Infographic: How Big a Backyard Would You Need to Live Off the Land?

posted by Dave Llorens on January 4th, 2011


how big a backyard would you need to live off the land?

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By Dave Llorens

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122 Responses to “Infographic: How Big a Backyard Would You Need to Live Off the Land?”

  1. Dee Rotterman says:

    Sorry about the last post, that’s 5watts/sq ft. not kilowatts.

  2. Dee Rotterman says:

    A family of four can supply themselves with ALL their food needs on 1/5 ac. as witnessed by the wonderful folks at Urban Homestead in Pasadena Plus, 375 sq. ft of roof full of solar cells at 5/kw/sqft. is 9.4 kwh/day. Your math doesn’t add up, but that big gable, south facing roof on a 2000 sq ft house will supply the needed electricity.

  3. Norman Detweiler says:

    Need some land to raise something of monitary value so that they can pay for health care. Also, I’d like to see a break down of what the electricity is used for.

  4. Tiffany Ann Wood Berkovitz says:

    I would so love to do this.

  5. Ray Lindenburg says:

    Being buried in cucumbers isn’t enough – I wonder if the rest of the residents of our block would sell out so I can get some nubian goats… Max would love to chase some animals around…

  6. Shannon Lambert Gammel says:

    That looks great.. Might have to try it…

  7. Kristie Gould Al-rashidi says:

    hmmm, this sounds like a plan when i win the lottery.

  8. Elijah Phenicie says:

    I’m in – Someday.

  9. Kate Huddelson says:

    Increasingly more important….

  10. Roseann Dodgson says:

    I’m working on it! Ahum..very interesting… but converting to metric- Catalan style.

  11. Alexander Kwapis says:

    Wouldn’t you need to grow more veggies for your livestock? Also, what about rotating your fields? You probably need one area that is just cover crop. And you need straw for bedding for the animals. The good thing about having animals is that you can use their manure for fertilizer.

  12. Melissa Pain says:


  13. Lisa Houde Stice says:

    we have often thought about going back to the land. Now I know we certainly have enough to do it, with 5 acres at our feet.

  14. Steven Lamb says:

    Is it a problem that this seems entirely reasonable to me?

  15. Garianne Fuentes says:

    Ok so if I have a family of 200, what state would I need to buy?

  16. Cecelia Anne Mowers says:

    Good to know!

  17. Geoff Eisenberg says:


  18. Michiel de Kok says:


  19. Kaspar Kööp says:

    As soon as the worlds economy collapses (2016), this will become valuable information

  20. Shaun Smakal says:

    Brilliant graphic!

  21. Daniel Marcin Miskowiec says:

    This information is beautiful.

  22. Mitchell Linz says:

    Still pickin’ beans !

  23. Dawn Heitsch says:

    Great graphic! Wish I had this when I was working on my thesis!

  24. Lydia Wordpower Glider-Shelley says:

    Wow! This is nice! Thanks to George Donnelly for posting it!

  25. Krystal Elliott Sajjad says:

    Alrighty then. Now I know how much land we need! And more chickens… lol. Mmmm!!!!!

  26. Julie Hellickson says:

    With a lot of work, there comes a lot of fruit.

  27. Ted Millich says:

    I love her big backyard!

  28. Ron Yankey says:

    pretty interesting how little it would actually take

  29. Bernadette Dvorscak says:

    Something to think about.

  30. Angi Manning-Welch says:

    Some ideas to consider…hmmm!

  31. Caleb Rounds says:

    The math on the chickens is wrong, unless you assume the hens are laying only 80 eggs a year. That’s either a really old hen (soup), or a meat bird. More normal is 5 (or more) a week per hen. That would suggest one per family member.

  32. Terri Fontenot says:

    Wow! Very informative. We are a family of 8 and have 6 acres available at the moment so atleast I know I am on the right path!

  33. Brad Severtson says:

    Combine aquaponics with the acreage and add fish to your diet as well as higher yields per acre.

  34. Denise Chappel says:

    So my 40,000 sq. ft. lot should provide all my food! Especially since I’m trying my best to go vegan. This graphic may assume a moderate climate, so I wonder how that impacts the assumtions.

  35. Dorsey Dollar says:

    Great info to know!

