Backyard permaculture garden designs: Is 1/2 Acre of land needed to be self-sufficient?

It is possible to achieve a degree of self-sufficiency with a backyard permaculture garden, however you just need to determine what level of self-sufficiency you wish to strive for, and what that entails. 

Because the truth is, that even in the old days when most settlers in the Americas lived on self-contained homesteads, humans have always relied on each other to some extent. 

Complete self-sufficiency is neither realistic nor necessarily desirable. 

Unless you are prepared to live like a caveman, at some point you are going to have to use money or the trade economy.

Factors to consider

Many homesteaders desire to be able to raise, harvest, and process a large percentage of their own food, providing for all of their family’s needs from a backyard permaculture garden, through their own labours.

What is permaculture to some is to choose living an off-grid lifestyle, using things like solar panels or wind turbines to provide their own electricity. 

Permaculture gardening for beginners may be looking for fewer, simpler components to incorporate into their lifestyle from the start.

Whatever your goal is, you will likely need at least a small patch of land to achieve your self-sufficiency dreams. But even then, the acreage you will need can be difficult to pinpoint. 

If your goal is to raise most of your own food, the amount of land you’ll need will vary depending on a number of factors, including:

  • The climate where you live
  • The quality of the soil
  • How much sunlight the property gets
  • Amount of rainfall
  • What you grow and raise
  • Your diet and lifestyle
  • How many people you’ll need to feed

What you will need

Depending on whom you ask, you’ll hear numbers as low as ½ acre of land to be self-sufficient all the way up to over 50 acres!

backyard permaculture garden designs 1 acre principles gardening
This 1 acre homestead design was created to show an example of a self-sufficient design.

Various sources have said the following:

  • Permaculture advocates say that ¼ acre per person is adequate when permaculture gardening principles are combined with poultry, fruit trees, and possibly aquaponics.
  • The Food and Agricultural Organization states the minimum amount of land needed for self-sustainable food in North America or Western Europe is 17 acres per person. This assumes no land degradation, crop failures, or waste.
  • 1BOG.org assesses about 2 acres of land for a family of four. This includes approx. 12,000 sq. feet for wheat, 65 for eggs, 2640 for corn, 100 for dairy, 207 for meat, and 77,000 sq. feet for vegetables.
  • Proponents of aquaponics say that 90% of our dietary needs can be grown in 50 square feet.

The Conclusion

The general consensus is that you really need at least 5 acres of land per person to be self-sufficient. 

5 acre backyard permaculture design principles self sufficient benefits
5 Acre homestead design.

That is assuming you have quality land, adequate rainfall, and a long growing season.

That is also assuming that you are eating a mostly vegetarian diet. 

If you want meat in your everyday diet, you are going to need A LOT more land to be self-sufficient. Meat used to be a luxury which people only ate on Sundays!

backyard permaculture garden chickens self sufficient principles benefits
backyard permaculture garden sheep ducks self sufficient principles benefits
backyard permaculture garden pigs self sufficient principles benefits

Livestock doesn’t need that much space to roam, however you need extra land so you can rotate their pastures. With livestock, you’ll likely need at least 30 acres.

Thus, if you are going to have chickens, cattle, sheep, goats or pigs, you are going to need at least 30 acres for pasture, feed crops, and your veggie crops. 

It’s not just about size!

The reality is that no man is an island. As humans, we are stronger when we work together. 

A very important thing to keep in mind is not just the size of your acreage, but the ability to build community in the place where you choose to live.

If you really want to be free of all of the traps that come with modern living, then you need to build a community of likeminded people.

Start learning ONE skill that you are really, really good at and would be valuable to others. Then start finding others like you with diverse skill sets.

Do this and you’ll find that practicing self-sufficiency on the homestead through the benefits of permaculture doesn’t just connect you more to the land, but also to your community.

FAQ

What should I farm on 1 Acre?

What you plant is a decision based on a multitude of factors. Consider all aspects – climate, skills, labor available, resources, capital, budget, alternatives to growing your own, whether you want animal products or not, etc.

If your wanting to grow your own food on a small acreage/backyard permaculture garden, start by asking yourself questions like:

– What do you like to eat?
– How much do you pay for it?
– How much labor are you prepared to undertake?
– How would you store the crop throughout the year?

What is the easiest farm animal to raise?

There is really not 1 single answer. Different animals have different qualities that they bring to the table. But generally, smaller animals will be easier to raise.

Chickens will give you far more than their body weight in eggs (approx. 265 eggs a year for two years), then you can eat them. They do have a diet that can be slightly costly.

Rabbits need little care, are a great meat source and provide very useful furs. Plus the rabbits can eat plants you cut from trails, keeping feeding costs down.

Pigs are omnivores that will eat nearly anything and can survive in the wild as-is. If you keep them in a secure enclosure, give them food, water and shelter, they will not require any complicated management.

How do I start a permaculture farm?

The components that need to be considered for the development of the farm include:

1. Understanding your local climate
2. Quality topological maps
3. Plan and define roads, trails, and access points
4. Develop a water supply
5. Improve soil conditions
6. Plant trees and crops
7. Build new structures, as needed, and restore existing buildings
8. Subdivide your farm with fencing
9. Introduce animals
10. Develop a farm economy

Can you raise a cow on 1 acre?

Generally, yes, however it would depend on the cow, the condition of the acre, and on whether you are willing to provide supplemental feed. You would need to understand the volume of grass available and how quickly it grows back, then determine whether it is enough to sustain the animal. If it is not enough, you can always provide supplemental nutrition by way of bringing in hay and other feed for the animal.