I am thinking of buying a house in Sussex (UK) that has 2 acres of land (currently lawn), which I’d really like to make into a permaculture farm, producing food for my family, and to sell at the local farmer’s market.
I’m quite clueless at the moment, and am only just beginning my research. I guess the main thing I’m looking to find out (before buying this house) is whether 2 acres is actually enough space to do this? I’m not looking to make much money from it, but it would be good to know that perhaps we could turn a small profit at some point in the future.
And also, I’m wondering what livestock, if any, I would be able to include? Ideally, we’re thinking it will be an entirely vegetarian farm, but we’re keen on having chickens for eggs, bees for honey, and goats for milk/cheese…
I will give this one a try. Given your description, I assume that the plot of land includes the house, meaning that the actual land is something slightly under 2 acres. Does this sound about right?
2 acres could give you an enormous, productive garden. In fact, 2 acres might well give you more food than you can consume.
For my part, I would consider making about a 1/4 acre garden based on raised beds filled with the best garden bedding you can get your hands on. I would put fruittrees & bushes around the edges, call that total area about another 1/4 acre.
This would leave you with about 1.5 acres that could be used for a pasture and it would be time to decide what type of livestock to put on it. Maybe it would support 1 small cow, but I don’t know if this is a great option. Of course you could grow chickens and this would support plenty. Maybe you could have a couple of goats, but you would want great fencing.
Actually, at this point, the stocking situation becomes a bit difficult. If you don’t mind buying in straw and feed, small cattle could be an option, for their manure if nothing else.
These are just my thoughts and you may take or leave whatever you think is appropriate.
In his book The New Organic Grower, farmer Eliot Coleman said he believed that 2 acres was the maximum area of market crops one person could manage, and they would definitely need to hire seasonal help with that much land.
Howdy James, and welcome to permies. What you're considering is certainly feasible. You're in a temperate climate, you get adequate rainfall, and from what I remember of Sussex you probably have decent soil. Eric's suggestion of a 1/4 acre garden is on the money. On the remainder of the land you could set up silvlculture alley plantings, grazing your goats and chooks in the pasture and growing fruit and nut trees in between. You could take a "lane" of pasture each season and turn it to a crop such as maize, peas, barley, buckwheat, pumpkins, or whatever strikes your fancy. You could have some coppice trees for firewood or carbon. You could have swales and mini ponds for raising fish and ducks.
All of these things are design elements we've put into place here (or are in the process of establishing them) and we have a similar sized property with a climate not terribly different from yours.
Welcome to permies James you can do so much with 2 acres
1 acre = 180 fruit and nuts trees on 15ft centers
1/2 acre = Vegetables and your two money makers are mushrooms & culinary herbs (mint/thyme family + chives/garlic family + carrot/celery family, etc).
1/4 acre = fish pond (10,000sqft) 25 bass, 125 bluegill, 25 channel catfish, 2lbs minnow as forage
1/8 acre = house+garage-workshop+lawn (5,000sqft, I think this is more than big enough)
1/8 acre = bee hive, chicken coop, greenhouse, maybe 2+ milk goat to process your imported hay/carbon input to balance your exported vegetables with all their minerals.
thanks for the replies, very interesting and helpful.
My main motivation for this project isn’t self-sufficiency per se - it’s mostly to contribute in some very small way to the re-localisation of our food system. I’m going to feel guilty taking 2 acres of land all for myself and my family, so we definitely want to make sure we can produce enough to sell at farmers markets/maybe provide vegetable boxes to a few locals, (and maybe give some produce away for free, depending on how financially secure we are). Even though this will obviously mean sacrificing our ability to be self-sufficient. If that makes sense...
If we go ahead, I’ll be sure to come back and update this thread with how we’re getting on. Would you advise I get a soil test done before buying?
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
Personally I don't see the point for a soil test before buying. The reason being that, the soil will have to be amended either way, fruits don't have metals/minerals either good or bad (think lead/etc), and herbs are used in such tiny amounts, that heavy metals aren't really a huge concern. When it comes to vegetable production, esp on an intensive scale (single person, 2acres or less). It is almost a given that there will be alot of imported composts, straw, biochar, etc. So on the 1/2 acre example I gave most of that will be enriched soil and due to all the fertility and nutrients that you are extracting you will have to add carbon/compost/biochar/minerals after every harvest to make up for your export.
Also while the fruit trees mature you are able to plant alot of vegetables in that section.
By having such a neat farm you will be able to show so many people that alot can be done on a small farm, thus encouraging others to follow a similar path and thus eat more locally.
James Stuart wrote:I guess the main thing I’m looking to find out (before buying this house) is whether 2 acres is actually enough space to do this?
two acres is roughly what I have and there's LOTS of potential - I realise there are significant differences in climate, but it's all to do with creativity and knowing your land and climate intimately.
Herbs always sell for a premium and are usually shit easy to grow in volume. Depending on the health regulations in your area, dressed, organic chickens are also a premium - ducks too. Research the tastes of your area and grow accordingly e.g. value adding - pesto from herbs, smoked poultry, chicken/duck livers, etc.
'Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.'
As someone else looking to do a similar thing in the UK, it's great to see someone else asking similar questions. It's a different situation here to the US, I feel, as land here is dominated by a small group of wealthy farmers and is also very expensive. Look forward to hearing your results!
It would be well worth checking out the work of Robert Hart, and reading Martin Crawford's books as they specifically talk about what is possible in the UK!
2 acres is more than enough. I do what you are thinking of, I've done boxes and I now do a roadside stand (not something you can easily do unfortunately) I find that using intensive methods 1/2 acre is more than enough for one person to manage.
If you have not already looked at them look at Charles Dowding who does a no dig market garden in Somerset and also Red Gardens which is in Ireland They will give a good idea of what is possible in your area.
The only caveat is to look at the local bylaws when I lived in Hampshire we were not allowed to run a business from our property (your mortgage firm may also have conditions)
With 2 acres I wouldn't go for any large animals, but chickens and ducks would be a good idea for eggs to sell as well. and perhaps geese as lawnmowers or if your neighbours would object to geese then muscovy ducks.
Further to my reply from earlier, in this video of Martin Crawford's he gives a brief tour of his site, which is also 2 acres in the UK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa9FHKx6sdM Gives a good idea of how productive it can be.
Don't count your weasels before they've popped. And now for a mulberry bush related tiny ad: