Start a 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead

Expert advice on how to establish self-sufficient food production, including guidance on crop rotations, raising livestock and grazing management.

Dairy Cows

A dairy cow can provide butter, cream, milk, yogurt and cheese, plus lots of manure to build soil fertility.


Everyone will have a different approach to keeping a self-sufficient homestead, and it’s unlikely that any two 1-acre farms will follow the same plan or methods or agree completely on how to homestead. Some people like cows; other people are afraid of them. Some people like goats; other people cannot keep them out of the garden. Some people will not slaughter animals and have to sell their surplus stock off to people who will kill them; others will not sell surplus stock off at all because they know that the animals will be killed; and still others will slaughter their own animals to provide their family with healthy meat.

For myself, on a 1-acre farm of good, well-drained land, I would keep a cow and a goat, a few pigs and maybe a dozen hens. The goat would provide me with milk when the cow was dry. I might keep two or more goats, in fact. I would have the dairy cow (a Jersey) to provide the pigs and me with milk. More importantly, I would keep her to provide heaps and heaps of lovely cow manure to increase my soil fertility, for in order to derive any sort of living from that 1 acre without the application of a lot of artificial fertilizer, it would have to be heavily manured.

Raising a Dairy Cow

Cow or no cow? The pros and cons are many and various for a self-sufficient homestead. In favor of raising a cow is the fact that nothing keeps the health of a family — and a farm — at a high level better than a dairy cow. If you and your children have ample good, fresh, unpasteurized, unadulterated dairy products, you will be well-positioned to be a healthy family. If your pigs and poultry get their share of the milk by-products, especially whey, they likely will be healthy, too. If your garden gets plenty of cow manure, your soil fertility will continuously increase, along with your yields.

On the other hand, the food that you buy in for this family cow will cost you hundreds of dollars each year. Compared with how much money you would spend on dairy products each year, the fresh milk supply from the cow plus the increased value of the eggs, poultry and pig meat that you will get, along with your ever-growing soil fertility, will quickly make a family cow a worthwhile investment. But a serious counter-consideration is that you will have to take on the responsibility of milking a cow. (For different milking plans and estimated savings, see Keep a Family Cow and Enjoy Delicious Milk, Cream, Cheese and More.) Milking a cow doesn’t take very long — perhaps eight minutes — and it’s very pleasant if you know how to do it and if she is a quiet, docile cow — but you will have to do it. Buying a dairy cow is a very important step, and you shouldn’t do it unless you do not intend to go away very much, or unless you can make arrangements for somebody else to take over your milking duties while you’re gone. So let’s plan our 1-acre farm on the assumption that we are going to keep a dairy cow.

Homestead Plan

5 thoughts on “Start a 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead

  1. My best friend has kept a garden, for years. The size varies from year to year, but it’s never even gotten close to even an 1/8 of an acre. Even so, he harvests plenty to feed his family of six, and to can for winter consumption. His family snacks on veggies, too. They are not just eaten at meal time. Depending on family size, I would imagine that a well planned, executed, and managed 1/2 acre garden would give you more food than you could use, so you’d likely have enough for income or barter.

    I grew up with chickens. My younger sisters were babies, or not born, if memory serves. We had between 8-12 chickens, which gave enough eggs to satisfy a family of 5 (at the time; we grew to 7). My Dad took surplus eggs to work, and sold them.

    2 goats will take care of milk needs for 7 people, and then some. We gave surplus milk away. (I can’t speak to now, but in the 80’s, you could find yourself in a heap of trouble for selling goats milk) One thing with goats; they LIVE for “king of the mountain”. They will get loose, and they will be on the roof of your car, or a shed, or even your house. They will climb to the highest point they can.

    Liked by 2 people

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