How Much Land is Enough to Live Off?

One of the best ways to prepare for an extended crisis is to relocate to a remote property where you can live off the land and be as self-sufficient as possible.

If you’ve been a survivalist or a prepper for any amount of time, you’ve probably figured this out and have at least begun to think about how to make it happen. One of the primary issues most people face when trying to secure property to become self sufficient is determining how much land is enough to live off of successfully.

veggie garden during the summer
veggie garden during the summer

When you begin to think about buying land where you can live self sufficiently, there are a lot of things to consider.

The standard recommendation for a family of four looking to produce the majority of food they eat is somewhere between 2 and 10 acres to feed themselves.

The Food and Agricultural Organization estimates this number much higher, at 17 acres per person for complete self sufficiency.

But how much land is enough to live off of? The truth is there is no one right answer. In general, the more land you have, the more plentiful your options are.

But, it is possible to live somewhat self sufficiently on very little land if you modify your lifestyle. It all depends on what your family needs, the methods you choose to produce food and income, and what level of self sufficiency you desire.

As a rough guide, assume a calorie intake of 2,300 per person for a family of four who prefers a vegetarian diet.

For a total of just over 9,000 calories daily, a traditional garden space would need to be about 1 ¾ acres or 76,666 square feet. For a diet that includes meat, dairy, and eggs, you need to add additional square feet for animal housing and grazing.

To figure out how much land is enough to live off for your family and be self sufficient, you’ll need to look at a variety of additional factors.

  • Diet and Nutritional Needs
  • Growing Season
  • Climate
  • Skill Level
  • Soil Quality
  • Alternate Power Needs
  • Size of Home and Number of Outbuildings Needed
  • Nearby Available Resources or Bartering

Start by calculating the number of calories you need per day and per person. Determine what types of food you prefer to meet the needed calorie requirements.

Do your own research on animal care needs and explore the various methods of gardening to adopt a plan for your land.

You will need more land if you are raising livestock but you can get away with less land if you are following a vegetarian diet and using space saving gardening methods. Consider what level of self sufficiency is your goal.

How Much Land Do You Need to Provide Food?

One of the primary tasks associated with living self sufficiently on your land is to have a reliable source or sources of food. For many people one of the most obvious food sources is a garden.

We are all familiar with the traditional gardens done in rows, but there are several different ways to garden. The size of garden you need based on your family size and the gardening method you choose will have a great impact on the amount of land you need to live off of.

Gardening methods to consider include:

  • Traditional Row Gardening
  • Lasagna gardening
  • Composting
  • Permaculture
  • Companion Planting
  • Aquaponics
  • Hydroponics (there are several hydroponic systems to choose from depending on your needs)
  • Portable Container Gardening
  • Vertical Gardening
  • Edible Landscaping
  • Raised Bed Gardening
  • Trench Gardening
  • Micro Farm Gardening

Many people have been successful with gardening on much smaller pieces of land than the recommended amount by using alternative gardening methods.

The easiest gardening system for you may be container gardening. It allows you to start with just a few plants and just a little bit of soil ,and grow from there. Plus, you can move the containers around, inside or outside, depending on temperatures, so a frost won’t screw up your garden.

The video below shows an example of a family who is successfully living off their land with an urban garden that produces 90% of the vegetarian diet for a family of four on just 1/10th of an acre.

In fact, this urban homestead produces over 6,000 pounds of food annually and the family sells the excess to pay for other items they need.

Other Ways to Provide Food

There are many other ways to provide food for your family, including raising poultry or livestock such as chickens, milk or meat goats, meat rabbits, beef or dairy cattle.

Some families may choose to hunt using rifles, to trap using snare wire, and paracord,  to fish using fishing lines and fish traps, or to forage for wild edibles to secure food.

If you choose to raise cattle or goats for meat and/or milk, you may need more land than if you choose to raise smaller animals such as chickens or rabbits.

Be sure to calculate the number of each animal needed for self-sufficiency as recommended in this video below to have a realistic plan and avoid becoming overwhelmed:

But it’s not enough to just think about food, you also need to have a good source of fresh water as well as systems for alternative power and heating your home.

Keep in mind that when it comes to water, to be truly self sufficient you may need to have more than one well or install a rain catchment system to backup your main water source.

