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What would be a realistic "farm" size for one person working half-time on it ?

 
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Hello,

I tried to keep the title as simple as possible, but my question definitely is not.

My ultimate goal in life is to live on a big land that I own, where I can apply all of permaculture principles (aka not break my back and enjoy a productive, diverse ecosystem). I have several goals here:
- Be able to make enough food to feed myself + people that lives with me (with a minimal amount of work, and a minimal amount of food being bought outside)
- Have enough space to have enough of a lot of medicinal plants for (at bare minimum) personal and family use; ideally enough production for storage too
- enough space for a lot of ponds (aquaculture, swimming, water management)
- enough space for food forests
- enough space for experiments (growing spirulina, mushrooms...)

Now, I love gardening, nature and all that goes with it. But, seeing as I have other interest in life, I don't think I could be spending all my time on this, all the time. Maybe once in a while, I'd have to spend a full day, or a full week on something, not a problem. But I'd also want to be able to engage in other hobbies. And perhaps have a social life. Another important thing is, I might need to have a part time work online, to cover some expenses or just to have a safe income stream in case of emergencies.

From what I've found, Sepp Holzer has a farm of about 45 hectares. As far as I know, he has really few people (if anyone has a number...) working on it.

What surface can be handled properly, in permaculture (probably using most of Sepp Holzer techniques), for one guy working half-time on it, with all of the above prerequisite ? Maybe with the occasional help from somebody else.

As a beginner, it's really easy to take on too much to do. Now, if I can avoid that when things get serious, that would be great.

There are a lot of things I currently have no idea about whether I'll do or not. For exemple, cattle; I guess if I ever have cattle, it won't be big farm animals, maybe goats would be the biggest (or anything that can graze and has multiple functions), perhaps with pigs. There would be chickens obviously, maybe other poultry too. But then, would it really be do able to let them on they own most of the time ?

If you have no idea about an exact answer (how much space for all that, as one dude working on it part time), your own experience can also help. Maybe having big cattle is not a problem after all. Or maybe all this does require somebody else.

Thanks !
 
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It would be good to have some land (like woods and small meadows, etc.) to just be there and do it's thing with very little intervention from which to glean a little wood and food/medicine, but as far as actively working land to get enough from it to almost entirely support yourself working on it part time...I would say two or three acres would be a handfull, especially with livestock.
 
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The devil is in the details. Much depends upon the location.  Much depends upon definitions. For me, I once figured to have a self-sufficient homestead would require 20 to 25 acres in my area.  I am quite sure there are permaculture folks who wil say they can do it with 1 acre. Helen and Scott Nearing wrote the classic 5 Acres and Independence.  And, remember, at one time the mantra was “40 acres and a mule.”
 
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Do you envision the use of a tractor and farm equipment? This is a big factor in how much land you can realistically manage.
 
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Do you envision the use of a tractor and farm equipment? This is a big factor in how much land you can realistically manage.



That's exactly right.  I was trying to do something very similar as the OP is talking about.  Without heavy equipment, and working half time, which I take to mean 20 hours a week or so, I could keep up with an acre of mixed food forest and annuals gardens, along with my 25-ish chickens.  Food forests become less work as they become more established, annual gardens become somewhat less work as the soil improves and the weed seeds are exhausted to a degree.  I have 80 acres now, and I plan to make an acre or two into food forest areas, and another 4000 feet or so of annual gardens, and I don't think I would want to do more than that.  That isn't a get-this-done-and-feeding-me-this-year plan.  After the first food forests become "self-supporting", I may add more.  So, my short answer is, I would be surprised if you can reasonably maintain more than an acre or so unless you have a tractor and farm equipment, until you have some areas established.  I also don't believe you will be able to provide all of your food, probably ever.  Some things really just aren't feasible, like oils, unless you grow extra of the things that work well for you and trade.
 
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Awesome question!

And it's really great that you are asking it before getting started rather than after you've bought 10 acres of land and are trying to pay it off!

I am ALSO a part-time Permaculture dude and have plenty to do on just 1/10th of an acre! To paraphrase Bill Mollison, the only limit to a design is the imagination of the designer. You could conceivably occupy yourself, and feed yourself, on a very small parcel of land. Regardless of the size of your site, if you plan your space right, the main limitation will be on your time - and not just planting time but also harvesting and preserving your abundance.

