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How Many Acres Can One Person Farm by Hand? | Key Factors

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For many, the idea of living off the land, debt-free, and enjoying the food you grew harvested yourself is a dream. Of course, anyone can maintain a window box garden or a small raised bed, but how many acres can one person farm by hand?

One person can farm one to three acres by hand. That number varies depending on what you want to grow, what climate you live in, and what tools you have. For example, farming root vegetables by hand in colder temperatures will be more labor-intensive than farming berries during the summer.  

In the rest of this article, I’ll go over what factors impact how much work you’ll have to put into the land, how many acres you can farm if you have a tractor, and how much land you’ll need to be self-sufficient. 

Factors That Affect the Number of Acres One Can Farm by Hand

If you’re considering starting a farm, there are a couple of things you need to think about before making the leap. 

As nice as it sounds to be off the grid and self-sufficient, it’s not an easy life, and it’s not something that will make you rich. With that in mind, you’ll need to consider the time you’ll have to invest in the farm and what you could potentially grow. 

Your Free Time

When starting your homestead, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is this: “How much time do I have?”  

If you’re working a full-time job away from your homestead and don’t get home until late in the evening, you’ll need to be realistic about what you can do. 

Don’t expect to be able to maintain chickens, a three-acre garden, raise some hogs, and start a tree farm if you only have a few hours of free time per day.

By accurately estimating how much time you’ll have, you’re setting yourself up for success. 

For example, if you know you’ll only have two hours per day, you can put more time into setting up systems that streamline as much of the work as possible.

The Crops You Want To Grow

The crops that you decide to grow will impact how many acres you can farm. If you choose crops that struggle to compete with weeds, such as lettuce, you will need to put more time into your garden. Choosing to focus on one or two crops can also cut down on time. 

If you don’t have a lot of time to put into your garden, one of the best things you can do is choose crops that grow off the ground. By this, I mean plants that you can put in trellises, such as cucumbers, zucchini, or beans. 

When they’re still young plants, you’ll have to put plenty of work in pulling weeds and making sure their growth area stays clear, but once they’re larger, they’ll choke out the majority of weeds themselves.

Choosing to focus on a smaller number of crops will also decrease the amount of time you need to spend on your garden. Especially for your first year farming, choose a few crops and focus on learning as much about them as possible. 

Then, in subsequent years, you can choose to add more. 

By concentrating on just a few at first, you won’t have to worry about making sure that you’re coming up with systems and remembering the care requirements for eight different crops. 

Can One Person Run a Farm?

Youth-Standing-in-Front-of-a-Farming-Tractor

One person can run a farm if it’s their full-time job and they have the right equipment to make the job easier. However, in many cases, they need to work from dawn until dusk and, depending on the size of the farm, help will be required during harvesting seasons.

In addition, many small farmers often participate in bartering systems with other farms to have all the food they need.

As discussed earlier, it will be easier to focus on just a few crops. So, if your farm is going to be a one-man operation, you’ll want to pick one to three crops and stick to those rather than overwork yourself with too much. 

However, if you’re trying to be self-sufficient, this will leave you needing to barter and trade with other farmers, so you have a variety of food during the year.

How Many Farm Workers is Typical Per Acre?

Typically, four farmworkers will be needed per acre. However, it’s impossible to say as this greatly depends on the climate and the area of the world in which the crops are being grown. Crops that can be machine-harvested can be grown with very few workers, while others must be handpicked.

To answer the question of how many farmworkers are typical per acre, you’ll first need to know what crops you’d like to grow. Some crops, like wheat, tobacco, and soy, are primarily machine harvested. So you’ll only need the number of people you’ll need to run the machines. 

In contrast, crops like peaches or strawberries must be hand-picked. While maintenance will be a one-man job during the growing season, come harvest time, you’ll need a lot of extra hands around. All the fruit will need to be harvested during a very short time span, so you’ll need many workers per acre.

How Many Acres Can One Person Farm with a Small Tractor?

John Deere Tractor Closeup

One person can farm approximately 8 acres with a small tractor. This depends on the type of tractor and the ground being farmed. For example, a 10-15 horsepower tractor can plow 8 acres at a minimum plowing depth of 27 cm (10.63 inches), but a 100+ horsepower tractor could do as many as 150 acres.

Remember that you would be able to do much more with a stronger tractor. Still, keep in mind that plowing is only one part of farming, and you’ll still have to manage the rest without a tractor.

How Many Acres Can One Person Farm Medieval?

If you decide to farm medieval style, meaning with little to no equipment, the number of acres you’re able to farm is going to be very limited. 

One person can farm approximately one to three acres medieval, though that would depend on the crop and the climate. For example, it will be far more time-consuming and difficult to harvest potatoes without equipment in the Fall.

How Much Land Does It Take To Feed One Person for a Year?

It takes around 5-10 acres to feed one person a year. That said, this number is a heavily debated topic. Agricultural associations will give you numbers in excess of 20 acres, while anecdotes will insist that you can thrive on one. However, the general consensus is that 5-10 acres are sufficient. 

How much land you’ll require to be self-sufficient greatly depends on what type of farming you plan on doing and what kind of diet you’d ideally like to consume.

If you are consuming a primarily vegetarian diet, then you’ll be able to survive off of far less land, even as little as five acres. If you’re interested in having some chickens or ducks for eggs, then you’ll need a little more than that. However, if you’d like to have regular meat on your table, you’re looking at needing 30 acres at a minimum

Think about it. If you’re raising meat animals, then you’re going to need land for three purposes: 

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Feed crops
  • Pastures

That’s why, if you’re interested in farming by hand, it is recommended that you primarily stick with vegetables and maybe some chickens. They require far less land and have a significantly lower initial cost. 

If you’re interested in using aquaponics as part of your homestead, you may be able to be self-sufficient on as little as one acre. By using aquaponics, you are maximizing your space by building vertically to continue growing. 

It is also a great way of being sustainable because once you get started, you’ll rarely need to restock fish or rebuy the more expensive equipment.

Conclusion

How many acres one person can farm by hand varies greatly. If it’s your full-time job, you may be able to do five acres with just your shovel and hoe. However, if you just have time in the evenings, then even half an acre may prove impossible. 

To be self-sufficient, you’ll likely need at least 5 acres of land that are actively being farmed. This means that it’s pretty unrealistic that you’ll be able to be self-sufficient farming by hand. However, there are always people that manage to prove that wrong.

For more, check out What Fertilizers Are Used in Organic Farming? | 3 Categories.

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