  36. Suzanne Pinckney says:

    Great to consider but the economies of scale are great when you even just double the families on site…and share with neighbors!

  37. Greg Christopher says:

    Actually – this is pretty far off. From a footprint standpoint, eating meet for a year takes acres. Are we growing feed on site? Does the 207 feet include food for the pigs? We’re saying eating corn for a year takes 2000+ sq feet and eating pigs is only 200 sq feet, that seems inverted.

  38. Suzanne Robertson Stiff says:

    A little off on the numbers, and my family is nearly double this size, but fun to dream about! I would have to quit my full-time job, of course. And my kids would actually have to do chores. Details, details…

  39. Greg Johnson says:

    Interesting. But there are some sound reasons that division of labor and specialization came about…

  40. Laura Granados says:

    This was my childhood, and was a lot of work, but with a priceless reward.

  41. Julie Webb-Reeman says:

    We have a 1 hectare (2.5 acres approx) small-holding in Central France – 2/3 in pasture for goats and sheep ( we buy in local grain and make hay for free from neighbours unwanted hay-fields) and a vegetable plot that provides all of our veg needs for the year. We buy in whole , organic wheat berries from our friend/neighbour 3 miles away which we mill for bread and pasta.
    We have a 2 hectare woodland that provides all our fire-wood from coppicing ( a sustainable carbon neutral practice) and we aim to construct our own solar water heating panels to provide all our Summer hot water needs and will supplement the wood-fired Rayburn stove/boiler in the Winter.
    The FIRST thing you can do is reduce the AMOUNT of MEAT you eat AND reduce the amount of electricity you consume – This will make the whole exercise a lot more doable. We have helpers via HelpX and WWOOF who come from all over the world to help us and learn first-hand how to do it, We produce food to feed all these people too! I make cheese from the goat’s milk and have just bought a cream separator to make cream and butter too!.
    We work 4-5 hours per day and do what we want the rest of the time – do crafts;write;play musical instruments; read; spin yarn….I have an ideal,idle life!!!

  42. Kristin DuMont says:


  43. Dan Morrison says:

    This info graphic on how much backyard you need to live off the land is awesome! We have 15 acres, who needs a couple?

  44. Chris Obel says:

    awesome… people the mass media is finally starting to see things as I do. I wonder if it will continue

  45. Melissa Baker says:

    I would love to see the best way to set up a garden.

  46. Rachel Hoff says:

    We are producing all of our vegetable, fruit, milk, eggs and meat needs (along with growing some corn) on just over a quarter acre for three adults and one child. It’s all about the proper layout of your property.

  47. Dana Carpender says:

    Or simply forgo grains and legumes. I’d rather have nut trees and sunflowers, though nut trees take a while to bear.

  48. Marci Miller says:

    We personally could forgo the wheat production and try other alternative grains or legumes to reduce that space needed. But I find this to be a great visual to show people what they could do. My only concern is that we don’t have enough space on this earth for every family to do such a thing. I worry there is not enough discussion about population.

  49. admin says:

    does your graphic leave out the land necessary to grow feed for the animals? how do you raise pigs without feeding them?

  50. David Demezas says:

    too cool, take a look at this!

  51. Jelle Tamminga says:

    With 2000 sq ft of solar panels on the roof one house can supply power for several neighbors or sell it to the power company for additional income. Corn can be grown more intensive with the addition of beans or peas and squash and sun flowers ( 4 sisters).

  52. Kerrie Gamble says:

    Too bad I would have to live 45 miles from Seattle before I could afford 2 acres. I did manage to buy 1/3 acre though, and we grow a remarkable amount of food!

  53. Tim Tan says:

    Very interesting! hope to see more solid examples in the future. Thank you, for inspiring us!

  54. Kaitey Letellier Zollinger says:

    This is fascinating–it does not, however, calculate water needs. Many places in the U.S. and elsewhere do not get enough rain to make this viable and/or the land is far less fertile than in New York state (the location for which these calculations were made.)

  55. Dev Raj says:


  56. Rahel Berman says:

    Interesting, although it’s a shame there’s no information about how these estimates are effected by different climates.

  57. Massi Khanoom says:

    wow this is amazinggggggggggggg

  58. Brent Tanner says:

    This is a very interesting graphic!