For example, yesterday I spent the entire day building a trellis up one side of my house. This will provide me with 400+ square feet of vertical space to grow beans and climbing squash this coming summer. I spent another day this week building boxes for my compost worms. There are so many space-saving techniques that you can use to increase efficiency and food production that sometimes I feel like I would be lost if I had an acre of land. There just wouldn't be enough (part-time) hours in the week to keep it fully productive! So, unless you expect to host a team of volunteers, you would be bay better off investing in a cozy, small plot with a cozy small home.

Yes, you DEFINITELY want to plant perennial edibles. Fruit trees, berry bushes, perennial kales, collards, beans, etc. are my bread and butter. But if you want to get full productivity out of your food forest (or garden) you really do need to manage it. For example, I espallier my fruit trees to get maximum production in a fraction of the space I would otherwise need. It might sound like a lot of work, but it's not. First of all, the fruit is SO EASY TO HARVEST that I can pick 100 pears in about 10 minutes. Keeping these 3 seven-yr-old trees pruned takes less than an hour per year. If you've ever tried picking pears from a 20' pear tree, or pruning one, you probably realize how much time and space this saves me. And the trees hardly take up any space at all. In fact, they serve a second purpose shading our picnic tree. To save time on the storage-side of things, I refrigerate them immediately and only pull out a few pears every week - after they come out, they ripen in a few days. I can store them for months that way. This also saves time, because canning pears takes hours! In other words, if you spend some time planning your designs and strategies, you might have enough time (and money) to sit and enjoy your pears. If, instead, you burden yourself with lots of land and debt (and the inefficiencies that often come from too much of a good thing) you might never get around to relaxing at all! :)

It's just my opinion but, as one part-time gardener to another, I expect you will be much better served by purchasing a modest parcel of land. Assuming you have a good imagination, you will never be short of projects or growing space, even if you have 40 hours per week to spend on 1/10 of an acre. No, you won't have a cow. But, honestly, do you have time to take care of a cow, and manage a farm, on 30 hours per week? You might have a dwarf goat or two, which would be plenty of livestock and milk for one part-time guy to drink and turn into cheese. You might consider a little more land if this is part of your plan, but do a careful cost-benefit analysis before you do. I mean, will the benefits from raising livestock really pay for the extra land you'll need to pasture it? Would you maybe be better off with a few chickens and rabbits on a small plot?

If you want to get a sense of what can be done with limited space, check out my YouTube channel: Karl's Food Forest Garden. I love sharing what I've learned and learning from others. And please subscribe! I could really use the support.

If you're interested, here is a video I recently did on espalliers and other space-saving tree-pruning techniques:
 
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The size of other people's farms can be deceptive! Places you read about and see videos about like Sepp Holzer's benefit from a huge input of volunteer labour.

In Bulgaria, where I'm buying land, 600 sq m (1/4 acre) of intensively farmed land was considered just enough to feed a family living the traditional peasant lifestyle, where a family grows all they eat and use with minimal outside input, and trade their produce for anything they can't grow themselves. That would include fruit trees, grapes, vegetable garden, the house itself, and barns for the goats and chickens, but not pasture land. Animals were usually pastured on common land. A farmer with 1/2 acre would grow grain on the other 1/4 acre. More land than that would probably be used to grow hay and maize for winter stock feeding, or to grow a vineyard to sell the grapes.

Great question!
 
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So may it depends;

How it's laid out. if it's very open lots of grass/woodland and not many edges then you can manage more. small fiddly bits around buildings/drives etc take way more time than they are worth
Where you are, historically here around 1.5 acres was considered enough for a family to be self sufficient on.
Exactly what you plan to do, each animal type increases the time and you can NEVER take a single day off without arranging a sitter.
Don't forget harvest, preparation and preservation I would estimate that my time spent on my 1/2 acre annual garden is 10% planting, 30% weeding 10% harvesting and 50%prep/preserving. and the latter cannot be done when you want it, it has to be done when things are ready.
Time of year, work is not evenly spread, spring and summer are very busy times if you only want to spend 20 hours a week then I would say 1 acre or less.

At 20 hours a week I would guestimate around 2 acres with no more than 1/2 acre being annual garden planting and no more than 2 animal types.

