How Much Land to Support One Person?

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Avalon
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How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187347Post Avalon »

I'd like to ask what kind of space I'd need to be able to grow enough food for one person, assuming they're a vegetarian. Well, two people really, but... you know.

I realise this is an awkward question to ask, mainly because I can't tell you what the plot of land is like - whether there's much of a prevailing wind, what the soil quality is like, how much direct sunlight it gets, or any of that. So I appreciate that the answer will probably be quite general, if you can manage it at all.

My other half is doing the research on how, and where, we can settle in the UK to run a smallholding, just for we two. He wants to know how much land we'll need to keep ourselves fed so that he knows how much space to look for. There are so many variables that I'm struggling to come up with an answer myself.

So... can anyone help me out?

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187357Post Brij »

I don't have much experience myself, but since you have no other answers yet, I thought I'd mention that a friend of my family works a veg patch that covers about a quarter of a (UK) acre. The soil is sandy, and not especially good quality, and there are some lettuces scattered around the rest of the garden. All in all, he gets enough carrots, potatoes, onions, beans, beetroot (the leaves make a good salad, too), nasturtium, garlic plus some lettuce in the summer that no-one in his 5 person household need to buy veg - what isn't used straight from harvest can be kept in the fridge/freezer or pickled.

Given that he himself is vegetarian, and only buys bread, eggs, milk and cheese, I would imagine that half an acre, assuming no production catastrophes would be sufficient to support one vegetarian's vegetable portions. So add on what you'd need to produce any cereals you want to supplement the diet, and the space to keep hens and/or cows/sheep/goats, and you might have a ball-park estimate. Almost!
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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187359Post floydster »

I read somewhere (can't remember where) that 5 acres was the area required per person to be totally self sufficient. More is required as you start to use animals and machines for assistance.

You didn't mention it but I suppose a lot depends on the climate too as we (in the UK) also need some land to grow wood for heating.

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187372Post frozenthunderbolt »

Conceivably 1600 square feet Per person, if you are living a vegan lifestyle, have excellent land, and an incredible work ethic.
Realistically, a couple of good acres for vegetarian, 5 acres allows some animals for merge meat production plus some milk or eggs. there is a seminal text called "5 acres and independence" which is very good.
Even more realistically, it is easier to grow a range of food stuffs but specialise somewhat and trade or sell for staples or variety.
Plant oca (yams) Jerusalem artichokes, sweet potatoes and potatoes, grain is hard to grow by hand in volume required to keep you in sufficient calories.
Also, pumpkin, beans and corn (that you should nixtimalise for greatest nutritional value) will be important. pulses for protein and if you are going to buy/rent longterm, then plant nut trees - hazel, walnut and pecan if you are able - they will eventually (3-10 years!) provide and excellent source of fats and amino acids (as will golden amaranth).
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Marc
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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187386Post Marc »

As you say, there are so many variables...
If you're talking veggies and pulses I would say an acre between you would be masses. If you want to try cereals, then you'll maybe need a bit more. Then there's the question of how you're going to keep up the soil fertility. Will you import any manure etc, keep animals yourself, or maybe grow some crops especially for composting.
Whatever, or however much land you have, if you're working it mainly by hand then the main restriction will be labour. How much time and energy do you have available, or how much work are you prepared to put in. 1 acre worked intensively by hand can produce a tremendous amount of food, BUT will also take a tremendous amount of work/energy to cultivate and look after.
You are probably better going for a fairly small place that you can look after well, rather than lots of acres that will just grow weeds.

Just my thoughts on the subject.
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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187389Post contadino »

Standard UK allotment plots were sized to feed a family of four for a year - fruit & veg.

So 5 acres? Nah. 1 acre? Nah. Nowadays, I think the average UK allotment is 300 square yards, but you might want to look back to WWII records to check, as there's been a lot of splitting going on which would reduce the average size.

