Help me settle an argument.

How big a patch of temperate wilderness terrain would you need to produce enough food to feed a family of four (two adults, two teens) indefinitely in an off the grid or SHTF scenario?


  • Temperate climate similar to central-north California or the Carolinas.
  • Agrarian diet, lots of grains/veggies, meat 2-3 times/week.
  • Ground is red clay based but fairly loose / uncompacted.
  • Basic farming skills and equipment but no automation/mechanization (ie, no tractors, mules, etc. Human labor only.).
  • Access to electricity NOT guaranteed.
  • Ability to research modern methods and techniques.
  • Plentiful nearby sources of water (but no fish).
  • Frequent rainfall and mild winters.
  • Other humans aren't a threat.
  • Around 100 person-hours of work per week

Assuming you dodged all the other dangers that would be present during such an event, what are the baseline space requirements to be able to grow enough to eat enough, with enough margin for error, to stay healthy? Oh, and we want meat. And pudding. Lots and lots of pudding.

  • I copied your question into Google and found several good studies, and the first one answered most of your questions. May 23, 2019 at 22:26
  • Hi @GregHewgill! Since you found a study answering many of hacksalot's questions, would you write an answer based on that? It would help the community! Thanks! May 24, 2019 at 3:37
  • Unfortunately I don't have anything to add besides the link itself: smallfootprintfamily.com/… May 24, 2019 at 4:10
  • 2
    You say no fish but what about game? Rabbits (also a pest if you're growing veg) are common in many places and round here woodpigeon are plentiful and tasty. If you're growing cereals you'll get them or something comparable. You may even get deer.
    – Chris H
    May 24, 2019 at 7:20
  • 1
    Not sure, but this question may be better suited for sustainability.sx May 24, 2019 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


Depending on a couple factors such as ingenuity and whether or not you are considering the land needed to hunt game to be included in the total land area needed, i think it could easily be done on two acres or less. There are many stories of people growing enormous amounts of food on small suburban plots of land.

Here are three examples of extreme productivity on very little land:

  • Growing Power – On a 2-acre urban lot in Milwaukee, Will Allen grows over a million pounds of food every year, including thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, and bees.
  • The Urban Homestead – A family of four produces most of their own food and $60,000 a year on just a fifth of an acre.
  • Singing Frogs Farm – Just 3 harvested acres on this farm bring in over $100,000 an acre, using low water methods that sequester carbon and generate topsoil. Using techniques and principles in the resources below, you can potentially grow all your food on as little as a quarter of an acre!


One of the biggest concerns with growing a lot of food is the necessary water to do, so but in your question you have specified it would be plentiful.

The following info-graphic also shows that two acres would be plenty for both produce, meat and dairy.

enter image description here

Image Source

Andrew Mateskon, from Polycultures also writes:

The earth feeds 7 billion people on 3.8 billion acres of arable and permanent cropland. You can more than triple this figure if you include rangeland for meat. This is about 0.5 acres of cropland per person, or over 1.5 acres per person if we include rangeland. Some systems are vastly more efficient than others. If there were no "externalized" inputs, industrial monocropping would be the most efficient system ever seen. However, some other systems are able to feed many people with much smaller negative impact. Traditional and contemporary Chinese Agroforestry provides some of the best techniques. China imports an incredibly small amount of food, yet feeds their people to the tune of around 20 per acre. They grow carp in the ditches under fruit and nut trees with crops and herbs between trees and chickens running around. An ancient polyculture of carp, rice, and ducks is practiced in some areas. This increases the yield of the rice, plus adds two more yields to the equation, plus reduces inputs of fertilizer and pesticide.

With this example i would say it is more than reasonably to think that you could grow enough food for a family of 4 to survive on roughly 2 acres if the land was used wisely.

  • 1
    The Source cited does not give any instructions on how to achieve these fabulous results. The Source makes claims, and urges the reader to buy her book (or books), but does not give a clue (except for going with goats, not cows) as to what to do, and offers no proof, only claims.
    – ab2
    May 24, 2019 at 20:36
  • The question was not how too, it was simply how much land would be needed. I will look for some other more in depth examples and expand the answer.
    – Nate W
    May 24, 2019 at 21:33
  • 1
    Thanks for looking further. My comment meant to say that I did not find the article credible, because the article gave no evidence to support the claims. The three examples in the article are not evidence; they are just claims, which may or may not be true.
    – ab2
    May 24, 2019 at 23:47
  • 2
    The figures for meat only work of you don't grow the animal feed yourself.
    – henning
    May 26, 2019 at 10:24
  • The linked urban homestead and singing frog are not off-the-grid (e.g. the linked singing frog article says they put in 60 tons(!) of compost (i.e. fertilizer) per year). The growing power link got me to a web page with zero information. May 27, 2019 at 14:03

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