How to Start a Self Sufficient Farm

It had been our dream to slip into semi-retirement in our forties without debt, without the increasing dangers of city life surrounding us and definitely without the yoke of consumerism hung about our necks. Perhaps this is a bit poetic and unrealistic, but our goal was to at least move out to the country and grow as mjuch of our own food as we could. For us, knowing how to start a self sufficient farm started with research and planning, as well as as experimenting on our little 1/4 acre city lot with a kitchen garden and six egg-laying chickens.

We learned that the basics of how to start a self sufficient farm lay in proper eduction. Vegetables and fruits don't simply sprout from the ground and go along their merry way until harvest time. Livestock, though self-sufficient in their own right to a certain extent, still required tending to and nurturing. For the big step up to our country homestead, a lot of planning went into effect, especially with the addition of sourcing water and energy to go along with the food.

How to Start a Self Sufficient Farm

When we started to really learn how to start a self sufficient farm, we learned that our path was heading to an off grid scenario, where we would want good water and solar power. The property needed to have ample land, relatively, for the garden and animals we planned on raising. Then, because it was us and we are a little strange, it had to be on a lake. Not a pond, but a lake with good water.

Through our connection, we found the perfect piece of land exactly where we wanted to be in central/south New Hampshire. It had everything we wanted, was the right size and was even on a lake. It was perfect. Our neighbors were welcoming, the school district was amazing and the taxes were still far below what we were paying back in the city. Though life was pretty groovy back on the urban homestead, it was certainly getting better, an continues to do so.

Sustainable Living on 2 Acres

Our property is just over a full acre, and that limits us somewhat in our choices. However, many start with the concept of sustainable living on 2 acres, taking into account raising larger livestock than what we are planning. On a two-acre lot, one full acre can be dedicated to a couple of dairy or meat cows, a goat herd or a healthy selection of heritage pigs. The second acre can account for a roughly 1/8th acre for the homestead house itself, a smattering of trees and a solid kitchen garden.

The homestead garden should be the first element laid out on the new property if you are building from scratch, considering how the sunlight will hit it during the different parts of the day and growing season. A nice big house is one thing, but if the foundation was dropped so that the remaining growing space is in perpetual shade, the experiment would end right there.

Also, ideally, the livestock should be placed in a solid variation of land that includes open pasture for grazing, protection from the sun with tree cover and ease of access for you when it's time to tend them. A conveniently placed livestock paddock is a lot more enjoyable when it's easy to get to. The suggestion is to live on the land for a period of time to learn how it fits into your life before adding animals. Of course it's tempting to start with everything, but by moving slowly and adding one new livestock choice to your homestead each season lets you understand how it fits into your plan and how it will interact with the environment.

Self Sufficient Homestead Plan

Even the most basic self sufficient homestead plan has inclusions for energy and water. Ours comes from two massive solar power panels at the north edge of our property. These panels provide more than enough direct current during sunny days, and generate plenty of power to store in our batteries for cloudy, rainy, snowy times to keep us comfortable. We do run the homestead with conservation in mind still in order to reduce the load on the stored energy in order to stretch it out.

To the south side of our property, we have a 650 foot well that provides plenty of water for our needs. A filtration system and water softener add to the package, as well as a propane water heater. With four kids, the water seems to always be running and to date, we haven't felt pinched in the hot water department.

The house itself is built with an open concept, with only the master bedroom on the first floor being closed off. The living room sports a cathedral ceiling up to the girls' shared loft space, kitchen drops off to the side with plenty of social and counter space. A wrap-around deck gives us additional room to spread out, and our finished basement holds the laundry room, battery room, third full bathroom, the boys' rooms, our office and lower-level access to the lake through a double-pane glass sliding door.

1 Acre Homestead Layout

Our 1 acre homestead layout works for us simply because we put in the time to plan out everything. As the drive comes off the dirt road, it passes over a small wetland that rises up to the our future apple, peach and pear orchard, continuing up to the garden and house. After the rise, the land drops softly to the lake and our dock. On the other side of the drive is our summer chicken pen and steel-panel garage, again rising top to the woodshed and a thick stretch of pine and oak that separate us from our neighbors.

Large livestock simply won't work for us, but again, we never had plans to run dairy or beef. We could use a portion of the lower east portion of the property for pigs in the years to come, but that still requires putting in some new infrastructure such as a reinforced paddock and electric fence. The same could be said for goats, an animal we constantly go back and forth on whether we want to incorporate them or not.

Our bees, of which the hives are being built today, have yet to have the honor of knowing exactly where they will sit. The only factor at this time under consideration is that the entrances will be in a southerly facing, directed toward the wildflower pasture just over the road in the woods.

Growing Your Own Food for Beginners

When offering advice on growing your own food for beginners, our mantra remains the same. Choose  garden elements and livestock that you have knowledge about. Taking risks and expecting to learn as you go is a sure way to find failure.

Do yourself a favor and find a mentor in your neighborhood. Then, get to know your land for both it's potential and it's short comings. Knowing how to start a self sufficient farm is just as important as knowing what you cannot do on your property.

We love sharing our journey with everyone, and equally love to hear from you as well. Please share with us your tips and lessons on how to start a self sufficient farm, whether it's a 1 acre homestead layout or lessons on sustainable living on 2 acres. We look forward to the conversation, so please join in through the comments section below!