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Start a 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead

Expert advice on how to establish self-sufficient food production, including guidance on crop rotations, raising livestock and grazing management.

| August/September 2011

  • Dairy Cows
    A dairy cow can provide butter, cream, milk, yogurt and cheese, plus lots of manure to build soil fertility. 
  • Homestead Plan
    Your 1-acre homestead can be divided into land for raising livestock and a garden for raising fruits, vegetables, plus some grain and forage crops. 
  • Chicken Coop
    Get creative and make your own chicken coop: This ark can be made out of used fertilizer bags for nearly nothing. 
  • Drying Hay
    You can grow your own wheat and dry it on simple tripods made from poles. 
  • Chickens
    Chickens for eggs, meat and pest control are the top livestock choice on most homesteads. 
  • Pig Breeds
    Omnivorous pigs will eat almost anything, and can convert your surplus crops into delicious meat and fertile compost. 

  • Dairy Cows
  • Homestead Plan
  • Chicken Coop
  • Drying Hay
  • Chickens
  • Pig Breeds

Everyone will have a different approach to keeping a self-sufficient homestead, and it’s unlikely that any two 1-acre farms will follow the same plan or methods or agree completely on how to homestead. Some people like cows; other people are afraid of them. Some people like goats; other people cannot keep them out of the garden. Some people will not slaughter animals and have to sell their surplus stock off to people who will kill them; others will not sell surplus stock off at all because they know that the animals will be killed; and still others will slaughter their own animals to provide their family with healthy meat.

For myself, on a 1-acre farm of good, well-drained land, I would keep a cow and a goat, a few pigs and maybe a dozen hens. The goat would provide me with milk when the cow was dry. I might keep two or more goats, in fact. I would have the dairy cow (a Jersey) to provide the pigs and me with milk. More importantly, I would keep her to provide heaps and heaps of lovely cow manure to increase my soil fertility, for in order to derive any sort of living from that 1 acre without the application of a lot of artificial fertilizer, it would have to be heavily manured.

Raising a Dairy Cow

Cow or no cow? The pros and cons are many and various for a self-sufficient homestead. In favor of raising a cow is the fact that nothing keeps the health of a family — and a farm — at a high level better than a dairy cow. If you and your children have ample good, fresh, unpasteurized, unadulterated dairy products, you will be well-positioned to be a healthy family. If your pigs and poultry get their share of the milk by-products, especially whey, they likely will be healthy, too. If your garden gets plenty of cow manure, your soil fertility will continuously increase, along with your yields.

On the other hand, the food that you buy in for this family cow will cost you hundreds of dollars each year. Compared with how much money you would spend on dairy products each year, the fresh milk supply from the cow plus the increased value of the eggs, poultry and pig meat that you will get, along with your ever-growing soil fertility, will quickly make a family cow a worthwhile investment. But a serious counter-consideration is that you will have to take on the responsibility of milking a cow. (For different milking plans and estimated savings, see Keep a Family Cow and Enjoy Delicious Milk, Cream, Cheese and More.) Milking a cow doesn’t take very long — perhaps eight minutes — and it’s very pleasant if you know how to do it and if she is a quiet, docile cow — but you will have to do it. Buying a dairy cow is a very important step, and you shouldn’t do it unless you do not intend to go away very much, or unless you can make arrangements for somebody else to take over your milking duties while you’re gone. So let’s plan our 1-acre farm on the assumption that we are going to keep a dairy cow.

1-Acre Farm With a Family Cow

Half of your land would be put down to grass, leaving half an acre arable (not allowing for the land on which the house and other buildings stand). The grass half could remain permanent pasture and never be plowed up at all, or you could plan crop rotations by plowing it up, say, every four years. If you do the latter, it is best done in strips of a quarter of the half-acre so that each year you’re planting a grass, clover and herb mixture on an eighth of your acre of land. This crop rotation will result in some freshly sown pasture every year, some 2-year-old field, some 3-year-old field and some 4-year-old field, resulting in more productive land.

Grazing Management 

At the first sign the grass patch is suffering from overgrazing, take the cow away. The point of strip grazing (also called intensive rotational grazing) is that grass grows better and produces more if it is allowed to grow for as long as possible before being grazed or cut all the way down, and then allowed to rest again. In such intensive husbandry as we are envisaging for this self-sufficient homestead, careful grazing management will be essential.

Academy of Self-Reliance
3/3/2020 2:29:03 PM

A 250-family modern homesteading community is being built in the mountains of Utah by a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Academy of Self-Reliance. Here's their Facebook group:

1/12/2020 10:25:10 AM

I am retiring & want to start gardening again....but some of this sounds like ALOT of work

