it sometimes helps to put it down in text.

I hope some of this is in some way useful.

-CK
 
Travis Johnson
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I was just curious on what people thought the ideal Homestead Size shoud be.

When we put our home up for sale, a complete homestead, with sheep, hay, barn, fencing, fruite trees, garden and a house, we thought it would sell kind of quick. But while no one has had anything negative to say about the home, it was 1-1/2 months before we got our first offer. While some of it could be location (we are extremely rural here), we concluded that maybe it was the amount of land; in that case 3-11 acres depending on what people wanted.

Our land is rather broken up, we have several hundred acres in one spot granted, but we have land in 5 towns and 2 different states in all. A few plots are 30 acres, some in the 40 acre range, and every size in between. A few of those plots we have no real interest in. They came with the farm, and is probably something my Great-Grandfather got back in the 1930's because someone along the way owed him some money. But some plots jut out in 10 acre plots that we could easily annex off our farm, and bo no worse off because we did.

I also know of a plot of land my friend has that he wants to get rid of, but it is only 30 acres of land. Obviously raw land has no real value, so I thought about buying that, finishing the house, putting up a barn, clearing tthe land, and installing fences, and then sell it as a complete homestead. I mean that is what I do, but is 30 acres too much? Not enough? Ideal?

It is easy to say the "most land possible", but then finance companies do not like financing more than a few acres, so I was curious as to what the ideal balance is: what people want, what is financeable, and what is affordable?

There are no wrong answers here, I was just curious what size people thought was ideal.


 
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In my area, if it's wooded enough for privacy, 5-10 acres is enough to feel like you're deep in the woods.  If it's swamp, it's probably cheap on taxes so get as much as you want (deer hunting and ?).  If it's open, 10-40 may be better to get some privacy and have enough wooded plots for firewood.

I have 10 acres and it's enough but I wish I had 20.  I even have some public access forest land adjoining me that I can wander on and I still wish I owned some of it.

I'm in the camp of get as much as you can reasonably afford to keep unhappy things from happening to the land.  Noisy new neighbors, developments, clear cutting...
 
master pollinator
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For me this is pretty simple. The maximum amount of land I can get my hands on. That's because I'm looking to turn most of it into something that looks like native forest and I like the idea of a big buffer.

I am looking at the idea of purchasing land adjacent to government land that is highly degraded due to slash-and-burn agriculture. I want to have at least 25 acres that is deeded to us. Then I wouldn't mind having several thousand acres that belong to the government, but that I have a 50 to 100-year lease on. I will agree to turn a certain percentage of it into forest, probably 80% or so. The remaining land will be used for agriculture. When my lease runs out, they will be able to turn it into a park or they might decide to slash and burn it again, who knows.

There are government programs meant to get lots of native trees growing. When I find the right spot, I will present some sort of offer and either they will go for it or they won't. The only thing I'm really going to ask for is a good price on young tree starts that come from government-owned nurseries, and lifetime tax relief on that land. If I can get those two things, I'm willing to turn thousands of acres of scrubland into productive forest that will be suitable for many of the plants and animals that are becoming rare.

I'm looking to develop my portion as a farm but also a place for tourists to visit. I think lots of people would be interested in visiting a young forest that is being purposely created. There are many pioneer species that top 25 feet within 3 years, so we could be living in a forest pretty quickly.

My answer is 10,000 acres or so.
 
pollinator
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For me, I think 30 acres would be a minimum. Maybe 25. I wouldn’t want it all cleared though, I have to have a long driveway through the woods to screen from the road. Yeah, I don’t see any neighbors, and don’t want to.

I have more than that, and really really like it. I am with Tyler, use what you need of it and keep the rest wild. So I would say buy as much as you can afford, and still afford the infrastructure - house, barns, fencing, etc.  and taxes. You can always sell off chunks should you ever tire of having your very own park!
 
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That's a hard question, obviously not being from the US I have different thoughts on it, but even inside a small country like the UK it's going to really vary a few, say 3 acres of good land in the south would be fine, but on the hills 30 or 40 acres would be needed.