(I have 5 acres of which 2 are rented out 1 is ignored 1 is house and scraps 1/2 is food forest and 1/2 is veg garden, it takes 40-50 hours a week in high season and maybe 5 hours a week in winter)
 
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Last Sunday Paul, Kyle and I recorded part one of a podcast that Paul's Patreon supporters have access to (shameless plug: you can be a Patreon supporter for as little as $1 ) specifically about "how much and what kind of land to buy". We're recording part 2 this weekend. As mentioned before, "it depends". Paul's opinion is that if you raise cattle, 5 is a minimum for their social quality of life, and to minimize inputs that would take 80 acres for the cows. Goats would take a lot less, as would chickens. If you plan to heat with wood (and use wood for some of the various functions it provides) and grow as much of your food as you can, maybe 5-10 acres with just chickens. But then what are your neighbors doing? Are they spraying herbicides or insecticides which can blow over into your land? This includes both current and potential future neighbors, so you should plan for a buffer. What about nosy and/or noisy neighbors? Blocking line of sight and creating a sound barrier for the noisy 4x4s and ATVs can improve your quality of life, but a berm takes up space too. So if you can get a square-ish piece of land, 15-20 acres is a recommended target. Chickens and/or goats will have plenty of room on 15-20 acres, cows could too if you use intensive grazing for part of the year then butcher but that could fail your part-time plan.

I visited HeartWater Farm in 2014 (video of the site is below) and at the 0:15 mark in the middle you see a rectangle of space just behind the pond, the whole property was 20 acres. They raised at least a dozen cattle in that space for a third party, they were red Devons that would eat the grass down to about 6" high and were moved through a number of paddocks separated by single strand electric wire. Each day or two they were moved to the next paddock which would have grass around 12" tall. After 2 weeks they were back to the original paddock and the grass was regrown. Around 1:17 in the video they have a shot of the cattle. At the end of each year the third party would pick up the cows for slaughter, and would process one of the cows for them as payment, and perhaps some money, I didn't ask. They also had about a dozen chickens when I was there. They may have been able to coppice some of the heavy underbrush on the property for chicken fodder, I know they would occasionally move the cows through it to clear areas out. While I'm not a fan of heavy concrete use, the house was really nice and they rarely used the in-floor (solar powered) heating.

They were exactly the "Otis" Paul refers to with the SKIP program - they were actively trying to find someone who was interested in continuing what they were doing. rather than just sell the land for development. They tried to get interns to come out to try and build that inheritance relationship but didn't have any luck as far as I know. The wife died of a heart attack a couple years ago and my mom (who would visit/talk to them when she lived in that area) said the husband had to sell because it was too much for him then, in his late 60s/early 70s if I were to guess.



HeartWater_Chickens2.jpg
With no rotation, no plants remain
With no rotation, no plants remain
HeartWater_House2.jpg
House, solar power station, greenhouse dome
House, solar power station, greenhouse dome
 
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In my experience 1/4 of an acre of good quality soil is about enough.
If you have equipment as discussed it just makes it easier.
If its too big it becomes overwhelming.
 
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Jordan Holland wrote:It would be good to have some land (like woods and small meadows, etc.) to just be there and do it's thing with very little intervention from which to glean a little wood and food/medicine, but as far as actively working land to get enough from it to almost entirely support yourself working on it part time...I would say two or three acres would be a handfull, especially with livestock.



Yes, good point I forgot about. This would be very interesting to have; I have a decent sized garden (for a first rent) and already, watching the wild life that flow through is really nice, as well as having the possibility to watch "unusual" plants (at least for someone who didn't garden much before).

I forgot to mention, I already have some numbers to feed someone on a vegan/vegetarian diet; however I am a bit surprised as with the difference in number you all are giving me.
According to John Jeavons, using bio-intensive farming it would require 440 sq meter to feed one peson; that's for a vegan diet, with carbon (60%), calorie (30%) and vitamin (10%) crops.
Another source I have (Ferme d'Avenir), it's 1160 sq meter, although it can be greatly reduced by replacing most of the wheat by potatoes; their numbers are: 60kg cereals on 450 sq meter, 50kg oleaginous (aka most nuts and seeds), 50kg potatoes on 20sq meter, 60kg fruits on 120sq meter, 50kg cabbages on 20sq meter, 50kg vegetables on 30 sq meter, and 30kg legumes on 120sq meter.
Another one (Renaud de Looze, who wrote a book on fertilizing with pee): it's 150sq meter cereals for yourself, 100sq meter cereals for 2 dwarf chickens, oleaginous on 60sq meter, fruits on 10 sq meter, and vegetables under a tunnel on 40 sq meter, which is 370 sq meter, 500 if you count the passageways.