If you decide to use wood to heat your home and to heat water, you’ll need more acreage that is wooded in order to avoid having to purchase wood regularly.

Below is a video of a family who has gradually become more and more self sufficient on their acreage over the last twenty five years. Their property includes edible landscape gardens at the front, along with multiple varieties of fruit trees, olive trees, raised vegetable and herb beds, berry plants, bee hives, and more.

They also raise poultry including ducks, quail, and chickens, to supplement their diet with meat and eggs.

And this Connecticut family below has a very productive homestead on approximately ten acres that includes turkeys, ducks, pigs, and free range meat birds and egg layers to sustain a family of six for the entire year supplemented by a newly developed permaculture food forest.

Sources for Income or Bartering

For most people, becoming self sufficient means living off the land but it also means developing multiple sources of income that can be used to buy needed items, pay monthly bills, or at least to produce items that can be used for bartering for things you need.

As explained in the video below, becoming self sufficient on your land is really about producing more than you consume. This means learning to save money as well as how to be resourceful and creative in your endeavors.

Some additional methods for earning income or bartering to consider include:

  • Heirloom Produce
  • Heritage Breed Animals
  • Trapping and processing animal pelts
  • Raising chickens to sell or trade eggs and meat
  • Breeding goats or cattle and raising for meat or milk
  • Worm Farming to sell for bait to fishermen
  • Making handmade craft items
  • Carpentry or other “handyman” skills
  • Gardening and selling or bartering excess produce
  • Homemade dairy products such as cheese and yogurt
  • Homestead made jams, candies, bread, or pies

Many people find that being able to live completely self sufficient is a gradual and ongoing process that is best done in stages or layers. If you are just starting your journey toward self sufficiency, look for sources that will be easy to expand so you can then sell excess food to bring in additional income.

Select one type of animal to raise when getting started and add additional types of animals slowly to prevent becoming overwhelmed. It’s critical to understand breeding, health, and nutritional criteria for each type of animal you choose so that you can properly manage your livestock.

To summarize, there really is no “right” amount of land to live off of. The amount of land you need to live self sufficiently will greatly depend on a number of additional factors including:

  • Climate and growing season
  • Current soil quality
  • Family size
  • Skill level of group members
  • Methods used for securing food
  • Projected expenses and budget
  • Space or acreage needed for income sources
  • Level of self sufficiency desired

The choices you make regarding how you will secure food and keep your home operating will determine how much land is enough to live off of and it will be different for each family. 

How much land do you have now and what portion of your needs are met through living off the land? What changes will you make in the coming year to become a little more self sufficient? Let us know in the comments below.

shtf food options pinterest

update 10/21/2020 by Dan F. Sullivan

4 thoughts on “How Much Land is Enough to Live Off?”

  1. We’ve been on our rural property for 34 years. We started out here renting for 2 years, until the owner who was ill, passed away, at which point we negotiated with the heirs and the real estate agent to purchase a piece of the 114 acre property. We ended up with 8 acres, including two good old post & beam / mortise and tenon built barns, a machinery shed, brooder house, chicken coop and the main house. We have a good well and a creek that runs along the western edge of the property and when it came on the market, we jumped at the chance to own it, warts and all. We paid $40,000 for the place; but, have spent another $45,000 on improvements and upkeep over the years.
    We are surrounded by hundreds of more acres of woodland and farmland, including 200 acres jointly owned by my wife and her 2 brothers. That land provides us with some land rental income, and gives me a large area I can hunt. The creek also has some small pan fish and crawfish.
    When we first purchased the place, I planted small trees on about 2-3 acres on the north end of the property and they have flourished. We have several evergreens that are 20+ feet tall, and quite a few sugar maples I hope to start tapping this spring. We also have more than sufficient space for a nice garden and have planted them over the years. With my wife’s brother and nephew living in the area, as well as some very good friends, everyone plants an shares, with some who plant field corn, also planning a few rows of sweet corn and handing it out amongst the whole crowd.
    Our livestock are now down to a single goat, a miniature horse, and some egg laying hens; but, in the past we have had more hens, more goats, larger horses, and rabbits. With a little bit of thinking and no zoning restrictions (like keeping chickens) you can be creative and have numerous ways to produce food.
    We heat and cook primarily with propane and have enough storage for about 3000 gallons, we purchase yearly when the summer prices are low. We can also heat with wood and did for several years when first renting. A whole house generator can provide all of our power needs when required; but, we have four different ways to heat without using electricity.
    As a ham radio operator, antenna placement and size has also never been a problem.
    Sources for Income or Bartering
    We are now in retirement; but, have more than sufficient income from 7 sources; plus, I still do a bit of contract work for cash or barter.
    Raising chickens to sell or trade eggs and meat is the primary way we use items we produce, generally trading with friends, family, and neighbors our excess eggs.
    Perhaps one of the most lucrative ways to earn cash in a small space is beekeeping. I haven’t done it for a while due to health reasons; but, a small investment and a little work can yield a good source of your very own sweetener and some good income.
    A mature hive can produce as much as 4-6 gallons of honey in a year and with a little work that honey may be extracted and sold. The going price around here is about $20.00 per quart, so you can easily do the math. In a post SHTF or crisis situation, we will all still need protein (from fish or meat), fats (also from animals) and carbohydrates that may be the hard part. Tapping maple or other trees along with honey can fill that need of the essential food groups.

