How Many Acres?

At Fruit Hill Farm we are looking to expand our footprint ‘under cultivation’ and that has sparked conversations around the dinner table.

“How many acres should we be aiming to get?”

It is a question every traditional homesteading family asks.  Not enough acres and we will not be able to meet the goals of our family’s homestead.  Too many acres and we may be ‘trapped’ under a list of projects that are too ambitious.

Our challenge is compounded since we are not a traditional homestead.  We chose to ‘grow where we were planted’.  We didn’t move to a rural area to live our homesteading dream.  Modeling ourselves after inspirations such as the Dervaes family, we are homesteading in the suburbs.

Our goal is to purchase enough small parcels within walking/biking distance of our home to cultivate.  Ideal plots will be greater than a half acre and not have any buildings on it.  So beyond being limited by what we can afford, how do we determine how many acres?

What are we trying to achieve?

There are 2 primary desires for why we want to farm land:

*  Heal our land (sequester carbon, establish mycelium network, restore biodiversity)

*  Food security

In regards to healing our land, that desire does not provide us helpful guidance.  In our hearts, every acre on earth should be restored back to Eden.

Food security is a better guide for us.  With our 1/3rd acre lot we already have enough land to provide for enough food for our family.  That is we could survive off our current land base, but it would be a diet unlike that of even the strictest American plant-based diet.  We can grow starch with potatoes, sweet potatoes, and sun chokes.  However, we don’t have enough land to grow enough grains for our family.  We are experimenting this next growing season with growing grains like oats and sorghum, but how much land that will take is still to be determined.

During our most ambitious conversations we ask ourselves, ‘Is Millwood capable of growing it’s own food base?’ 

Millwood Statistics

*  ~2000 citizens

*  2 lbs/day plant based diet per person to sustain

–  1,460,000 lbs. of crops/year to feed Millwood at sustaining levels

–  If we use the Dervaes family’s yield as the upper limit of yield (6000 lbs/yr on 0.1 acre) = 60,000 lbs./acre max.

–  24.33 acres at optimal yields (which is dependent of quality of land and skill-sets we do not yet have)

Next Level Considerations

Keep in mind the above thought experiment is just to sustain.  There is no dairy and few grains in a diet that can be provided on 25 acres for 2000 people.  However, if individual households would also integrate their yards into the food security plan, the diet could also provide for meat (primarily fowl and rabbit).

If we include ducks, it would significantly increase cooking possibilities as duck have excess oils.  Also, female fowl can provide eggs to the diet.

Homesteading Rules of Thumb (results vary based on breed and skill level of homesteader)

*  A milking goat provides on average 457 gallons/yr. (1.5 gallons * 305 lactation days; goats cannot be raised in solitude)

*  A chicken can produce up to 250 eggs/yr.

*  A duck can produce on average 1.5 cups of rendered oil

*  1 rabbit buck and 3 rabbit does can provide as much meat/yr. as a cow (and will consume half the feed)

*  A beehive can yield up to 0.5-1.5 gallons of honey (our yield has been closer to 0.5 gallons/hive)

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