There is a very strong argument for going Vegan or Vegetarian if you decide to live "off the grid".
Becoming self-sufficient using gardening
- without the need to buy groceries, butchering farm animals, going hunting
- means you will have a lot less hassle with hunting and fishing licenses, taking care of animals such as pigs, chickens and goats (and later butchering them for their meat) and you really only need to worry about one thing - GROWING PLANTS.
The problem with having your own garden is that a lot of people don't realize the sheer amount of food the average human consumes in a year.
I even had an argument with a friend less than a month ago while she was BBQing meat in her backyard, and her claim that her tiny backyard was large enough to feed a whole family for a year. So assuming she was talking about a momma, a poppa, and two kids (which might be teenagers and eat like pigs) stop and do the math on how much food she is talking about.
Well lets assume that the average adult consumes about the equivalent of 6 carrots per day. I say equivalent because they would be eating other things too, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, beans, nuts, berries, etc... but for simplicity's sake lets use the "equivalent of six carrots" per day rule. Little kids might eat only 3 carrots per day and teenagers might eat between 4 and 6 carrots per day, so lets assume an average of 5 carrots per teenager.
Thus assuming 1 kid, 1 teenager, and 2 adults a family of 4 should be eating roughly 20 carrots per day. (Because 6 + 6 + 5 + 3 = 20.)
364.25 days in a year, x 20... 7,825 carrots. Or the equivalent thereof.
My friend's tiny backyard was a mere 25 feet long by 15 feet wide. There is no way she could 2185.5 carrots needed to feed herself - let alone a whole family of 4 people.
Lets pretend for a moment you decided to become a carrot farmer - and then sell / trade your carrots with other farmers for potatoes, corn, beans, flour, rice, etc, whatever you happen to need. Well then you are going to need a LOT of land to grow your intended crop of 8,000+ carrots.
Ideally you shouldn't be putting all of your eggs in one basket either.
Most subsistence farmers plant many different things because some years the weather will be bad for certain plants and you can have a famine of that one kind of plant. (Research the topic "Irish Potato Famine" sometime.)
Thus you will want to plant many different kinds of vegetables.
And you will also need to go berry picking, grow an orchard for apples, pears, grapes, etc.
It wouldn't hurt if you also researched edible flowers and wild plants too.
And if there is sugar maples nearby you could also tap them for sap for making maple syrup.
And once you've done all this, what about storage for the winter? Learning how to can and make preservatives? Making pickles, jams, jellies, etc.
The point I am getting at is, yes, you can go vegan or vegetarian and that will certainly save you time away from hunting, fishing, growing/butchering animals, milking goats, etc... but you will need to learn a lot about farming.
And lets face it, unless you grew up on a farm, you probably know diddly squat about farming.
Do you know what YIELD means when talking about farmland?
Yield means the crops you get off a particular piece of land. Typically measured in bushels per acre.
1 acre is 43,560 square feet. Roughly half the size of a soccer field.
When I was growing up and living with my parents the farm they lived on was 97 acres, but only about 70 acres was arable farmland (the other 27 acres was the house, barn, shed, grass, trees, wetlands, river, etc).
So with 70 acres of arable land - 3,049,200 square feet (enough to grow about 12 million carrots assuming a high yield rate) - then yes, absolutely, a family could grow enough food to feed themselves and still have lots left over to sell at the local farmer's market. Because lets face it, you might still need money for trips to the dentist, school supplies for the kids, new clothes (note to self, write a post about growing your own cotton for clothing), medical supplies, etc.
But what if your yield rate is really low during a particular year? The carrots could get blight, insects, thick weeds, and even wildlife like deer and ground hogs can destroy a lot of your crops.
The point is, with a small garden you're going to have a percentage of your crop that either fails to grow, is ruined by environmental hazards (too much water, too much sun, or not enough of either), plus pests, deer, rabbits, ground hogs, etc.
The biggest threats vary from year to year. One year it might be drought. Another year you might from problems with insects and wishing you had sprayed pesticides, another year several families of rodents might move into your farmland and start tearing up all your lovingly planted carrots.
I am personally a fan of intercropping
. Intercropping is a method whereby you plant certain things in rows next to each other and they form a symbiotic relationship in order to keep certain pests and blights away. It raises the yield per acre of the different crops, but you have to harvest everything either by hand or use special machinery.
That is the reason why most modern farmers don't do intercropping, because its easier - machinery wise - just to plant an entire field with only 1 crop.
Then there is the issue of rotating crops
. You can't plant the same thing every year in the same spot, because it will eat up the nutrients in the soil and then after several years most of the nutrients will be gone - especially if its plants like corn, which suck a lot of the nutrients out of the soil.
Even with small gardens you should be rotating your plants every year.
I argue therefore that if you have a large field that you would be better off sectioning it into 4 different quadrants and planting 4 different plants each year in that field, rotating the crops clockwise every year.
If you are serious about gardening and farming, well then I strongly recommend you research the topic a lot more so you have a better idea of how much food you will need, what kind of yield you can expect, how much land you will need to accomplish a minimal yield (assuming bad weather and conditions), what plants you will need to grow on a yearly basis and how much of each.
Its a lot of things to research - and a lot of things to grow. Have fun!