Your right seeing the big operations can be scarry, but look at these guys systems closely. It is all home spun. Yes they had some money to get it started but you in no way need to start big. Start with what you can afford and manage. Remember to do what you can to take care of family first and go from there. It wont be hard to end up in excess to sell. Remember, you can use the rocket stove, slab stove, and or compost inside the green house to keep it worm during the winter, and the CO2 from the exhaust will stimulate growth and keep the bugs away as well, so don't be afraid to fire up the stoves from time to time in the spring and summer. I wish you well and do keep us posted.
northern aquaponics .. think trout and fisheries department will give out fry or dirt cheap from their stocking program. was kinda what i was thinking running gray water slowly thru a shallow pool growing duckweed then trickling into a fish pond. then i can use a floating board on a stick to push some yummy duck weed into the pond. alas trout are not really plant eaters .. so i need to find a yummy native plant eating fish .. could go with grass carp or talapia but the risk it too great
We are in the process of setting up our near 3 acres to use as a community campus for teaching sustainable living. It is in infancy stage but we will be happy to share (on this site) what all we learn about this and other topics for small farmsteads. The plan is to grow food as well as teaching money making skills... amongst other kosher life practices for small spaces.
Are you mostly concerned about the amount of space ( 2-5 acres) to feed your family? Take a look at the Urban Farm in Pasadena on you tube. They only have ( I think it is) only about 1/10 of an acre ( city lot) yet last I heard they were getting 6 or so TONS of food from that city lot! They were also selling to chefs and ( I think) making their living on the lot! So it CAN be done. ( Yes, they have chickens and a goat although I dont know how they get away with the goat in the city!)
I have found that start up costs can be significant.
I started with a garden and fruittrees. The fruit trees died and the garden needed hoses, hoes, seeds, and fertilizer. I did get good vegetables but I cannot say that I saved money: I *MIGHT* have broken even.
The next year I already had tools so I saved money by gardening, but I bought (fewer) fruit trees and gave them better care. They lived. That second year I made money on the garden but I broke even because of the money spent on trees.
Then there were the chickens, and the bee hives, and so forth. Canning jars and the big canning kettle paid for themselves in a year or two.
Basically, every time I spend less on food I invest the money saved into something else that is usefull.
I am having a lot of fun. I have a home made green house, a big garden, the worlds freshest foods, and so forth. However, because everything had a start up cost it took a few years to actually save money: I sank all of the savings into the next food-producing enterprise!
You are so correct. Start up costs can be high.. Getting the tools/materials and infrastructure in place to start with. Each year, the costs will be less. Reinvesting is the best policy: If you save $100 on groceries, spend that $100 on something that will grow more groceries. Same with energy; $100 saved on electric should buy $100 in other energy saving devices/practices. Eventually, you will be generating surpluses, at which time you may decide to put those surpluses into something which will provide more surpluses. At that point, you have won the never ending battle.
I was a member of Enright Eco Village in Cincinnati for two years when I lived there. 45 families were sustained with excessive amounts of produce on less than 4 acres of land from early May until November. The farmer that organized our plantings used techniques to maximize seedling growth and vegetable harvest. We focused on raising vegetables and harvested fruit from CSA members who already had preexisting trees/canes/etc. My opinion is that if 45 families live well on less than 4 acres, your family can do well with your current amount of acreage - it's all determined by how you garden. Yes, you can grow more than enough food for you family on that amount of land.
Use intensive planting methods- if it's not growing or doing well, rip it out and plant something else.
Grow from seed- it's cheaper to begin and you can save your own seed, through open pollination, to grow veges suited for your geographic location
make friends with a cattleman, equine boarder, or zoo keeper with keys to the "black gold" bins - manure will replenish that which you taketh away
read Square Foot Gardening and The Resilient Gardner - these two books help you with planning and with thinking about outcomes.
Guinea pigs - research feed to meat ratio