Dale Modisette
8/31/2019 1:30:23 PM

*The Helpful Garden* The idea is to design a homeless shelter using Aquaponics and permaculture to feed them as well as make money for them. Each place will have 9 to 13 (12 x 18) 216 sq ft building for living in. So the *"Helpful Garden"* will be shelter to up to 13 people as well as a farmers market. The one thing about homeless shelters is that one can be built every 80 miles about or so. I can see a minimum of 3000 homeless shelters of the "Helpful Garden" being built worldwide. (Powered by solar & wind) To build said place is about $500,000 depending where it built. Though it won't need donation or government grants to run for all it's money comes from it farmers market. *Profits:* 40% profit breakdown: Money needed for sheltered women: $15,000/each allotted to each tiny home each year. plus stables (Example: coffee, sugar, flour, salt and pepper) 60% profit breakdown: 10% to building new Helpful Gardens 20% to maintenance 15% to college grants 15% to etc. _*Budget : $500,000*_ *1.)* Land : 3+ acres (Budget $25,000.00 or less) *2.)* Tiny Homes: 9 to 13 (12 x 18) 216 sq ft [on ½ acre] (Budget $156,000.00 or less) *3.)* Intake Office: 600 Sq ft (Budget $25,000.00 or less) *4.)* Farmers Market: ½ acre (Budget $45,000.00 or less) *5.)* Parking Lot: ¼ acre (Budget $5,000.00) *6.)* Aquaponics and Permaculture Farm: 1 ¾ acres (Budget $109,000.00 or more a.) Up to 3 different fish b.) Tiger shrimp c.) Crayfish d.) 3 different apple and pears trees so [to have them throughout the year] e.) Citrus trees like lemons, oranges and 2 two others. f.) Chickens (meat and eggs) g.) Goats (milk and cheese) h.) Honey Bees 4 to 6 hives i.) 2 fig trees (maybe) j.) Freshwater mussels (maybe) k.) Rabbits (maybe) _*Powered : [Total Budget $135,000.00]*_ *1.)* Solar (Budget $90,000) a.) Tiny Homes 13 set of 4 - 250 watt cell with light sensors (52 solar cells) cost between $27,287.00 and $36,387.00 b.) Aquaponics System - (?) c.) Intake Office - set of 6 - 250 watt cell with light sensors (cost between $3,148.50 and $4,198.50) d.) Farmers Market - (?) *2.)* Wind Power - (Budget $45,000) a.) Windmill electric generator 15 to 30 KW cost between $18,000 - $48,000 ________________________________________________________________________ *Just some working notes:* Payroll for security : $3,900/wk $16,900/mo $202,800/yr 3 full time: ($24/hr) $2,880/wk $12,480/mo $149,760/yr 4 part time: 17 hour work week ($15/hr) $1,020/wk $4,420/mo $53,040/yr Payroll for gardeners : same as security Volunteers : 36 (though it's like $6/hr to help pay for their gas and childcare if needed). $4,320/wk $18,720/mo $224,640/yr Total payroll : $427,440/yr Money needed for sheltered women: $144,000/yr or $12,000/each allotted to each tiny home (12) Money of the other 60% profit equals $270,000 $450,000 plus payroll equals $958,769.04 Needed $263.34/hr@70/hr@52/wk=$958,769.04 235,000 lbs vegetables @$0.5/lb=$32.28/hr or 64.56 lbs/hr or 645.5 lbs/day 30,000 lbs fish/crayfish/shrimp @ $3/lbs = $247.251/day or $90,000.00/yr *These are all low ball figures* $174,720 online sales per year $117,500 vegetable sale per year $90,000.00 meat sales per year $500 honey sales per year At point soda sales per year Snack & hot food sale per year Cloths & wares sales per year Frozen food sales per year Canning goods sales per year Dairy/cheese sales per year ________________________________________________________________________ *By using a mix of permaculture and aquaponics which in turn use 90% less water to grow food and a minimum of twice as fast :* * Reduces Labor by 75% * Reuses 95% of the water * Low Electricity Need (use solar to stay off the grid) * Faster Vegetable * Longer Shelf Life * Organic Mineral Rich * Produces Its own Fertilizer * Non-Contaminated Fish * Use of Tiger Shrimp &/or Crawfish to clean algae * Uses of the Bacteria and fecal matter are collected to make Methane in place of natural gas &/or Decomposed solids to worm bin which turn is used to make Compost Tea is brewed from worm casting and water. The tea can be used for Fruit Orchard to increase Microbial Content in the soil. ________________________________________________________________________ _*It all came about after a project I worked on to design a green subdivision with many others. I thought I could do more and started gathering info. That was when G+ was still invite only. A village is a 50 million dollar undertaken. Then broke it down to a what I call Dartanyan's Restaurant & Farm but again that was 5 million dollar undertaken. So I decided trying a homeless shelter with my knowledge.*_ *1.9848 acre per person living in a sustainable village (234 people [35% are child under the age 12] and 464.4432 acres for the village)* 80% crafted, made and grown in said village And 20% are raw materials, food not grown, medical equipment/supplies, electronics and etc. - 0.6250 acre of farmland/person (146.2500ac) - 0.0892 acre of farmland products to be sold/person (20.8728ac) - 0.2321 acre of living area/person (54.3114ac) - 0.0214 acre of wine vineyards/person (5.0076ac) - 0.0714 acre of ponds/person (16.7076ac) - 0.1069 acre of coffee/person or 3,456 trees (25.0146ac) [555 trees/2.4711 acres or 1 Hectare] - 0.0071 acre of teas/person (1.6614ac) - 0.0142 acre of herbs/person (3.3228ac) - 0.1428 acre of schools/person (33.4152ac) - 0.2142 acre of park & wildlife/person (50.1228ac) - 0.1428 acre of village square/person (33.4152ac) - 0.1785 acre of livestock/person (41.7690ac) - 0.1392 acre of roads & etc/person (32.5728ac)

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