  59. Rit Bellis says:

    I’ve got the water and the land over her in Kitsap County, but someone will have to ship me some sun!

  60. Ryan Villegas says:

    Have PLENTY of sun in AZ!
    WTB Land, Solar panels, and Goats.
    WTS SUN.

  61. Marci Davis Artist says:

    What a great site! Love IT!

  62. Sunny FoodisMedicine Soleil says:

    HOW MUCH LAND NEEDED FOR FAMILY OF 4 [eating meat and dairy] to SURVIVE ON THE LAND… About 1.5 acres [if you don't grow grain]… 2 acres if you do. GREAT INFOGRAPHIC… Thanks Robert Puckett for the lead.

  63. Lance Meredith says:

    A permaculture designer, with the right trees/plants/shrubs/animals could feed upwards of 28 people on two acres of land. The majority of the food would be perennials and animals not annuals however.

  64. Tim Lynch says:

    I have two acres of land and intend to use between 1.0 and 1.25 acres to feed three people.

  65. Mia Nelson says:

    This is grossly inaccurate because it doesn’t account for variations in soil productivity, growing seasons, suitable crops, food preservation ability, water availability, etc. There are areas where hundreds of acres wouldn’t be enough to sustain a family. Re solar, it isn’t even possible to generate a substantial amount of power for much of the year in the Pacific NW.

  66. Pat Baranski says:

    I’ve always wondered about this. Good information for a start.

  67. Charles Humphrey says:

    Interesting food for thought. Probably not taking into consideration some variables of diverse areas, but interesting none the less.

  68. Melissa Linnea Drew says:

    Interesting. Is there a site that could give you a better idea of what crops would do best in your geographic area? Assuming you want to be as organic and water savvy as possible.

  69. Antonio Lnu says:

    Food for thought, literally.

  70. Larry Ashley says:

    I agree with Mia in that there are far to many variables to state these figures as fact. And Lance about a permaculture designer maximising the yield, Layering crops, and using more nutrient dense foods and grains like Chaya, Chia, Taro, sweet potato, maca, oca, apple snails, water chestnut, scuppernongs, mmmm I’m getting hungry!

  71. Simon Whyatt says:

    I think this info graphic inadvertently demonstrates that animal based nutrition is much more sustainable than plant based nutrition, in particular grain production.

    That’s before you take into account the fact that keeping animals on land actually helps develop top soil rather than depleting it as do annual monocrops.

    As @lance meredith points out below, a well designed permaculture farm could support a lot more people in a lot less space, with considerably less environmental impact.

  72. Russell O'the Bushes says:

    I grew up farming and ranching in a semi-arid to arid environment, 2 acres is not nearly enough for anything more than chickens as livestock. Range fed cattle or goats typically require 10 acres per head, using proper soil management, and sheep, lamas, pigs & the like usually require 2.5 – 3 times that without supplementing their diet with grain, hay, and alfalfa. The livestock must be rotated through the fields regularly to prevent over stressing the ground cover plants they graze upon; over stressed ground cover leads to starving animals.

  73. Marie Ewens says:

    This must be available in Hawkes Bay with all the sunshine hours we get !

  74. Annie Atkin Rasmussen says:

    My daydreams are now fueled by my own imaginary flock of Nubian goats.

  75. Brett Self says:

    This is cute, but it’s like a Prius: most of us can’t buy one.

  76. Warwick Rowell says:

    This power estimate is way way off by any sane standards. It is 30 KwHrs a day. I know, from discussions with a friend in New Jersey, that average US domestic consumption is 80 KW Hrs a day, but come on guys, get real!! My wife and I have lived a sustainable upper middle class lifestyle for fifteen years now averaging 5 Kw Hrs a day. And we are now sixteen months into a 40KG LPG gas bottle. For eleven years we had 1.6 Kw Hrs of panels, and managed well in our mediterranean climate.

    We have had meat pigeon for that time, but we are looking at changing over to guinea pigs (cavies) as they don’t require grains, but eat fruit and vege scraps, and grassy weeds.

  77. Andy Burns says:

    Interesting post. I have to agree, I think it’s a little on the small side as far as acreage goes, but it gives folks an idea of where to start.

  78. Will Rambeau says:

    Well thought-out article.

  79. Jeff Takada says:

    (Going out to buy two acres…)

  80. April Biasiolli says:


  81. Lisa Jensen Grider says:

    Tarpey isn’t enough….

