I was wondering, what area space (m²) do I need to plant rice/bean in order to sustain one person for a year?

  • 2
    Welcome to Sustainable Living! Do you mean this person is only living of rice or beans, or are the rice/beans just part of this person's diet (along with food from other sources)?
    – THelper
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 14:30
  • @THelper Just part, indeed. I used rice and bean because they take the bigger space. Although, wondering now, one might want wheat too.
    – Fabricio
    Commented Jan 16, 2016 at 11:23

4 Answers 4


In How to Grow More Vegetables, John Jeavons claims you can sustain one person on 4,000 sf (372 m²), with 60% of that space dedicated to interplanted grains and legumes. The rest of the space would be taken up by high calorie root crops (30%) and vegetables (10%). That's with high soil fertility and in a climate with at least a six month growing season, so you can get in 3 plantings in the space.

I've used some of his methods with good results, but have never tried to grow all of my grains and legumes. I suspect in my climate, with a 3 1/2 month growing season, it would take significantly more space.

  • 2
    Only 20x20 meters? That's seems incredible. You would really be starving I guess, but could survive. But you need also wood, some fruits and some place to live :-)
    – Tomas
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 13:40
  • 1
    Agreed! I've read two articles which talked about people working on Jeavons' farm who were living for a year off of 4,000 sf. In both cases, the authors mentioned that the person looked healthy but very, very thin. In the plans he includes in his books, Jeavons does include some fruit trees and fruit plants, but it is true that you would need extra space for wood and other materials if you are trying for sustainability beyond just food. Also, I've read of people who have tried his methods elsewhere have said they could not get the yields he does and needed more space.
    – michelle
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 17:20
  • 1
    Just wanted to add - Jeavons is farming in Willits, CA. I understand that by California standards the land and climate are considered poor for farming, but compared to the climate those of us in the center of the country work with, he's got a long growing season going for him!
    – michelle
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 17:23
  • Thank you for your response michelle! It is interesting to know what's possible and what others were able to do.
    – Tomas
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 11:40
  • This however does not take storage space in account, since you need to put all that food somewhere for the winter. I'd say if you manage to produce all that food, it might be better to sell the excess to local people and buy what you need in winter. Commented Nov 18, 2019 at 14:16

Jon Seymour, in his book The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency, mentions that 5 acres (about 2 hectares) of good quality, well drained land could sustain a family of 6 persons. The answer to the question will partly depend on whether or not one chooses to consume meat and dairy products and whether or not the land should also provide timber for energy. Seymour's five acre plan includes grazing and hay pastures, barley, beets and carrots for animal fodder, some woodland, a large vegetable garden, lots of beans, and so forth. For a complete description of how such a farm would work, see Seymour's book which can be found online.

Estimates from Morrison and Jeavons thus seem rather optimistic but differences are probably in part due to the choices that are being made.

  • 3
    You make a good point with "the question will... depend on whether... one chooses to consume meat and dairy." It will indeed. A vegan diet would have the smallest footprint. Then a diet including eggs and chicken, then beef and pork. The larger the animals the more resources required to produce meat. Alternatively you could probably stock an irrigation pond and have fish for a small increase in the foot print. As to dairy goats would be more efficient source of nutrition than cattle.
    – hortstu
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 5:05
  • Great point! Jeavon's sticks to a vegan diet for exactly this reason.
    – michelle
    Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 18:22
  • To compare with other answers I've calculated how much 5 acres for a family of 6 is in m2 per person. It's 3372 m2 (if I've done my calculations right).
    – THelper
    Commented Apr 18, 2014 at 7:37

That very much depends on how good a gardener you are. At least the following factors come into play

  • soil fertility
  • weather (esp. sun & rain)
  • length of planting season

I remember a quote from Bill Morrison I heard from a recorded lecture that, with permaculture methods, one can sustain a family (2 adults, 2 children) on 50m² (with around 2 hours of gardening per week). I'd say, try it to see if it's true!

Permaculture usually plants high-carbs in form of potatoes. Rice certainly will require more time and more space (and more water).

  • 1
    I'd love to see the calculations behind that figure.
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 14:41
  • @gerrit Me, too. In the lecture he spoke of people having achieved this "extreme gardening". He also said that it takes a few years to get a garden into shape to yield as much as this per m².
    – Earthliŋ
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 14:44
  • And is this garden sustainable?
    – gerrit
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 14:51
  • 2
    @gerrit, permaculture by definition is intended to be sustainable permanently. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 19:41

Figures for land area have been stated, it is perhaps important to consider where that land is, its inherent soil quality and type, inclination towards the sun, altitude and longitude, precipitation - or available atmospheric moisture to be extracted - and short, medium and long term long term climate conditions. That's one heck of a lot of variables to ponder. A single figure can relate to one year at one place but be hugely different the next year, or at a different place. To give a single figure - a "One size fits all" approach is just plane silly.

Also it is vitally important to consider varying protein requirements. For your basic protein requirements legumes and plant growth tips and the germ part of things such as corn will go some way to providing basic requirements for those lucky enough to posses the requisite genes to allow their immune system to function correctly with this input. See: for clarification. (The question as to protein requirements in human populations is moot, after all we clean our fruit and vegetables before eating, getting rid of insects, slugs, a variety of eggs from those etc, which would have been part of our pre-historic diet)

For Manual workers, the young and expectant mothers I suggest that waste foliage can be converted by gastropods (A type of molluscan commonly known as snail). The Roman Snail as it is known in Britain used to be considered a staple part of the diet, it's efficient at producing compostable waste and is a good source of the full range of amino-acids required by growing humans from womb to adulthood, the shells can be crushed and added to reduce soil acidity and increase calcium content where necessary. Here's the preparation and a recipe for the giant African version. * Not for the faint of heart (Generally free-range.)

Supplementary protein and alternatives such as those insects found in rotting wood are considered tasty when cooked. See the bushcraftuk.com website archives for more details.

I have no opinion as to the flavor of the above protein supplements having never tried them myself.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.