How Much Land Do You Need to Homestead?

May 24, 2023

Hi, I'm Paige, half of the duo behind Fairway Stables™

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No matter your experience level with horses or homesteading, I hope this is a place you can get lost in, and learn something along the way - we welcome everyone from vets, to lifelong ranchers, trainer, to nonprofits contributing.


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For many, homesteading is “living the dream.” While homesteading is broadly defined, ranging from small urban homesteads to remote acreages in untouched country, the commonality is that homesteaders want to live a life of independence and self-sufficiency.

How much land you need to make that dream a reality depends on the visions you have of homesteading. Managed well, small acreages can sustain a small family. If you want a greater degree of self-sufficiency, you may need more like 20 to 40 acres.

If you are looking to buy land for your own homestead, here’s how much you need.

Homestead Land Size by Family Size

The most important factor in choosing your homestead size is how many people your homestead needs to support. More people mean more food requirements, and by extension, more land needed.

Similarly, the whole family has to be on board with the dream of homesteading. It may seem like a good idea to buy a huge piece of land in a remote area, but that will be difficult to manage on your own or with just one other person.

Generally, around one acre per person is recommended for full self-sufficiency. You also need additional land for some livestock and activities.

Homesteading Activities by Land Size

You have a basic guideline for acreage per person, but here’s some context to plan your land size around what you want to do on your homestead.

One Acre

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Urban or backyard homesteaders often have only an acre or two for their homestead. While this doesn’t allow for full self-sufficiency, you still have a lot of options on this parcel of land.

With one acre, you can use about a half an acre for a garden and your primary source of food. Succession planting, vertical garden, and growing a variety of fruits and vegetables year round will increase your productivity on this size parcel.

Of course, gardening isn’t homesteading – it’s just gardening. You will need storage space in your home to store your produce and an efficient system of freezing, canning, and preserving.

If you want livestock, an acre is limiting. You can keep small animals, such as rabbits and chickens for meat and eggs. About 10 to 15 chickens can fit comfortably in a 250-square-foot pen.

For power, you can use solar panels on the roof, solar room heaters on the windows, and passive solar water heaters on a sun-facing side of the house – all without extra land. Make good use of your windowsills with mini gardens or greenhouses for herbs and spices.

Up to Three Acres of Land

With a few more acres, you can expand on the one-acre urban homestead with a larger garden and some small animal pens for pigs, goats, and sheep. An acre is all you need for five or six small ruminants.

Unfortunately, cities and suburbs may not be as tolerant of pigs and goats as chickens or rabbits. If you live in a rural area with a small parcel of land, these animals are great options.

Orchards are great for self-sufficiency, but they take up a lot of space. Each tree needs about 20 or 30 feet of space, so one acre can fit around 70 trees of different varieties, which can feed your family and your animals.

Up to Five Acres of Land

Five acres opens a lot of possibilities for your homestead. You can do all the activities of a smaller homestead but with a few larger animals. Generally, large ruminants like cattle require about one acre of land each if you want grass-fed meat and dairy.

You could also support a variety of livestock and produce on five acres of land, such as:

  • A one-acre garden
  • Chickens and rabbits on a half acre
  • Pigs or goats on a half acre
  • An orchard of fruit and nut trees with some sheep or goats on one acre
  • An acre for a large animal

With all this variety, you’re close to full self-sufficiency for food production.

Up to 10 Acres of Land

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When you have nearly 10 acres, you have a lot of options to expand your current operation You can expand your large animal herds, rotate pastures, add breeding stock or more meat or fiber animals, and start a small orchard for firewood and more produce varieties.

What’s more, you have the space to add produce and animals for commercial purposes. Whether you want to sell animals, meat or dairy, fruits and vegetables, or ready-made products, you have enough space to care for yourself and the goods you want to sell.

10+ Acres

When you have 10+ acres, the possibilities (and the workload) are virtually endless. It’s more space than one household needs, but you can grow your own livestock and begin monetizing your homestead on a larger scale.

You’ll have more than enough acres for large animals, and some acres to set aside for hay production. If you want to build a larger orchard, you can plant more trees and give your livestock a more natural environment with foraging.

Extra Land for Chores

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It can be tempting to do the math and max out all your available space with gardens, orchards, and animals, but you will need additional space to carry out chores like composting.

For example, a greenhouse is a helpful way to improve your land’s yield, especially in tough climates. You only need about 390 square feet for a greenhouse, but it reduces the total amount of land you require to grow enough food.

A root cellar is another small space that has huge benefits. You can store apples, squash, cabbage, and more, all without freezing or refrigeration. A root cellar only takes up about eight square feet, but it’s an essential to store and preserve as much food as possible.

A barn – not for your livestock – is necessary for many homesteaders. You will have to build and repair items throughout the year, and the barn is the space where you store your materials, tools, and farm equipment. This is especially true if you have a small home.

If you do plan on breeding animals, the barn is a good place to offer isolation from the herd and warmth and cover in winter.

Related: How to Prepare Your Homestead for Winter

What Is Usable Acreage?

If you decide you only need five acres, you can’t simply purchase a five-acre piece of land – it’s not all the same. Some land is better for cultivating crops and raising animals, while others can’t support these activities.

When you’re looking for your homesteading land, it’s crucial to assess the usable acreage to determine how much space you’re actually getting.

For example, a five-acre plot may have one acre with a stream and ponds, another wooded acre, and an acre of steep, rocky areas. None of these will be suitable for a garden, orchard, or livestock, so you’re left with only two acres for your home, barn, garden, animals, and anything else you want to add.

So remember – usable acres and total acres may not be the same. Make sure the usable acres suit the acreage you want, and the activities you want for your homestead.

Is Bigger Always Better?

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When it comes to homesteading, you definitely have more options with a larger piece of land. But with the added acreage comes more work, and you need to have help – either in your household or hired help – to manage it.

If you want your main homesteading activity to be raising animals for meat or dairy, you may need to venture outside your own operation to purchase food for them. If you have a large plot of land, however, your animals can be free range and live off a lot of the food you grow. You can also grow your own firewood with a larger orchard.

While you can make money homesteading on a small parcel, the possibility of generating full-time income homesteading requires a range of activities – and the space to go with it.

Related: Biggest Mistakes Beginner Homesteaders Make 

Start Your Homestead

The land you need for homesteading varies according to your family size and the activities you wish to pursue. Before you search for land, consider the acreage you need and the help you have to determine what’s ideal for your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about land size for homesteading? Here are answers to some common questions.

How Much Land Is Enough to Homestead?

As mentioned, it depends on what you want to do on your homestead. You can have a more self-sufficient lifestyle with only an acre, but full self-sufficiency will require a lot of land – and a lot of help.

How Many Acres Do You Need Per Family?

The general rule is one acre per person. So, if you have a family of four, you will need four usable acres for your home, garden, and some animals. If you want complete self-sufficiency, the goal is more like five acres of land per person. That’s enough to take care of yourself and your family, but if you want to sell goods for income, you may have limitations.

How Many Acres Do You Need to Make Money Homesteading?

You can make money homesteading with an array of activities. Some don’t even need additional land. Of course, many homesteaders create multiple income streams to ensure that they have a steady cash flow.

For example, if you want to have enough produce or meat to sell, you will need more space for more animals and more space for their food, or else you’ll be cutting into your own food supply. Still, you can maximize the space and stock you have with different income-generating activities without buying more land.

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