  82. Stephen R. Payne says:

    Let’s see…at the moment I own 3.5 acres…but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to raise my own wheat; and I refuse to own goats…a Jersey cow, yes, goats, no!

  83. Geoffroy Menard says:

    how about using metric for all the non-american people in the world?

  84. Momo L'autre says:

    2 acre = 8093.712 m²

  85. Thomas Zychowski says:

    Momo is not familiar with a hectare.

  86. Mark L Cassidy III says:

    We are about to market a one acre product that equals ten acres acres of open farming and can be reduced in size as to product needs for commercial or family.

  87. Ann Leason says:

    I have just over two acres :)

  88. Kristin Stuppy says:

    Very interesting. I have 2 acres but half of it is wooded. I really am going to get chickens some day . . .

  89. Brian Engle says:

    The Answer to my question

  90. Jg Christian Noel says:

    very reveling, considering the market on agriculture product is the most interesting , more than gold , gas, pharmaceutical and even computers …disfunctionnel gov. Land and water is the most precious commodity of the 21st century ; the only way for peace & security for the privileged,for the hungry and peace; beware ! frackting equals destruction and famine.

  91. Dawn Hoover says:

    This is what we are aiming for

  92. Anonymous User says:

    The numbers for the livestock are badly skewed, which throws the rest of their numbers into doubt, IMO. In addition, the square footage allotted for pigs would be far more productive if given over to rabbits and while it’s ludicrous to consider keeping thirteen hens in a 10×6.5 space, adding in meat type chickens would be another good option.
    PLEASE do further research before even speculating based on this “info”graphic.

  93. Steve Beck says:

    I agree with Vestpocket Farmer. The square footage requirements for a vegan diet may be true for large scale industrial agriculture, and only one crop per year, but are ludicrously excessive when compared to small scale intensive organic farming.

    John Jeavons and Ecology Action have done extensive research on this issue. Their findings are that a complete diet for one physically active farmer, including all nutrient, calorie, and protein crops, can be grown in as little as 1000 square feet per person (with a diet emphasizing root crops, which are more calorie-nutrient dense per square foot than other crops–contrary to what the graphic claims). 2000 sf per person provides a conventional vegan diet high in grains and legumes–which in turn also provides enough plant material after harvest to provide compost self-reliance and ongoing soil fertility. These square footages are for actual growing bed area. Adding pathways can increase the mini-farm footprint by some 33% (more or less depending on path width and frequency of course).

    So, for a family of four, and a daily caloric need of 9,200 calories per day total, the graphic claims that 76,666 square feet would be required for one year of food. Adding 12,012 sf for wheat would bring the total to 88,678 sf. The absurdity of this claim becomes apparent by comparing it with Ecology Action’s findings.

    4 people x 2000 sf/person x 1.33 for pathways = 10,640 square feet required for a complete vegan diet for a family of four. Even doubling this area for the sake of redundancy, surplus, and crop failure, is still only 21,280 sf–less than a fourth of the area claimed by the graphic.

    Animals grown for food require some 7 to 10 pounds of plant food (often grown as a crop for feed) to produce 1 pound of animal for human consumption. This is almost entirely ignored by the graphic. To be honest, therefore, the graphic should emphasize that the animals suggested are not supported by the land area described.

    However–good job on the Solar PV calculation! With energy efficient appliances and frugal consumption, the Kwh required, and the necessary PV panel area, can be reduced (depending on the site, solar orientation and access, and actual solar gain, of course).

  94. Rebekah Murphy says:

    2,300 calories per day? Who eats that much? Growing teens maybe, but unless full-grown adults are VERY active, their colorie intakes will be less, as will that of smaller children.

    This graph also doesn’t take into consideration modern space-saving gardening techniques. Flat farmland, as depicted here, is only useful in large-scale efforts.

  95. Anonymous User says:

    Grow and Share: another useful resource

  96. Leanne Wingatui says:

    We have a 3 acre mixed crop permacuture 100% organic property in southern New Zealand, and I’d say these figures are a bit whacked out.

