One acre of land can produce an annual yield of hundreds of kilograms (or thousands pounds) of vegetables, fruit, honey, meat, eggs, milk and other foods. Even just a quarter-acre of land will produce more than enough food to feed the average family of four, leaving much of the food to be sold for profit to help provide for other basic needs. It is quite possible for a family to live simply off one acre, although it does require some business planning to determine how to market and sell crops for additional income.
Cultivate a large vegetable garden as the first part of living off one acre of land. Just 12 garden beds measuring 1.25 by 2.5 m (4 by 8 feet) each can produce a total of more than 900 kg (over 2000 pounds) of vegetables per year when planned carefully. The key to harvesting an abundance of vegetables is to grow multiple crops in the same area at different times. For example, crops such as spinach, peas, broccoli and beetroot can be planted and harvested in the spring, leaving the garden beds ready for planting of summer crops such as tomatoes, courgettes, peppers and corn. Once those are harvested, the cool-season crops can be planted again and grow into the autumn. Excess vegetables can be canned, stored in a root cellar to be eaten in the winter or sold at a local farmers market for profit.
Grow fruit trees to add to the harvest of fresh produce. When planting fruit trees, it is important to learn what trees grow best in the area before attempting to grow them. Canning excess fruit is a necessity to preserve it for eating during the rest of the year, and both fresh and canned fruit can be sold for additional income.
Plant small patches of grains such as oats, rye and wheat to help to supplement the family's diet. For example, a 7.5 by 15 m (25 by 50 foot) patch of wheat will yield about 22.5 kg (50 pounds). Grains do not make a very large profit when farmed in small quantities, so it is best to avoid trying to sell them.
Keep bees unless there is a bee allergy in the family. One hive will produce about 45 kg (100 pounds) of honey per year, which is more than enough for the family to use as sweetener. Additional honey can be bottled and sold at farmers markets and at local speciality stores.
Keep a dozen hens, which will produce about 120 dozen eggs over the course of a year. This is enough for each person in a family of four to eat an egg every day, and with more chickens, additional eggs could be sold for profit.
Raise a few pigs to supplement the family's diet with some meat. Pigs require only 14 square metres (150 square feet) per animal, making them ideal for a one-acre family farm. Young feeder pigs weighing 18 kg (40 pounds) will get to a harvest weight of 110 kg (240 pounds) within just 120 days, although they will eat 10 to 12 bushels of corn and 56.7 to 68 kg (125 to 150 pounds) of protein supplement during that time.
Keep goats, sheep and cows for milk or for slaughter. Generally a cow will require about a half-acre of pasture, but goats and sheep can be kept in a smaller pasture of a quarter acre or less. A single dairy cow will produce about 27 litres (6 gallons) of milk per day, leaving plenty for making cheese, butter and selling locally. Sheep and goats also produce milk, although the taste will be different from the traditional cow's milk.
For those who have never farmed or gardened before, it might be best to start small before transitioning into a larger scale operation of one acre or more. A year or two of intensive gardening on a space as small as one-tenth of an acre will help make the decision of whether full-time family farming is the right choice.
It is important to check legal regulations before starting a family farm, especially if it will involve keeping animals.
Tips and warnings
- For those who have never farmed or gardened before, it might be best to start small before transitioning into a larger scale operation of one acre or more. A year or two of intensive gardening on a space as small as one-tenth of an acre will help make the decision of whether full-time family farming is the right choice.
- It is important to check legal regulations before starting a family farm, especially if it will involve keeping animals.