I personally do not want more than 3 but I have 7 I can't use 7 acres it's way to much to keep under control without putting animals on it and as only two people we can't eat as much meat as that would produce. so I rent out part instead, and a non adjoining part is for sale (putting trees on it or letting it revert to scrubland would quadruple the taxes)

It so depends on what the buyer wants to do but I suspect (and I have no proof of this) that small and large will sell but properties in the middle will struggle, people who don't want to have machinery will consider them too big and those who want to keep cows/woods etc and run a tractor etc will think them too small.

Are there websites with lots of homestead properties on them? If so (and if you have a lot of time) you could look though them and see what amount of acres is commanding the best price per acre/selling fastest. that might give a hint as to what people want

One last thought, when one searches for your property does it show up as 3 acres? Because when I was searching to buy I missed a lot of properties on my searches because I had a minimum of 1 hectare (2.2 acres)set in the search  and a lot were being sold under a hectare but in the text it would say there was an option to buy up to X hectares of land more. However since that didn't come up on the front page of the search and I was flipping through hundreds of listings I passed them by.
 
pollinator
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Travis - when we starting looking for our homestead here in southern Oregon, quite a few of the properties had been on the market for a year. The realtor said that this isn't uncommon. It's difficult to gauge what to ask for, comps aren't really available because the properties vary so much, etc. I would think that if you are just trying to sell a few acres without a house or a very modest one, cash buyers would be your market.

Our property is almost 80 acres, and I haven't even been able to explore the whole thing yet. But that's okay, just like others have said, the plan is to leave much of it as it is.

Is there a way that you could list your property with options. I saw this as well when we were looking. Typically, I would see a property listed that had multiple tax lots, that could be bought together or not. And I don't know about Maine, but here in Oregon, one can't just sell off bits of your property, or if you can, they can't be built on.
 
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Travis Johnson wrote:I was wondering what people felt the ideal Homestead Size was?
...




LTDR; min 2 acres of 'avearge land' per person.

...

What's the ideal weight of a truck?

What is the ideal angle for a blade edge?


It's a good though provoking question, rather than one that can get an analytical answer of X acres.


10 acres of tundra is not equal to 10 acres of the Krameterhof.   10 acres of the Krameterhof isn't equal to another 10 acres of the Krameterhof.


Quick diversion.  Price vs Value.   The price is a dollar amount that someone ask or maybe two people agree to do a deal on.  e.g. $5.   The Value ( note the gravitas of the capital V which, i'll stop using shortly) is what that Price gets you.    The incremental value of a gallon of water when you have pletny isn't much.  The value of that one gallon of water you might need when dieing of thirst in a desert that value is quite high.


The Value of a fully functioning 100% sustainable homestead is at least the number of lives that the homestead can support.  Or maybe just the lives minus the time spent keeping the homestead up and running.   A turn key Gert homestead could be valued at somewhere around $1-2 Million / person the homestead can support.  Only the cash richest could pay that in money.


Back from diversion.
Ethically there is only so much land and there are a lot of people.   At some point, ethically, the ideal homestead size might factor in how much land there is for all the people.   Ditching ethics, at some point the people without land get pointy sticks and come after those who have the land, no mater how well it's looked after.  

~ 196.9 million mi^2 of land, 7.7 billion people.  or about 16 acres per person of land.   Different per capita land areas ( https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Geography/Area/Land/Per-capita ) , you'll notice Greenland has about 10,000 acres per person.... most of it's ice and not so useful for growing tulips, or food.   There might be 1-2 acres of arable land per person globally.  Though arable doesn't cover everything productive.


In general I'd say the right sized homestead might be though of like animal stocking densities.    Large enough so that there is plenty of extra capacity and surpluses possibility so that life changes can be supported.  e.g. being at 100% stocking density means an unplanned child breaks the homestead.    Likewise there are other 100%s to watch out for.    Using 100% water in a drought year.   etc.  