    We’re very definitely able to support our family of four on our land (if we had to!) but we’d also have to restrict the variety of what we eat. Our land easily produces 8-10 lambs a year, and supports about 15 chickens, giving us heaps of meat and eggs, and we also have 70+ nut trees (mostly hazelnuts, and about 40 fruit trees (mostly orchard fruits).

    That said, we’re NOT off-grid, as all our electricity is “green” anyway (hydro), and our water is town, not tank. If we wanted to (and had the up-front capital) we could produce our own of both. But consider both to be financially impractical.

    What I *do* think is that anyone, regardless of the size of their property, can make significant moves towards sustainability. Buy from farmer’s markets, build chicken tractors and organize vegetable plots, choose organic, lobby politicians for better food choices for everyone (especially the poor). Share excess produce freely with neighbours and friends. Barter. Teach your kids to farm and care for animals.

    If anyone wants to see what we’re up to, our farm blog is at

  97. Emily Springfield says:

    Am I doing the math right, that you think you can get 38.5 lb of wheat per square foot? (1.5 lb/wk x 52 weeks = 78 lb; 3003sf/78 lb = 38.5 lb/sf) Not a chance. I think 4 is Jeavon’s upper-level estimate, with 1-2 being more common.

  98. Aus Prepper says:

    Can we get a new info graphic with updated numbers?

  99. Melody Harpole says:

    What kind of ignorant idiot actually believes that one could keep dairy goats on 100 square feet a year? Whoever made this needs to leave their city house and visit an actual farm.

  100. Pete Sellers says:

    @Emily Springfield (reply #97): your division of 3003sf/78lb = 38.5 sf per lb. You reversed your units and that led to the odd results.

  101. Ann MacLean says:

    Without getting hung up on the specifics (clearly one size doesn’t fit all) this is a nice graphic illustrating the possibilities of meeting your own needs. No matter how much or little you can do, I think it is worth it to: 1) know where your food is really coming from, 2) minimize the travel footprint of your food, 3) get really fresh, happy produce, 4) provide yourself with regular, quality time outdoors, 5) lower your food costs by SOME amount, 6)do the right thing for the earth, and maybe most importantly 7) provide an example to your friends, families, and neighbors how easy it can be to do all of the above great stuff. The way I see it, it’s a winner for everybody.
    Thanks for the graphic!

  102. Vern Faulkner says:

    The information regarding the solar power is woefully inaccurate, preposterous, to say the least.
    The only way to obtain seven hours of sunlight is to have a very pricey double-gymbal tracking system – and live in Arizona or some such: learn about insolation, please.
    Secondly, assuming the figure of 11 MWh/year is accurate, that boils down to 30kw/hr per day. To produce 30 kw/hr per day, reliably, would require at the very least 10 kilowatts of panels (and probably more) That’s 40 240 watt panels, each of which is going to run about $400 installed, at least. Got $16,000? And if you want this off the grid, then you better fork over about $30,000 in batteries.
    It’s bad information like this that cause folks to waste money: please, become educated on the basics before you start spreading ill-informed data like this to the masses.

  103. Chad says:

    The suggested square footage for animals is small enough to be counter productive in addition to being cruel. If you want to cram animals into this small of a space, just buy from a confinement – they’ll do that better than you will.

    Raising the animals with a healthy amount of space wouldn’t require a huge amount more of land, and would pay back in increased fertility of the land itself and better productivity of the animals.

  104. [...] Returning to a state of living off the land and self-sustainability is a big trend in some areas of the country today.  Being able to create everything you need in regards to food and leaving the grocery stores behind is a tempting thought to some, but just how much land would you actually need to be able to survive? [VIA] [...]

  105. Ornado says:

    This is a great graphical representation of the answer to a question I’ve long considered regarding how much space living self-sufficiently would actually take. I wonder if other grains such as quinoa, millet, and amaranth yield higher amounts of protein per square foot than corn and wheat. I do not have the answer, but I suppose one can just look it up. If a family were to cut out dairy and meat products, would that further reduce the footprint? Some of the grains must be grown for the animals, after all, as feed. Growing high-protein grains, climbing and bush beans of all types, squash, and other high protein veggies would take space, but would it equal, exceed, or be less than the additional space freed up by having no animals? Curious, as I do know some vegan families.

  106. How Big a Backyard Would You Need to Live Off the Land? | Staying Prepared says:

    [...] One Block Off the Grid Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… This entry was posted in Uncategorized and [...]