  2. Thanks for this article, Megan. In our area, there’s a lot of theft n some vandalism. So I’d encourage readers to consider that in planning. My wife n I aren’t ready to move to a homestead, but am taking steps to make our yard in town more productive. 2 real estate agents in our community recently told me that houses in town aren’t selling much, as people are buying acreage n land in the country.

  3. I ‘know’ what I would ‘like’, and it would likely be ‘workable’. But we aren’t getting any younger, and we aren’t anywhere near close to being able to purchase. When we are, it will likely be less than what I think ‘ideal’. I also am quite aware of the time, sweat equity, and costs involved in becoming more self sufficient. Homesteading is not for the faint of heart. It is a true labor of love.

    So, I will continue to dream of my ‘ideal’ homestead, while I tend my garden on my little rental property and take comfort in even the small steps I can take to be more srlf sufficient. (And this is meant as encouragement for every person who is maybe just starting out, feeling overwhelmed…it’s a journey)

    Nice overview Megan! There are a lot of variables one needs to consider when purchasing any property. I would add that when considering a homestead, a common thread amongst my homesteading friends, once you start with chickens, you ARE going to want to add more animals…so consider that in your property search! Also get to know the neighbors…they might let you graze on their property for a share of the meat or vice versa.

    • Grammyprepper,

      I ‘know’ what I would ‘like’, and it would likely be ‘workable’. But we aren’t getting any younger, and we aren’t anywhere near close to being able to purchase. When we are, it will likely be less than what I think ‘ideal’. I also am quite aware of the time, sweat equity, and costs involved in becoming more self sufficient. Homesteading is not for the faint of heart. It is a true labor of love.

      You hit that nail square on the head. We’ve lived on this property for 34 years, and when I was working, I drove anywhere from 25 to 40 miles one way. with the exception of the approx 8 years I was able to mostly telecommute; but, even that can be an issue on a rural property. My internet started out with dial up modems at a whopping 23Kbps and eventually 56Kbps, finally upgrading to satellite @ 500 Kbps but costing $90.00 per month and subject to weather fading. Next was a wireless ISP and finally the DSL we now have @ 5 Mbps, so even communications has been a slow crawl with our TV still coming as a combination of off the air and satellite.

      So, I will continue to dream of my ‘ideal’ homestead, while I tend my garden on my little rental property and take comfort in even the small steps I can take to be more srlf sufficient. (And this is meant as encouragement for every person who is maybe just starting out, feeling overwhelmed…it’s a journey)

      It is indeed a journey, and even on your small rental plot, you are developing skills that will serve you well in the future when you finally get that ideal property, that will not just jump up full of food, without that same effort you are now doing. The biggest thing we all must do on this journey is to occasionally stop and look back at where we’ve been to give us perspective on how much we have accomplished.
      Also get to know the neighbors…they might let you graze on their property for a share of the meat or vice versa.
      That’s where the “common” comes in the word community, since it can go well beyond grazing. Our neighbor needed a place to put a dumpster that now sits out of the way on the edge of our property and we get to use it. That saves us anywhere from $25-50 per month in trash hauling. We also share a section of our driveway to allow him access to his barn, for which we also provide water and power. In turn, he keeps our driveway clear of snow and will often bring his skid loader over to do small jobs for us.


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