Averaging everything out... I think Skandi Rogers hit it about right ( or I am  misinterpreting wildly) .  on average, a minimum of 2 acres / person.  For average land.   Use the 1 acre to grow stuff, and 1/4th acre to live on, and the rest in some productive endeavor or zone 5.   A household planning for a longer term sustainable life might be  2 grandparents, two parents, two kids for some amount of time.   Figure ~10 acres.   ( compared to the total available for 6 people of 96 ish acres of average land )

 
Dale Hodgins
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Farmland has been and is being bought up by large conglomerates. So I think it would be just great if lots of family farms got much bigger. I'm not trying to keep poor people from farming. I'd like to deprive Delmonte of a few thousand acres.
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:For me this is pretty simple. The maximum amount of land I can get my hands on. That's because I'm looking to turn most of it into something that looks like native forest and I like the idea of a big buffer.

I am looking at the idea of purchasing land adjacent to government land that is highly degraded due to slash-and-burn agriculture. I want to have at least 25 acres that is deeded to us. Then I wouldn't mind having several thousand acres that belong to the government, but that I have a 50 to 100-year lease on. I will agree to turn a certain percentage of it into forest, probably 80% or so. The remaining land will be used for agriculture. When my lease runs out, they will be able to turn it into a park or they might decide to slash and burn it again, who knows.

There are government programs meant to get lots of native trees growing. When I find the right spot, I will present some sort of offer and either they will go for it or they won't. The only thing I'm really going to ask for is a good price on young tree starts that come from government-owned nurseries, and lifetime tax relief on that land. If I can get those two things, I'm willing to turn thousands of acres of scrubland into productive forest that will be suitable for many of the plants and animals that are becoming rare.

I'm looking to develop my portion as a farm but also a place for tourists to visit. I think lots of people would be interested in visiting a young forest that is being purposely created. There are many pioneer species that top 25 feet within 3 years, so we could be living in a forest pretty quickly.

My answer is 10,000 acres or so.



I'm with Dale on this one. As much as you can grab without going bust or insane.

My parcel was previously owned by a fellow that also owned some adjoining lots. I walked all of them when looking at the place, and thought that the whole set plus all the little properties surrounding them along the road that were clearly snipped out decades ago... *that* would be the perfect size.

That would be about a thousand acres. But I would still have wanted as many thousand more around me as possible...

My couple hundred is plenty big enough to go broke working on it, but I'd love enough to hike all day... and to not hear cars or neighbours...



Taxes are the big gotcha. Here they are greatly reduced for farms, I sure scrambled to qualify in year one... of course this could always change, which would be a big problem..
 
master steward
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When we were house/property hunting, we looked for anything 1+ acre. One acre was the minimum, and 5 acres was preferred, and anything more than 5 seemed heavenly.

I think most small homesteaders probably only need 1.5 acres of usable land. I find I'm only actively using about 1 acre of land for food (8-20 ducks, 4 chickens and garden/food forest), and the house/driveway takes up some space. Except for spring, my ducks only range on 1/3rd to 2/3rds of an acre (in the spring, they seem to get a semi-migratory urge in which they range further and further and I have to keep them from crossing the street and visiting my neighbors.

I have 5 acres, and it feels like more because one side is bordered by a Native Growth Protection Area strip for the housing development next to me, and the other side is land that was logged a few years back and no one uses right now. And, at least 2 acres of my land is natural woodland/wetland. I've noticed that other people's 5 acres can seem a lot smaller if there's no trees on their edges, or if their neighbors have no trees.

I LOVE having natural woodlands. I forage in them, flourish in the privacy they provide, and relish their beauty. But, I don't NEED that much land other than for my sanity and my desire to protect it. I only really can use 1 acre for my food  production right now. But, if I were to have large livestock, I would need more land than I have.

For a "normal" homesteader (someone who has 2-5 goats and some chickens  and a garden and fruit trees, for example), I think Travis' land is ideal. For someone who's more on the "farmer"/"rancher" (cows, planning to sell meat/produce, etc) end of the spectrum, they might want/need more

 
pollinator
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I can only speak for myself.......but like Dale, I wanted as much good land (not desert or swamp) as I could afford to buy and pay the annual taxes on. I ended up with 21 acres. I would have preferred 40 to 100 for the elbow room and privacy, but we didn't have the cash to do that unless it was trash land, which I didn't see the sense in buying. And I didn't want to go into debt. That was important to us---no mortgage. If things went poorly, I don't want to lose our land to foreclosure.