  107. Cheryl says:

    If .44 acres is needed PER person for vegetables, then is the final 2 acres (or 1.5 acres) the amount PER person? That is not made clear.

  108. Frank says:

    You can provide all the food you need for a family of 4 in a lot less space than 2 acres. Vertical growing, green roofs, and high intensity techniques like aquaponics can produce enormous amounts of food in very small foot prints. If you can provide small greenhouses with HID lighting (preferably from a off-the-grid power source)to produce 24 hours of growing light coupled with aquaponics and careful plant selection, you can significantly speed up the food production. This should be coupled with a good hot composting and vermiculture to close the waste loop and provide nutrient supplementation for heavier nutrient using fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget about the indoor space too. CFL’s and LED lights can grow food inside for a lot lower energy and initial cost than the “weed grower’s” big HID’s, which require a lot of cooling air circulation. If you look beyond the traditional ways of doing things and use the technology we have developed in smarter ways, there’s a tremendous amount of improvement in productive capacity per square foot to be gained.

  109. quality movers Frederick says:

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  110. Infographic: How Big a Backyard Would You Need to Live Off the Land? | The Arcane Front says:

    [...] Would You Need to Live Off the Land?Posted on May 24, 2013 by The Arcane Front • 0 CommentsInfographic: How Big a Backyard Would You Need to Live Off the Land? Filed Under: Health, Homesteading, Self-Reliance, Uncategorized← Angelina Jolie’s [...]

  111. Country girl says:

    We have a 1 acre plot with a 800 sq ft house on it. We are a family of 4. Our home has a clean fresh water creek in the yard, and it supplies us with water for our garden and animals. We raise boer goats, rabbits, ducks (dammed off the creek) and chickens, all of which provide meat high in protien and low in fat. Our goats have a small pen, and we tie them off in certain parts of the yard every day to graze. Corn, which feeds everything else, costs 10$ per 50lbs. This last for a while because our animals free range and forage on their own. We grow our produce using a variety of methods, but have found growing vertically increases yield. We are able to sustain our family on 1 acre. Solar panels and hydro electricity are the next step for us… good luck to you all!

  112. [...] Area for food for a family, 76000 sq ft. using aquaponics can reduce that with [...]

  113. Patrick says:

    This helps to illustrate the importance of dense, compact, walkable cities to reduce our footprint and impact on the environment: it simply is not possible for every family in the US to live on a 2 acre homestead. Imagine if the population of NYC was spread out at that density and how much space it would occupy.

  114. All you need to do is to decide on what degree of these principles you want to incorporate into your
    garden design. I spent nearly a year living in a sustainable ecovillage,
    which was built primarily upon the design principles of permaculture.
    Think about some thing as simple as stopping at a end
    indication when no person is all around.

  115. Hans says:

    The area required for animals seems small. Could it be that only the living space is accounted for? Me thinks the area to raise their food should also be attributed to them.

  116. Hans says:

    @ 102:

    Hours of sunlight is a not a good way to express the amount of sunlight. Firstly, an hour of sunlight in California does not give the same electricity output as an hour of sunlight in Alaska. Secondly, it suggests that photovoltaic panels don’t produce electricity when it is cloudy, which is wrong.

    It would be better to look at the annual irradiation (unit: kiloWatthour per meter squared).

  117. Hans says:

    According to this map:

    the largest part of the US will receive at least 4 kWh/m^2 of solar irradiation per day. This is about 1500 kWh/m^2 per year. Let’s assume a pessimistic overall efficiency of 12%. So you can produce 180 kWh of electricity per square meter of roof. So you will need 61 square meters to cover the annual load of 11,040 kWh, which translates in 657 square feet.

    In the South of the US you can have about twice the irradiation as used in the above calculation. The 375 square feet in the infographic seems only correct for this region.

  118. […] Home Solar Power Discounts – One Block Off the Grid How big a yard do you need to live off the fat of the land?. […]

  119. Kungphoo says:

    Very interesting! For some reason I feel like i would have guessed that you would need a lot more than 2 acres.

  120. […] shared this great info graphic showing the actual space a family of four would need to sustain themselves for a year.  with very […]

  121. […] Infographic: How Big a Backyard Would You Need to Live Off the Land? […]

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