Now, all of those don't seem to take into account the various optimization that seem possible to me (as a disclaimer, I am not an expert on the subject), and seem easy to have too; one example would be, that you can reduce the cereals eaten by your chicken by having them patrol by your fruit tree; maybe they'll eat fallen ones or not, but at the very least, they'll be eating various bugs and seeds found there. They could even be used to clean some space before you start planting, probably diminishing even more the food they'll need to get from you. Then, having some veggies growing with fruit trees could also help win more space (as long as you protect those from the chickens).

However one big point is that I'll probably never ever go vegetarian, and especially not vegan. A common theme with food autonomy is the one of protein. I like working out, and that mean I need more than the 1g/kg an adult need. So that would justify the need for much more space for the livestock.

John F Dean wrote:The devil is in the details. Much depends upon the location.  Much depends upon definitions. For me, I once figured to have a self-sufficient homestead would require 20 to 25 acres in my area.  I am quite sure there are permaculture folks who wil say they can do it with 1 acre. Helen and Scott Nearing wrote the classic 5 Acres and Independence.  And, remember, at one time the mantra was “40 acres and a mule.”



Of course. What is your location like ? If your requirement is so big, is it because you have a lot of unusable space, aka big slopes, because you eat a cow a day (just kidding), is because you do a lot of wild plants harvesting ? With the numbers I gave above, yours seems quite huge in comparison. But a lot depends on the specifics of the location and maybe even more on the person living there; so I'm interested in having more details.

Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Do you envision the use of a tractor and farm equipment? This is a big factor in how much land you can realistically manage.



The less "complicated" equipment, the better, AKA no electricity, no petrol. But if one small tool (maybe like a chainsaw) can make be gain hours and require a small amount of fuel, then I'd be pragmatic and use that. Again, I don't have a lot of experience, but it seem possible to do quite a lot without using machinery. Plowing a field seem possible with pigs, weeding somewhere seem possible with a chicken tractor... however I've never experimented with all that myself. Obviously, a chicken tractor would do less than the latest John Deere, but it seems easier to me to replace/"repair" a chicken than a tractor engineered to be irreparable...

Trace Oswald wrote:

Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Do you envision the use of a tractor and farm equipment? This is a big factor in how much land you can realistically manage.



That's exactly right.  I was trying to do something very similar as the OP is talking about.  Without heavy equipment, and working half time, which I take to mean 20 hours a week or so, I could keep up with an acre of mixed food forest and annuals gardens, along with my 25-ish chickens.  Food forests become less work as they become more established, annual gardens become somewhat less work as the soil improves and the weed seeds are exhausted to a degree.  I have 80 acres now, and I plan to make an acre or two into food forest areas, and another 4000 feet or so of annual gardens, and I don't think I would want to do more than that.  That isn't a get-this-done-and-feeding-me-this-year plan.  After the first food forests become "self-supporting", I may add more.  So, my short answer is, I would be surprised if you can reasonably maintain more than an acre or so unless you have a tractor and farm equipment, until you have some areas established.  I also don't believe you will be able to provide all of your food, probably ever.  Some things really just aren't feasible, like oils, unless you grow extra of the things that work well for you and trade.



I am really just a beginner, yet it seems that some incredible stuff can be possible. Growing lemons at ~1100m in a cold mountain is done by Sepp Holzer for example. I am no Sepp Holzer (yet anyway), but perhaps what is possible can be stretched a bit. But then, maybe growing olives for the oils would just be a pain in the ... and so, having a 10$ expense a year to buy olive oil sound fair to me. If I can grow 90% of my food myself, that'd be great, but some of what I like, and some of what is required to stay healthy might be too hard to produce yourself. Maybe the day I'm much more experienced, I can reach for the goal of growing 99% of what I eat. But maybe going for 100% would be too much trouble (it seems quite probable that it is too much work). Maybe going for the pareto's law would be best, doing the 20% that produce 80% of my food.

What I am sure about, is that I need more experience, and that include more experience with how long it takes to do something, how to grow some stuff reliably, how to store it, etc.

Right now, I'm between pragmatism and idealism. A ton seem possible, even easy, but as I lack experience, I don't even know how much I don't know.

Now, if I need to use heavy machinery once, to optimize the land, well so be it. What I don't want in my scenario is a long-term dependency on it. Making terraces, ponds with heavy machinery, absolutely. Using them weekly for harvesting or plowing, no way.