I actively farm 6 of those acres in food crops mixed with high quality pasture for the sheep and goats. One acre is for residential use (house & driveway, solar array, dog yards, cat sanctuary). The rest of the acreage is in lower quality, treed pasture & mixed food forest.

Our 21 acres gives us just about everything we need for a fairly self reliant homestead...... enough pasture for assorted livestock, gardens for annuals & perennials, space for compost production, trees for firewood/limber/posts, space for farm buildings, room for a plant nursery, the ability to grow tons of assorted biomass for mulch and compost. Plus room for numerous ponds for fish and water storage. Plus plenty of room that if I make mistakes it's not a disaster.

Without the livestock, I would be ok with having less acres. But my mental health significantly benefits from the space around me separating me from my neighbors. 20 acres seems to give me the space I need. So even without the livestock, I want the added acres.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Having some really great neighbors who also have 5 acres, I enjoy the fact that I can go for a walk and say hello to my neighbors and help them out if they need it, and ask for help if I need it. After our recent bobcat attacks, a neighbor was so awesome and came and walked her dog down to our property and the dog left her scent everywhere. My kids got to play with her kids, and we all had a great time. I love that the older neighbor kids can ride their bike &/or quads to their friend's house to play. I love having that sense of community.

Of course, if my property was surrounded by housing developments on every side, or if I had really nasty neighbors, I'd sure want a LOT more than 5 acres. But since most everyone else has acres of land, I don't feel too crowded.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Having some really great neighbors who also have 5 acres, I enjoy the fact that I can go for a walk and say hello to my neighbors and help them out if they need it, and ask for help if I need it. After our recent bobcat attacks, a neighbor was so awesome and came and walked her dog down to our property and the dog left her scent everywhere. My kids got to play with her kids, and we all had a great time. I love that the older neighbor kids can ride their bike &/or quads to their friend's house to play. I love having that sense of community.

Of course, if my property was surrounded by housing developments on every side, or if I had really nasty neighbors, I'd sure want a LOT more than 5 acres. But since most everyone else has acres of land, I don't feel too crowded.



I hadn't thought about that but it is very true, a family friend who had about 30 acres in New Zealand had a horse trample her, she had to crawl the way up out of the steep little valley and to the neighbours house, with a punctured lung and ruptured spleen that wouldn't have been possible on a much larger plot. Having neighbours close is useful, my old house has 2 acres, each neighbour was 300ft away (there were 2) however there were trees on the edges of the property and it was very private. here we have 5 acres and the nearest neighbour is 440ft away, but seems much closer than the old neighbours as it's over an open field, and since our field stops right outside his house and that's to the south planting trees and taking all his light would be mean.
 
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When we were first talking about it, this was a huge question - and sometimes debate, for us. Hubs grew up in the Chicago burbs, and anything more than 3acres sounded intimidating, to him. He was concerned about 'yard' maintenance, because, in the burbs, that's just what you do. Mowing can take tons of time, and, if is the only thing you know, it can seem daunting. I grew up (and continued, in adulthood) bouncing around from small suburban plots, to big suburban acreages, to big rural chunks of land. I knew 5acres was the minimum I'd be truly happy on, and only then, if there were lots of trees. He had it in the back of his head, that I wanted some enormous farm, with big combines, and acres and acres of perfectly plowed fields, with a tiny shack for us to live in. It seemed to me that he really just wanted a typical McMansion, with a hyper-manicured lawn, on a little suburban lot, to which my garden would be relegated to a 10square foot raised bed with nothing but tomatoes & lettuce. We were both way off base, but still, truly at loggerheads!

My solution: We looked online, for places for sale, of any and every size. Then, we drove around, and looked at as many of them as we could, so he could get an idea of what an acre looked like, what 5, 10 and 15acres looked like - and how the grounds were set up, arranged, and worked. I showed him tons of articles and pictures of beautiful, low maintenance permaculture homesteads. We did that for at least 2years, before we finally were in agreement, that at least 15acres would be our slice of heaven on earth, and we started looking. We landed on 29acres of mostly woods. We don't mow, at all. We've got plenty of room to raise our critters, keep culinary and medicinal gardens, and hunt. The house is a little bigger than I thought I wanted, a little smaller than he though he wanted, but turned out to be exactly what we both fell in love with. And we came in at more than $100K under budget.
 