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187397Post grahamhobbs »

I have just under 1/4 acre allotment, which supplies 2 of us (with surpluses in summer) with 100% of our veg for 8 months and about 70% the other 4. We are essentially vegetarian (eat some fish) and produce a very varied selection of veg, not just the restricted veg of the past.. We could be 100% but have run out of space, because not all devoted to vegetables, we have a fruit section, some flowers and some recreational areas ie. grass for gatherings, parties, etc.
We are not self-sufficent in fruit yet, we have a running battle with squirrels.
I did work out once that we could grow all the cereals we needed on less than 1/4 acre, assuming reasonable crops and the birds didn't help themselves to too much.
If we could get to the alloment every day, we could easily accomodate some chickens in a moveable ark.
So I'd say 1/2 acre of good land is just about sufficient for 2 vegetarians, only having to buy in milk and cheese.
At the peak of the season (about 2 months of the year) I spend a maximum of 10 hours/week working on the allotment (this is after a few years, I know what I'm doing and I'm organised).
I do not think it what take much more space or effort to feed a family rather than just the 2 of us (and freinds and extended family at times).

There is actually 3 acres of agricultural land available per 5 person family in Britian, yet the current system of food production is such that we only produce just over half our food, the rest is imported.

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187432Post Millymollymandy »

I'd certainly want a no dig garden if my veg patch was about 1000m2!!! :shock:

It's not so much the size of land and how much you produce as how long you can store it for and how many freezers you have. I could easily grow enough onions to keep us for a year but I can't store them for a year as they start sprouting. :dontknow:
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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187438Post liskeardjane »

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPEBM5ol0Q

Copy and paste the url and have a look - some people do wonderful things with very little space, but the man in the video has good weather all year and even makes a living in a tiny space

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187448Post grahamhobbs »

Think ing about it a bit more, I think I could grow 100% of our vegetables for the whole year if our 1/4 acre was dedicated to vegetables. I read that 1sqm of wheat would make enough flour for one loaf (sorry don't know the size of loaf), so an 1/8 acre would be more than sufficient for a loaf / day. Another 1/8 acre would be more than sufficient for producing oats for porridge, plus some other grains, millet, buckwheat, rye, etc. You would have to work out a way of undersowing with a legume such as clover or rotating with an area used by animals.

I would allow 1/8acre as a fruit garden from which, with freezing or bottling, it should give you a good varied supply throughout the year.

Going on what my friend produces, an 1/8 acre as grape vines would produce enough wine for 3 or 4 bottles a week, I guess alternatively cider apple trees in the same area would produce an equivalent amount if not more.
Some chickens, maybe rabbits (if you are not vegetarian) and bees, can all be squeezed in
This totals 3/4 acre.

I've never kept animals but perhaps you can keep a goat or two for milk and cheese on 1/4acre (feeding waste from the rest of the garden and browsing the hedgerows around). . So on 1 acre a couple or small family of vegetarians could be pretty self-sufficent in food.

Reading Farmers of Forty Centuries, in China it was fairly normal for an extended family of 10 or 12 to survive on 2 or 2.5 acres including keeping a donkey and a pig.

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187463Post liskeardjane »

Hi Graham - if we all had that much space, it would be fantastic - I have an area 5 metres by 10 and it makes all my jam, all my veg from june to october and my pumpkin patch grows all my squashs for all my chutneys for all my christmas presents to people, i have three two year old fruit trees and i can free enough fruit for good weekend puds for almost until then next lot arrives

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187467Post Green Aura »

Carol Klein did that series/book a couple of years ago, along with the RHS. She reckoned you could feed a family of four in 3m2 (3mx3m) - 9 x metre square beds. Of course she wasn't talking about growing cereal crops, just veg and some fruit I think.
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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187472Post grahamhobbs »

To Carol Klien all I can say is she's either no vegetarian or a miracle gardener. I grow more than 9sqm of onions and that is barely enough. I grow almost that amount in garlic and that definitely is not enough. One cauliflower or Romanesco takes up 1sqm, even with baby-cauli's (not much good for a family) you might manage 4. Can't imagine how few potatoes you'd be expected to live on all year!

I appreciate the 9sqm excludes paths, compost bins, etc and that you can grow very intensively in small well prepared soil but 9sqm. might feed a family nicely for a couple of weeks in the summer, but otherwise I think you'd be very hungry for most of the year.

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187477Post liskeardjane »

Hi graham - you have a really productive allotment!!!! must be great having dinner at your family home!

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Re: How Much Land to Support One Person?

Post: # 187479Post grahamhobbs »

Liskardjane, you are welcome to join us whenever you are in London, fortunately the OH is a brilliant cook.

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