Karl Treen wrote:Awesome question!

And it's really great that you are asking it before getting started rather than after you've bought 10 acres of land and are trying to pay it off!

I am ALSO a part-time Permaculture dude and have plenty to do on just 1/10th of an acre! To paraphrase Bill Mollison, the only limit to a design is the imagination of the designer. You could conceivably occupy yourself, and feed yourself, on a very small parcel of land. Regardless of the size of your site, if you plan your space right, the main limitation will be on your time - and not just planting time but also harvesting and preserving your abundance.

For example, yesterday I spent the entire day building a trellis up one side of my house. This will provide me with 400+ square feet of vertical space to grow beans and climbing squash this coming summer. I spent another day this week building boxes for my compost worms. There are so many space-saving techniques that you can use to increase efficiency and food production that sometimes I feel like I would be lost if I had an acre of land. There just wouldn't be enough (part-time) hours in the week to keep it fully productive! So, unless you expect to host a team of volunteers, you would be bay better off investing in a cozy, small plot with a cozy small home.

Yes, you DEFINITELY want to plant perennial edibles. Fruit trees, berry bushes, perennial kales, collards, beans, etc. are my bread and butter. But if you want to get full productivity out of your food forest (or garden) you really do need to manage it. For example, I espallier my fruit trees to get maximum production in a fraction of the space I would otherwise need. It might sound like a lot of work, but it's not. First of all, the fruit is SO EASY TO HARVEST that I can pick 100 pears in about 10 minutes. Keeping these 3 seven-yr-old trees pruned takes less than an hour per year. If you've ever tried picking pears from a 20' pear tree, or pruning one, you probably realize how much time and space this saves me. And the trees hardly take up any space at all. In fact, they serve a second purpose shading our picnic tree. To save time on the storage-side of things, I refrigerate them immediately and only pull out a few pears every week - after they come out, they ripen in a few days. I can store them for months that way. This also saves time, because canning pears takes hours! In other words, if you spend some time planning your designs and strategies, you might have enough time (and money) to sit and enjoy your pears. If, instead, you burden yourself with lots of land and debt (and the inefficiencies that often come from too much of a good thing) you might never get around to relaxing at all!

It's just my opinion but, as one part-time gardener to another, I expect you will be much better served by purchasing a modest parcel of land. Assuming you have a good imagination, you will never be short of projects or growing space, even if you have 40 hours per week to spend on 1/10 of an acre. No, you won't have a cow. But, honestly, do you have time to take care of a cow, and manage a farm, on 30 hours per week? You might have a dwarf goat or two, which would be plenty of livestock and milk for one part-time guy to drink and turn into cheese. You might consider a little more land if this is part of your plan, but do a careful cost-benefit analysis before you do. I mean, will the benefits from raising livestock really pay for the extra land you'll need to pasture it? Would you maybe be better off with a few chickens and rabbits on a small plot?

If you want to get a sense of what can be done with limited space, check out my YouTube channel: Karl's Food Forest Garden. I love sharing what I've learned and learning from others. And please subscribe! I could really use the support.

If you're interested, here is a video I recently did on espalliers and other space-saving tree-pruning techniques:



I'm young, but I try my best to learn from my mistakes, and taking on too much to chew is one of them.

Having volunteers come do the work for me sound a bit... unethical ? I mean they'd be basically working to feed me, for free. Yeah, they'd be gaining experience, working outside, but hey, maybe chicken can enjoy that, but I'd rather not rely on people doing my work (or the animal work for that matter). Maybe one day, but so far I think I am more interested in seeing how far I can go, mostly on my own.

One issue with the numbers I posted above is that they don't seem to rely much on perennials, yet they can save a lot of time and effort.  Espalliering and other technique don't seem natural to me, yet if it makes you win so much time maybe then it's worth considering. I might have said it before, but I'm not sure about how I'd like to do things. Maybe climbing a tree to harvest will be fun the first time, but that might not last. But your approaches seem pragmatic. One tenth of an acre seem quite small, so maybe I should aim for bigger, just not by a lot.

I've mentioned above that I'll never go vegan/vegetarian, and that I need more protein than average per day (about 2.2g/kg). Focusing only on chicken would be hard to meet that goal (even if some of my protein intake is from other source than meat), but for some reason I didn't think of rabbits. Are there any other meat source that can be raised without a ton of space and ideally, without needing much time ? Chicken could be let to roam mostly freely, but rabbit seem to be breed for evasion. Then again, maybe aiming to get 100% of my protein myself would be too hard on part time, so aiming for less at first doesn't shock me.

