- You can start a hobby farm with as little as one acre of land.
- To be self-reliant, you need at least 17 acres per person.
- The size and type of farm will depend on how much time you can put into it.
- Start-up costs can be high. It can be some time before you make a decent profit.
- Different plants and animals have different acreage requirements.
You can finally live out your dream of owning a small farm. Here is how much land you will need to start your farm.
The number of acres you need for your farm will depend on how you plan to use it. If you just want a hobby farm, then a half acre to five acres is fine depending on what you want on your farm. If you want to be self-sufficient, then you need 17 acres per person.
I grew up on a small farm, and I come from a farming family. Farming is a lot harder than many people think, but if you are ready to put in the work, it is an enjoyable pursuit. Here is how many acres you will need to start a farm.
Table of Contents
How Much Land Do You Need for a Small Farm
The amount of land you need for a farm depends on what type of farm you want and what you want to put on your farm. You can have as little as a half acre for some chickens and a vegetable garden. If you want some vegetables, cows, chickens, and grains, then you are looking at a larger piece of land.
How Many Acres Hobby Farm
A hobby farm is something that you can keep tended in your spare time. They make a great family farm for teaching kids about the importance of preserving nature, and they might even bring in a small income.
If you are looking to just plant a vegetable garden for family food, or if you want to only have a few chickens, you can get by with a quarter acre. If you want chickens and vegetables, you need more like a half acre.
How Many Acres to Be Self Reliant
Lots of people are interested in homesteading right now. If you are looking for more self reliance, then you will need a bigger farm. If you are hoping to be totally self sufficient, then you need 17 acres of land per person.
If you want to keep cattle or other grazing livestock, then you will need more acreage for pasture land. If you want a self-sufficient homestead, that is a full time job. The more plants and animals you have, the more maintenance that is needed on a daily basis.
How to Decide What to Put on Your Farm
Deciding how much land you need for your small farm will depend on what you want to put on it and if you want this to be a personal hobby or a family affair. Of course, if the whole family is helping out, then you can have a larger farm even if it is still a hobby farm.
To help you decide what types of crops and animals you can have, let’s look at the amount of acreage needed for different things. This way you can decide if you have enough land or if you will need to buy land.
If you want to grow vegetables for food for your family, then you need about 200 square feet per person. How many plants you need will depend on what vegetables you want to grow. Some types have a higher yield per plant. You can check out this chart at Garden Betty to see how many different plants you will need to feed your family.
Field crops will require quite a lot more land than a vegetable garden. You will need farming equipment and outside services to get your grains to an edible state. If you want to plant things like wheat, rice, sorghum, and soybeans, you will need more than a small farm. These types of crops are planted on hundreds, and even thousands, of acres to be profitable.
You can grow a small orchard with about 5 acres of land. If you want to turn a profit with your orchard, then you will need at least 20 acres of land. An orchard can include fruit trees or nut producing trees like pecans. The number of trees you can put on your acreage will depend on the tree you decide to go with.
If you want a dairy cow for your small farm, then you will need 1.5 to 2 acres per cow. These cows only produce milk for about 3 years. After this, you can slaughter your cow for food and bring in a new dairy cow.
One of the most popular animals for a small farm is chickens. You can keep 20 birds on 2000 square feet (quarter acre), so they are great for a small space. With this number, you will produce all the eggs you need and be able to have some meat.
Grass Fed Beef
Unless you are only raising one cow for yourself, you need more than a small farm to raise cattle. If you are looking for a profit, you will need at least 140 acres of land. If you are just raising one cow for your family's needs, it will need about 2 acres of land.
Another popular animal is the sheep. You only need about a quarter acre for one of these. You can shear them and sell the wool, sell them for meat, or even milk them for your family’s milk supply.
Goats are another versatile animal. You can use them for meat and milk. Like sheep, they only need about a quarter acre per animal. As with other animals, you can use their waste for fertilizer in your garden, too.
How Much Time Needed for a Small Farm
Along with land costs and startup costs, another factor to consider when deciding how big of a farm you want is what type of farmer you want to be. This is where the distinction between a hobby farm and a small farm starts to become evident.
If you have to work another full-time job, then you will probably only have the time to be a hobby farmer. The more time you have to devote to the farm, or the more people you have working it, the more acreage you can work.
According to MIT, it takes about 252 hours a year for the upkeep of 1 acre of vegetable production. This isn’t spread out evenly for the year. More hours are needed during the planting season and the harvesting season than the rest of the growing season when you are just weeding and maintaining the garden.
Living beings need care every day, unlike a garden that you may just get by working on weekends. Animals will need to be fed and watered every day.
As someone who has owned pets or livestock all her life, I can also tell you that accidents do happen. A cow can get stuck in a fence, a goat can have difficult labor, and a chicken can get avian flu. It’s always something, so make sure you are ready for the challenge to your time and schedule.
Start-Up Costs for a Farm
Just like with other aspects of farming, startup costs will depend on your individual needs and circumstances. To get started, you need to consider land cost, location, and raw materials needed.
You may already have some extra land at your home site, but if not, you will have to purchase raw land or look at local farms. Whether the land is developed or not will factor into the cost. Wooded areas will cost less upfront, but will take more preparation before you can use it.
The location of your land will also factor into how much money you will need to start your farm. If you are inside city limits, then you will be on municipal water which can get very expensive. Water expenses will be less if you are somewhere you can dig a well for personal use.
Before starting your farm, you need to be sure you have the resources to get started. If you are just starting out, you will need all your farming equipment, seeds, fertilizer, and water for plants. If you want livestock, you will need housing, fencing, food, water, and vet care.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.Read More About Brittany Melling