A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency

Plan your garden using these guidelines so you can enjoy local, homegrown food year-round and move towards your goal of sustainability.

  • Well Planned Garden
    A well-planned garden can provide your family with the freshest, most nutritious produce, plus a more secure, self-reliant lifestyle.
    Photo By Matthew T. Stallbaumer
  • Basket Of Fresh Garden Produce
    A large home garden can supply fresh seasonal eating plus a year’s worth of home-preserved fruits and vegetables.
    Photo By Rick Wetherbee
  • Man Planting Seeds In Garden
    Plant cover crops in your garden to improve soil fertility.
    Photo By Norm Shafer
  • Using A Solar Food Dehydrator
    Author Cindy Conner displays the solar food dryers in her garden.
    Photo By Cindy Conner
  • Two Guinea Hogs
    Raising livestock, such as these guinea hogs, can add high-quality meat to the list of foods you include in your homestead food self-sufficiency plan.
    Photo By Lynn Stone
  • Tomato Seedlings In Newspaper
    Once you know how many pounds of tomatoes you need for the year, you can plan how many seedlings you’ll need to raise and plant out into your garden.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Baskets Of Eggs
    Consider adding free-range hens to your homestead plan to enjoy fresh, more nutritious eggs.
    Photo By Rob Cardillo
  • Shelves Of Canned Food
    Don’t forget to prepare adequate space to store — and admire — your preserved foods. 
    Photo By Janet Horton
  • Fresh Tomatoes For Canning
    Canning your harvests is one food preservation option — freezing, dehydrating and root cellaring will also help you store and enjoy homegrown food year-round.
    Photo Courtesy Superstock

  • Well Planned Garden
  • Basket Of Fresh Garden Produce
  • Man Planting Seeds In Garden
  • Using A Solar Food Dehydrator
  • Two Guinea Hogs
  • Tomato Seedlings In Newspaper
  • Baskets Of Eggs
  • Shelves Of Canned Food
  • Fresh Tomatoes For Canning

Providing high-quality food for your family year-round takes foresight and planning, plus healthy doses of commitment and follow-through. Whether you grow as much of your food as you can or you source it from local producers, the guidelines here will help you decide how much to produce or purchase. The charts linked to in “Plan How Much to Grow” later in this article will also help you estimate how much space you’ll need — both in your garden to grow the crops, and in your home and pantry or root cellar to store preserved foods. Here’s a step-by-step plan to help you make the best use of your garden space (or farmers markets) to move toward homestead food self-sufficiency.

1. Establish Your Goals

Make a list of the foods you and your family eat now — and note the quantities as well. The charts linked to in “Plan How Much to Grow” further along in this article assume a half-cup serving size for fruits, vegetables and legumes, and a 2-ounce serving for dry grains. If your servings differ from the charts, be sure to adjust your calculations accordingly.

Decide what you’d like to grow, noting the foods your family prefers and recognizing that not every crop will grow in every climate. Research different crop varieties: Some crops — such as melons — require long, hot days to mature, but certain varieties need fewer days to reach maturity, which allows them to be grown in areas with a shorter growing season.

Don’t be afraid to start small and build gradually toward food self-sufficiency. A good starting goal might be to produce all of a certain crop that you use. An early milestone for me was growing all of the green beans we needed for a year and all of the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce I canned. Maybe you’ll aim to eat at least one thing from your garden each day. Keep your goals in mind as you’re planning a garden.

2. Choose a Gardening Method

I recommend following the guidelines of “Grow Biointensive Sustainable Mini-Farming” as developed by John Jeavons at Ecology Action in Willits, Calif., and explained in his book How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits, Nuts, Berries and Other Crops Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine. Jeavons’ form of biointensive gardening, which can sometimes produce higher yields than less intensive approaches, focuses on eight principles:

  • Deep soil preparation
  • Composting
  • Intensive planting
  • Companion planting
  • Growing crops for carbon and grains
  • Growing crops for sufficient calories from a small area
  • Using open-pollinated seeds
  • Integrating all processes into a whole, interrelated system.

Using biointensive gardening methods, garden beds are double-dug and compost is made from crops grown for that purpose (some of which, such as corn, also provide food). Together, these techniques create a system that not only feeds the soil but also builds and improves the ecosystem. You can see these biointensive gardening techniques in action on the DVD “Cover Crops and Compost Crops in Your Garden” (available at Homeplace Earth).

11/23/2018 8:50:32 AM

I would also like to mention that volunteering a few hours a week at a community food bank garden is very helpful too. I volunteer just 4 hours per week at the local organic community food bank garden. The garden produced and delivered more than 8000 pounds of fresh produce for the local food banks. The volunteers are able to take fresh produce home year round. I am able to grow a greater variety in my mid-sized garden and bring home crops that require greater space from the community garden. I no longer grow or purchase huge quantities of peppers, tomatoes or squash for canning and winter storage. I know exactly how these crops were grown, because I helped grow them. Please consider this another way to become self sufficient and help the community at the same time.

1/6/2015 5:41:08 PM

Love it! Should mention, though, that keeping just one dairy goat isn't an option, unless you have other hooved animals around to keep her company. They're WAY too social to be by themselves! But hey, two gallons a day (during peak production) would suit my family just fine!

2/21/2014 9:29:28 AM

good stuff. And great book. We need to get people off that stupid Square Foot Gardening fad. Biointensive gardening is much more practical, easy, and inexpensive.

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