You seem to have quite a lot of content on your channel, I'll take a look at it. However I'll mostly be a shadow subscriber, as I don't have a youtube account. Sorry about that !

Jane Mulberry wrote:The size of other people's farms can be deceptive! Places you read about and see videos about like Sepp Holzer's benefit from a huge input of volunteer labour.

In Bulgaria, where I'm buying land, 600 sq m (1/4 acre) of intensively farmed land was considered just enough to feed a family living the traditional peasant lifestyle, where a family grows all they eat and use with minimal outside input, and trade their produce for anything they can't grow themselves. That would include fruit trees, grapes, vegetable garden, the house itself, and barns for the goats and chickens, but not pasture land. Animals were usually pastured on common land. A farmer with 1/2 acre would grow grain on the other 1/4 acre. More land than that would probably be used to grow hay and maize for winter stock feeding, or to grow a vineyard to sell the grapes.

Great question!



It's interesting, because the number I gave at the beginning of my reply are about that... for one person. Then maybe their diet was much different back then. It would be interesting to have a better idea of their health too; I wouldn't be surprised if their was some kind of deficiency in vitamin or minerals, but perhaps I'm wrong and they used to grow heirloom varieties that contained much more nutrients. The shared pasture thing is interesting too. A french youtuber (ma ferme autonome) has cow in one of his videos that help him stop the ecological succession of one of his field. I mentioned cattle in my OP mostly because they can be used that way.

If someone has an estimate of the number of people working on his farm (or any other permaculture farmr, like the projects of Geoff Lawton) that would be great.

Skandi Rogers wrote:So may it depends;

How it's laid out. if it's very open lots of grass/woodland and not many edges then you can manage more. small fiddly bits around buildings/drives etc take way more time than they are worth
Where you are, historically here around 1.5 acres was considered enough for a family to be self sufficient on.
Exactly what you plan to do, each animal type increases the time and you can NEVER take a single day off without arranging a sitter.
Don't forget harvest, preparation and preservation I would estimate that my time spent on my 1/2 acre annual garden is 10% planting, 30% weeding 10% harvesting and 50%prep/preserving. and the latter cannot be done when you want it, it has to be done when things are ready.
Time of year, work is not evenly spread, spring and summer are very busy times if you only want to spend 20 hours a week then I would say 1 acre or less.

At 20 hours a week I would guestimate around 2 acres with no more than 1/2 acre being annual garden planting and no more than 2 animal types.

(I have 5 acres of which 2 are rented out 1 is ignored 1 is house and scraps 1/2 is food forest and 1/2 is veg garden, it takes 40-50 hours a week in high season and maybe 5 hours a week in winter)



It seems that some animal are a bit easier to let on their own, a friend mentioned that they could leave for two weeks their chickens without problem.

Annual seem like they are a lot of work, I would put emphasize on perennials to minimize the work needed.

Mark Brunnr wrote:Last Sunday Paul, Kyle and I recorded part one of a podcast that Paul's Patreon supporters have access to (shameless plug: you can be a Patreon supporter for as little as $1 ) specifically about "how much and what kind of land to buy". We're recording part 2 this weekend. As mentioned before, "it depends". Paul's opinion is that if you raise cattle, 5 is a minimum for their social quality of life, and to minimize inputs that would take 80 acres for the cows. Goats would take a lot less, as would chickens. If you plan to heat with wood (and use wood for some of the various functions it provides) and grow as much of your food as you can, maybe 5-10 acres with just chickens. But then what are your neighbors doing? Are they spraying herbicides or insecticides which can blow over into your land? This includes both current and potential future neighbors, so you should plan for a buffer. What about nosy and/or noisy neighbors? Blocking line of sight and creating a sound barrier for the noisy 4x4s and ATVs can improve your quality of life, but a berm takes up space too. So if you can get a square-ish piece of land, 15-20 acres is a recommended target. Chickens and/or goats will have plenty of room on 15-20 acres, cows could too if you use intensive grazing for part of the year then butcher but that could fail your part-time plan.