Dale Hodgins
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That's the important bit. Not becoming a financial slave to the property.

I used to have landlords who were always at odds, because the man wanted to build more and more and more, while his wife knew that they had more than enough space.

She said, "I think a person's property should serve them, but I feel like I'm serving this big house."

She served that big house until the day she died. 5600 square feet for two retired people who eventually both reached the physical point where they couldn't use the stairway that looked like it was meant for Scarlett O'Hara.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I think it's important to specify what it is you are trying to create. I have shown in my Dale's  3 Day Garden thread, that I can produce enough vegetables for 20 people on a quarter acre of land.

I want my new venture to be a commercial plantation with a dozen employees, surrounded by regenerating tropical forest. That takes a little more land.

Single family homestead or hobby farm, is really open to interpretation. I think lots of people could do it successfully on an acre of good land.

I prefer to see these smaller plots for most people who decide they want a hobby farm. That's because most parcels that I see between 1 to 5 acres, are pretty much taken out of food production, in favour of being more like a larger version of suburbia, with a horse and a couple goats. Some people just want space and a buffer from the outside world. Those are the ones I'd like to see build on scrubland. The Saanich Peninsula near Victoria has some of the best farmland in Canada. Much of it has been split into a little parcels that aren't farmed much. I think ideally, more people moving to the country, should mean more food production on the land they choose.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I think it's important to specify what it is you are trying to create. I have shown in my Dale's  3 Day Garden thread, that I can produce enough vegetables for 20 people on a quarter acre of land.

I want my new venture to be a commercial plantation with a dozen employees, surrounded by regenerating tropical forest. That takes a little more land.

Single family homestead or hobby farm, is really open to interpretation. I think lots of people could do it successfully on an acre of good land.

I prefer to see these smaller plots for most people who decide they want a hobby farm. That's because most parcels that I see between 1 to 5 acres, are pretty much taken out of food production, in favour of being more like a larger version of suburbia, with a horse and a couple goats. Some people just want space and a buffer from the outside world. Those are the ones I'd like to see build on scrubland. The Saanich Peninsula near Victoria has some of the best farmland in Canada. Much of it has been split into a little parcels that aren't farmed much. I think ideally, more people moving to the country, should mean more food production on the land they choose.



That's where I escaped from... so many horse people. 20,000 horses in the south island area. The owners can get the farm property tax break just the same as people producing food, which does predictable things to property prices and the percentage of the land being used for food production.

To add insult to injury most of them seem to have many more horses than are practical for their land, so the quality of the soil is pretty irrelevant; it generally appears to end up as highly degraded pasture or drylot anyhow, and the horses live off purchased hay, often trucked in from Alberta.


I definitely have more land than I can readily utilize without help. But getting help is a mess, because even if I can find a dozen people who want to live here and farm with me, the depts of sadness are dead against such things.

Just this year, they revised the zoning at the provincial level to remove the option for a suite above a barn or a mobile home, and to clarify that people can not live in RVs or tinyhomes or other such things. I bought the place with the intent of putting in such additional dwellings, and got the rug yanked put from under me for no apparent reason.

Perhaps some day the pendulum will swing the other way. Til then at least I am preventing the underused parts of my land from being doused with chemicals.
 
Carla Burke
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Some people just want space and a buffer from the outside world. Those are the ones I'd like to see build on scrubland.



That's us! We bought this acreage to get away from the rat race, to be able to build a greater level of self sufficiency, have a few goats, some chickens, ducks, maybe a couple alpacas, build some gardens... Our land is wooded ravines and hills, and our best crop is rocks. Any good soil we want will have to be created, or trucked in. It's the perfect hobby farm for us to turn permaculture, at our own pace, and will not take away from anyone wanting to do more. But, will allow us to be beneficial to our community, yet have the seclusion we crave and thrive on.
 
Travis Johnson
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Having some really great neighbors who also have 5 acres, I enjoy the fact that I can go for a walk and say hello to my neighbors..



We have what you describe here, but in my case my neighbor alone has 3,200 acres of land. I do not have quite that much, but it does not really matter, you could cross from my land to his, and never know you did it. And that is the way it should be. The unwritten rule here is, you do not hunt, or would you ever cut wood on someone else's land, but to hike across someone's land; no one cares.

I measured it out once and in front of my house is 7000 acres, and behind me is 12,000 acres, all without a house. There are multiple landowners of course, but no one cares if you go on their land. That makes life out here pretty open, because it does not matter if you only OWN 40 acres of land, you have access to THOUSANDS!.

But it is great too. I might have quite a bit of land, but I also have quite a few people keeping an eye on it. My forester was here one time, and she was not in the woods for 30 minutes before I got a call stating someone was on my land. It kind of shocks the people that come out here who are up to no good because they think its so rural that we have no idea what is going on, but it is actually the opposite. We got a very good idea what is going on.
 
Travis Johnson
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I was never "Not Nice" to someone because of what they owned for land, but for years and years I held the idea that you had to have 100 acres in order to have a "real farm". But in all fairness, I never said anything to anyone about how I felt. If they said their acreage amount, I just said, "oh that is nice", but NEVER said how many acres I have in return. Even on Permies, I have never said. It does not matter. For the person with 1 acres, I have quite a bit, but for my neighbor with 3200 acres, I do not have a lot, so what does it matter?

But regardless, in thinking a person had to have 100 acres to be a "real farm", I was pretty ignorant.

I can say with certainty that there are more profitable 1 acres farms out there then some 10,000 acre farms, and according to the USDA definition, you do not have to own one tractor, one animal, or even one acre of land to be considered a farmer by trade. You could rent equipment, animals, even land 100%, and still try and make $1000 per year in profit, and be a legitimate farmer.

Myself, sadly I have not really got the answer I was looking for, perhaps because I asked too broad of a question. I guess I should have asked, "how many acres for the ideal homestead in Maine? since that is where the majority of my land is. I am thinking probably 10 acres. That would give a person some land for a house and barn, a nice garden, and some pasture. The stocking rate here is about 2000 pounds to the acre, so you could get quite a few animals, have some space, but at $25 per acre; not have a lot of property taxes. I think if I were to bump it up to 20 acres, then getting a bank to loan money for it would be increasingly difficult, and limit how many potential buyers there would be.
 
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More than you are willing to pay taxes on is too big.
 
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where are you that raw land is worth nothing?
size depends on a lot of things, where do you want to be, is land there forested, flat, hilly, how fertile or how much arable land on property, will you need to heat living space using wood, electricity, is there pasture space. lots of variables
a lot of situations you cant get more if you ever want to expand but you can sell off what you dont want or need if you go to big on acreage
 
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I have 40 acres, and honestly could not imagine going any smaller. 40 acres is really not that large, 1/4 mile each side. You can easily walk around such a size in very little time. If flat and no obstructions, you can see from one side to the other.

Really I would prefer 160 acres, with the home sight in the middle so there is 40 acres between me and anything else.

But these are my personal feelings on size.

That all said, as others said it is very much depends on the person. There is no 1 right answer. Since realty is you can grow enough food in 1/4 acre to feed a family of 4 if you do it right. So really 5-10 acres is completely acceptable for a lot of people and stills leaves plenty of space for wild space. Especially if it butts up to public land. A lot of folks who are older also are looking for less work and looking and at aging into property. Often larger places have access issues etc, while smaller often can be more manageable. So for a retiring couple a large piece of land likely isn't the right choice and a smaller more manageable one is perfect. So a lot of what is ideal is who the homestead is for. What is ideal for me is not necessarily ideal for you or a lot of others. Simple things like skills, knowledge, social needs, heath needs, communte needs, etc... all change the equation.

