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Organic Farming on One Acre or Less

Organic farming is possible even with a small piece of land.

| May/June 2013

  • bountiful organic farming harvest
    Growing vegetables and raising animals for market on a small acreage is doable ... and profitable.
    Photo By Lorain Ebbett-Rideout
  • raising laying hens
    Free-range chickens roam in the grass.
    Photo By Nathan Winters
  • raising pigs
    Pigs help plow soil.
    Photo By Nathan Winters
  • growing tomatoes
    Organic heirloom tomatoes ready for CSA shares.
    Photo By Nathan Winters

  • bountiful organic farming harvest
  • raising laying hens
  • raising pigs
  • growing tomatoes

Four years ago, I left behind the city life in Los Angeles and later started my own farm in southern Vermont. It turns out that transitioning to the simple life isn’t always that simple, and bootstrapping a farming business is not always a warm and fuzzy experience. It has been a daunting task requiring endless amounts of faith, relentless hard work, creativity, support, and, most importantly, gratitude. Hopefully others will learn a thing or three from my experience.

Raising farm animals

Animals provide so much more than eggs, meat, dairy, fiber and other marketable products. It’s truly fulfilling. After a long day of work, watching the pigs wrestle provides a comforting laugh, and the sound of a rooster crowing as you sip your morning coffee is a comforting resonance that the farmer grows to love.

But, animals also require lots of attention and resources: housing, fencing, heat in the winter, extra water on hot days, plenty of feed, additional predator deterrents, and a multitude of additional needs. Be sure you’re ready to be a responsible animal husband before taking the leap — and don’t take on too much too quickly. My strategy when adding animals to the farm was to be frugal and ensure that each species had a valuable role.

Raising pigs

In the early spring, my main priority was readying the vegetable plot for planting. Pigs do two things very well: plow and fertilize. But I quickly learned that pigs need diligent managing. I used lightweight housing made from 2-by-4s, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe, and a tarp coupled with portable electric fencing to “force” my pigs to work certain sections of the field. I did not follow any specific schedule in terms of rotating them. When the soil looked adequately rooted and the land cleared to my liking, I moved them to a new patch.

In about three weeks’ time, I was able to plow one acre of virgin soil, saving myself countless hours of grunt work and a good chunk of change on fuel needed to run motorized equipment.

Raising laying hens

If I were to raise just one animal on the farmstead, it would be a flock of laying hens. Eggs for breakfast and free fertilizer are just two of the reasons.

2/2/2018 11:25:46 AM

Read some books on Permaculture for great ideas!

2/2/2018 11:25:18 AM

Reads some books on Permaculture for great ideas!

April Hughes-Spann
10/9/2013 8:23:33 AM

Wonderful article. I really enjoyed it. I am just now (at the age of 46) learning to grow my own food. It's the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I want to have a large garden and possibly livestock to feed myself and my husband. I don't think I want to try to make a "living" at it, at least not yet. I found out 2 yrs ago that I am highly allergic to MSG and preservatives in food and organic food is a must for me. Growing my own is a wonderful experience. I look forward to more articles and advice on how to do this. Thanks!!

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