I visited HeartWater Farm in 2014 (video of the site is below) and at the 0:15 mark in the middle you see a rectangle of space just behind the pond, the whole property was 20 acres. They raised at least a dozen cattle in that space for a third party, they were red Devons that would eat the grass down to about 6" high and were moved through a number of paddocks separated by single strand electric wire. Each day or two they were moved to the next paddock which would have grass around 12" tall. After 2 weeks they were back to the original paddock and the grass was regrown. Around 1:17 in the video they have a shot of the cattle. At the end of each year the third party would pick up the cows for slaughter, and would process one of the cows for them as payment, and perhaps some money, I didn't ask. They also had about a dozen chickens when I was there. They may have been able to coppice some of the heavy underbrush on the property for chicken fodder, I know they would occasionally move the cows through it to clear areas out. While I'm not a fan of heavy concrete use, the house was really nice and they rarely used the in-floor (solar powered) heating.

They were exactly the "Otis" Paul refers to with the SKIP program - they were actively trying to find someone who was interested in continuing what they were doing. rather than just sell the land for development. They tried to get interns to come out to try and build that inheritance relationship but didn't have any luck as far as I know. The wife died of a heart attack a couple years ago and my mom (who would visit/talk to them when she lived in that area) said the husband had to sell because it was too much for him then, in his late 60s/early 70s if I were to guess.





I'll check those resources out, thanks.

As for the estimation, do they take into account working on it part time ?

You also mention wood for heating, which I think would be quite nice to have too. I forgot about the nosy/noisy/polluting neighbor thing too, so year, maybe the surface mentioned above are great for a surface you work on, but more surface as a buffer would be appreciated I think.

John C Daley wrote:In my experience 1/4 of an acre of good quality soil is about enough.
If you have equipment as discussed it just makes it easier.
If its too big it becomes overwhelming.



Looking on a map, even one hectare (2 and a half acre) doesn't seem that big. But that's probably because I haven't worked on such an area yet.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Leaving any animal alone for 2 weeks is seriously close to abuse in my opinion, ALL animals need daily checking as a minimum, their water and feed needs checking every day even if they will have enough for a week, chickens are very good at crapping in their water and feed they are good at getting themselves killed and they need shutting in and letting out every single day. If you forget to shut them in they will just be something elses dinner. You can of course use automatic openers and waterers but these still all need manual checking you don't want the first indication of a problem to be dead animals.
You will also find it pretty much impossible to let them run totally free, because they like exactly the same food as we like so every lettuce will be sampled and they think that that new seedbed will make an excellent dust bath.

Space needed for larger livestock varies so much, as I said here it's about 1.5 acre per animal unit with a cow being one unit. If you want to stack animals you could try geese under fruit trees, they are grazers but will also happily take any fallen fruit but you don't run the risk of them eating the trees like goats or sheep might.

The problem with large fruit trees is there is a period of 10-20 years where they are to small to climb but way to large to pick, I have two like that and it's a real pain to pick them, it takes two people an improvised fruitpicker and a garden rake, even so a good number end up hitting the floor. each tree takes around 20 minutes to pick where a smaller tree would take a quarter of that. since it's only once a year I don't really mind and I prefer the look of larger trees so all the new trees I have planted are all on mm106 or equivilent (5m ish)

In my experience you really cannot plough with pigs, you need to plough or harrow after pigs to sort the mess they leave. I didn't have any luck weeding with chickens either, they only eat the leaves not the roots, and if you leave them in one place long enough that they actually do kill the roots then there's so much manure on the area you cannot use it that season anyway. I did have good luck free-ranging my chickens during the day. I found it reduced the feed they needed by about half, but in my climate that only worked around 7 months of the year.

I would say that the Ferme d'Avenir figures sound very reasonable and easy to attain.
 
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Based on your expressed desires I think 5-10 acres usable space would be about right, increase this for sloped or marginal lots. The "garden" doesn't need to be anywhere near this big, but you expressed desires for ponds, forest, and animals. Those take up space, animals with minimal inputs to me implies grazing pasture not buying hay. There are often tax breaks for "farms" that require a minimum acerage, may be beneficial to ensure you have that amount as a minimum. (Even if you don't use them initially, hold it as a fallback.) Realities of land value in your area may restrict you, don't let that hold you back if you can't afford your "ideal" lot.