As for taxes etc. I don't know about where you are, but around here there are ways to lower taxes a lot. For example, agriculture land is taxed a lot less. Tree farms don't pay taxes for 10 yrs! Grazing land taxes can be under $20 for hundreds of acres parcels ( I was shocked on the tax maps to find the grazing property behind mine was paying $12 a year for 20 acres). So a way to have large land and reduce you tax burden can be as simple as dividing your property and classifying one section different than the area your house is on.

Another way to mitigate taxes and costs, is community. Rather than going it alone, you can join forces with others. A few like minded people spiting the costs goes a long ways. As well as it gives companionship, help on projects, extra eyes for security issues, and so much more.

Similar to above, you can rent/lease out parts of your larger property. For grazing, hunting, camping, etc... To off set the costs.

Of course both of these bring others in to help with costs have potential for problems if you get the wrong people. What seems great could turn into a nightmare if the wrong community or renter joins. So if people go this route, be very careful selecting others.

And the end here though, as already mentioned there is no 1 size fits all. The ideal size is what ever fits you and your needs. The most important part is doing it and not being stuck in the urban/suburban disconnection from nature. Even for the backyard urban/suburban homesteaders I give credit where it is due. Not everyone can go rural, but if you are doing as much as you can in the space you got , then good for you and thanks for doing it. The suburban backyard homesteading movement has been amazing, I am glad to see home much is actually going on. And the urban farmers, some of what they are doing is amazing for what little they have to work with.

So what is the ideal size? However much is right for that person and their life. Yep it is vague, but that is because their is no 1 single type of person.
 
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As others have inferred: how long is a piece of string?

It does definitely depend on climate, needs and desires.

In the Subtropics, I'm happy with two or so acres (just over a hectare), BUT, that is NOT creating a sustaining income. Having a farm that creates a total income stream is a completely different scenario.

Foremost, I use my ‘patch of paradise’ for healthy food production/pure enjoyment/climate assistance. Any leftovers can be traded or sold = supplement to income, fostering community ties as Permaculture dictates. I've no interest in growing everything to survive - that is just too hard, and makes no sense in any scenario I.e. SHTF, etc.

When my Grandparents farmed it, they had a large family where everyone had their specific job. I simply cannot do the work of 8 or 10 people. Also, to sustain that many people required huge inputs - even then they supplemented income by side work: sharecropping, cane cutting, trawler work, fruit/vegetable picking, etc. It was therefore definitely community driven due to economies of scale.

In our 'Outback' regions, large grazier properties (Stations) traditionally operated as communities, complete with the main homestead (owners house), school, hospital,  workers quarters, vegetable/fruit gardens, etc. The closest equivalent in the USA would be the ye olde Dixie States plantations, but on a much vaster scale (no slaves). It took a community to keep it all working effectively.

That's why most contemporary Farmers mono-crop or only grow a few things - too hard with small families and the broad loss of community connections, mainly because of corporatism, and the 'capitalist rule book'.
 
Travis Johnson
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bruce Fine wrote:where are you that raw land is worth nothing?



Maine...

If there is just raw land, with no improvements it might be worth $300 and acre, but take a two acre lot, put a well septic and gravel pad upon it and instantly it has a value of $20,000. Those same two acre would be worth $5000 if a person cleared the stumps, the rocks, and sowed the field down if it was in a region of Maine with farmable soil. With just good wood on it, that land might be worth $3000.

So it does depend, but a tract of land that has just been logged off...I would call $300 an acre pretty much worthless.
 
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Well, I don't think total acreage is really what this question should be looking at. I split land into 3 categories: wooded, pasture, and tillable.

Personally I want to get around 30 acres, but around 5 of them will be wooded. Pasture is the largest section because I want space to raise grazing animals for slaughter/sale. If I were only doing for my own consumption, I could probably get away with about 5 acres, but I want to have draft horses as well as sell brood stock for endangered breeds, so I'm looking for close to ~20 acres. Tillable acres are something I need the least of, just enough to produce grain and for my own use. There is no way I can compete with big farms to sell grain, so I'm not going for any excess production. Hay prices have been historically high in my area, especially for small square bales -- called idiot cubes by big hay farmers -- so I could feasibly turn a profit on them, so might do that.

If I wanted to stay self contained, I could get by with probably 8ish acres all told, especially if I had animals not eating grain. I think I even have a book that has a homestead on 2 acres, but that includes buying animals to finish out for slaughter, and doesn't touch on firewood production at all.
 
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10 acreage is good if you have stream feed pond or even a run off/wet weather feed  pond.
But if you have children, you need 3-5 acreage for each child.
I have 10 acreage, that 5 acres for each of my children.
My wife has 9.5 acres in rifle range of my land, both properties are family land, that has been in the family for four genterations.
So I belive in teaching children to respect the land & live on it, past it down to their children.
One day their will only be 0.50 acres for each child, & they will have to make due with it.
I have a an orchard with fruit & nut trees, a 0.50 garden lot that is not full yet.
I hope to build a wet weather(not feed by stream) pond &  caught rain water for livestock & fish.
But I only need 3 acres for that one acre for a fire wood/ honeybee forge lot & one acre for hard wood timber, black walnut/ cherry.
I am planting fruit & nut trees, berry shrubs & vines, bamboo & timber, on both lot so each child can live off their land as much as pissoble.
So for you 3-5 acres should work a family of four hard, but if you are looking down the road afew genterations, 20 acres is nor enough.
You can grow all the plants on one acre & a green house with a few chickens or ducks.
But with large food plots & goats,gesse,ducks, chicken, quail, rabbits, butcher sheld, milk, butter & chesse shed, wood shed, green house & home, you going to need at least 3 acres
That my HO.
 
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Buy 5 acres that borders a forest or national park - you get that for free.
You can really get your teeth into 5 acres & create
dAZ
 
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If my kids were buying land, I'd tell them not to buy any more than they could afford to have surveyed and boundary-marked.  Sort of arbitrary, and maybe it just reflects my frustration with the point we're currently stuck at.

We've got about 40 acres in the US, with about 6.5 of it zoned for agriculture, and the rest for "forest resource", but now we're stuck saving up for a survey so we can find out *exactly* where it's (legally) safe to put things like firebreaks, walls, and berms.  Lots of projects on hold until we've got a significant chunk of cash to hand over.

Picking an ideal amount is really a bunch of questions though.
  • How much can I legitimately make use of?
  • How much can I afford to buy?
  • How much can I afford to pay taxes on?
  • How much do I need for purposes X, Y, and Z?


  • And I'm sure there are other questions other folks would immediately add to that little list, or remove.  X, Y, and Z are always going to be the hard math, in my book.  Our long term goal is to establish a 20-year coppice management cycle and put most of the 40 acres into a trust that will return it to the tribe it was taken from, over the next few generations.  We manage to avoid property taxes with veteran status, so that's nice.  With all that in mind, I'd probably have bought more if we could have found more that met our criteria, but this place took a year to locate and we were pretty burned out on the property search at the end.
     
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    I think it depends on what projects you want to have, and how many people are involved in maintaining the property.
    I have around 1.5 acre as my zone 1 & 2, with the rest being 3 and a little bit of 4. Zones 1&2 include my annual veggie garden, anticipated food forest area, rabbitry/work shop, pig pen, greenhouse, sale plants/pot storage, and the poultry yard (chicken, guinea, turkey, peacock, pigeon, & geese coops & yards). Personally, all of that is a bit overwhelming with me being the only caretaker (but I just moved to this homesite at the beginning of the year, so am still transitioning things from the front of the property where I previously lived). Hopefully once I get projects done and in place I won't feel so overwhelmed and can start expanding outward.
    But, if you have others who will help you manage the land, and have a good system in place, you can probably handle more for your zones 1 & 2.
    In looking to buy a homestead site, I would say 5-10 acres is the minimum, depending on what you can afford. My family land is about 300 acres, which is awesome, but it also means there's a lot of fence to build/repair, paths/roads to maintain, and taxes to pay. If I was the sole owner of all of it, I doubt I could afford the financial burden and manpower to manage it all. Many people don't think of that when they consider the price of land.

    To get to the point, though, sit down together and write out lists of projects, costs/investments, labor, and other factors to determine what is realistically a good size to aim for 🙂
     
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