Best of luck!
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:Leaving any animal alone for 2 weeks is seriously close to abuse in my opinion, ALL animals need daily checking as a minimum, their water and feed needs checking every day even if they will have enough for a week, chickens are very good at crapping in their water and feed they are good at getting themselves killed and they need shutting in and letting out every single day. If you forget to shut them in they will just be something elses dinner. You can of course use automatic openers and waterers but these still all need manual checking you don't want the first indication of a problem to be dead animals.
You will also find it pretty much impossible to let them run totally free, because they like exactly the same food as we like so every lettuce will be sampled and they think that that new seedbed will make an excellent dust bath.

Space needed for larger livestock varies so much, as I said here it's about 1.5 acre per animal unit with a cow being one unit. If you want to stack animals you could try geese under fruit trees, they are grazers but will also happily take any fallen fruit but you don't run the risk of them eating the trees like goats or sheep might.

The problem with large fruit trees is there is a period of 10-20 years where they are to small to climb but way to large to pick, I have two like that and it's a real pain to pick them, it takes two people an improvised fruitpicker and a garden rake, even so a good number end up hitting the floor. each tree takes around 20 minutes to pick where a smaller tree would take a quarter of that. since it's only once a year I don't really mind and I prefer the look of larger trees so all the new trees I have planted are all on mm106 or equivilent (5m ish)

In my experience you really cannot plough with pigs, you need to plough or harrow after pigs to sort the mess they leave. I didn't have any luck weeding with chickens either, they only eat the leaves not the roots, and if you leave them in one place long enough that they actually do kill the roots then there's so much manure on the area you cannot use it that season anyway. I did have good luck free-ranging my chickens during the day. I found it reduced the feed they needed by about half, but in my climate that only worked around 7 months of the year.

I would say that the Ferme d'Avenir figures sound very reasonable and easy to attain.



I haven't discussed this in detail with my friend, so perhaps there's more to it. Anyway, if I can leave for maybe a day or two, I guess it would be about the maximum I'd leave animals on their own, and would be far from being the status quo. I don't plan to have a farm only to flee from it ! :) However it does sound like chicken are "fun", for lack of a better word.

As with pigs, Sepp Holzer just throw some of their food around where he wants them to dig apparently; but I don't have more details; perhaps there's still a bit of work to do afterward, perhaps the pigs were "taught" to do that, perhaps they are a particular variety of pig (he does use rustic and dwarf animals at his farm).

As with chickens, I've seen Geoff Lawton use them to "clean" some space, in this video for example:


So it might be that weeds over there are tastier, or that the chickens are doing enough work for his purpose.

I think it's about "how can I get the animal to do something that helps me in the end". Maybe your pigs don't scratch completely because you don't throw some food around for them to find ? Obviously you know them better than me.

Right now I've seen a lot of stuff, and have not practiced a lot, so it's mostly creativity speaking. One thing I believe could win a lot of space is vertical farming; I'm sure tree can be wonderful for growing vines and climbing plants. So more fruit in the same amount of space, or more crop diversity etc.

Espaliering sound like it could solve the tree problem.

As with the numbers, I heard getting 600g of grain from one sq meter is a decent harvest. Imagine my delight when I got 180g from 9 sq meter... The video where I got those number from (which got them the source I mentioned) does the average of those three, which is about 700 sq meter (vegetarian diet), which sounds right, to him.

It's far from an easy answer... the other numbers involve some kind of methodology, but to reach optimal productivity, you'd need to practice that method for a while to really apply it properly; then there's the soil, the climate, the varieties, one's own experience...

John Young wrote:Based on your expressed desires I think 5-10 acres usable space would be about right, increase this for sloped or marginal lots. The "garden" doesn't need to be anywhere near this big, but you expressed desires for ponds, forest, and animals. Those take up space, animals with minimal inputs to me implies grazing pasture not buying hay. There are often tax breaks for "farms" that require a minimum acerage, may be beneficial to ensure you have that amount as a minimum. (Even if you don't use them initially, hold it as a fallback.) Realities of land value in your area may restrict you, don't let that hold you back if you can't afford your "ideal" lot.

Best of luck!



Animals seem to be the most space consuming. The ideal would be to have to buy nothing to feed them, and grow/store the bare minimum. But I think some space could be optimized; ponds involve fishes, there's probably some good, useful plants that can be grown in ponds. The harvest might get a bit complicated/fun (depending on how you see it), but it'd still be a win of space.

If anyone happen to have numbers for food autonomy, per animal, it would be nice. Apparently, 5 goats can fit on 2.5 acre, according to a girl who raise them I saw on youtube.
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