Planning A
Subsistence Homestead

There was a time when the U.S. government encouraged families to live on a small section of rural land and provide for their own food needs. This 19-page Farmers Bulletin presents a practical plan for a family of five to do just that. 

The assumption was that a basic subsistence homestead of one acre could be cared for by a father with an outside job, working the homestead in his spare time, with the help of his family. So there would be some off-farm income to help pay for necessities beyond what the family could provide for itself. There was no assumption of earned income from the homestead, especially one of that size.

The one-acre subsistence homestead plan only allows for the production of fruits, vegetables and poultry for the family itself (not for outside sales). But if the father (referred to as an “employed man”) is only employed part-time or has a larger family, the bulletin discusses what more can be done to support the family (i.e., a family cow or  milk goats), and how much land is needed for each option for expansion.

The bulletin provides an idealistic layout for a 1-acre subsistence homestead in the South (the "old cotton belt"), and a 1-acre subsistence homestead in the North.

Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the bulletin…

“Growing food for family-living purposes in connection with enough outside work to provide the family with the cash for necessary farm and family expenses is a combination that many families now want to develop. Recent hard times and still more recent Government policies have renewed an intensified interest in this possible combination. This kind of farming has often been called subsistence farming and a farm of this kind a subsistence homestead.

This part-time farming has certain problems of its own that are somewhat different from the usual farming problems. The family has to think of the quantity and variety of products it needs rather than of what the markets demand.”

A lot has changed since 1934, but I think this concept of a subsistence homestead is still practical, and much of the information in this bulletin is useful and applicable to the undertaking, especially the discussion of what can (and can not) be done, practically speaking, by a family on a small section of land.

From a more modern perspective, the whole concept of having a subsistence homestead, as this bulletin describes it, is still valid. In fact, with the advent of the internet, and the many new options for working from home that the internet provides, I think it is entirely possible for fathers and mothers to be self-employed, at home, with their children, on a small section of land, and have an even more desirable subsistence homestead. It’s not necessarily an easy goal, but I happen to think it is a worthy and rewarding goal, and the information in this bulletin provides some useful information towards achieving that goal.

Topics discussed in the bulletin:

Selecting Land
Vegetable, Poultry, and Fruit Production
Layout For A Small Acreage
Quantity and Variety of Garden Vegetables and Small Fruits
The Small Poultry Flock
Production of Tree Fruits on Small Acreages
Insects, Diseases, and Other Handicaps
Winter Vegetable and Fruit Supply for a Family of Five
Feed and Livestock Production on a Subsistence Homestead
The Family Cow
Milk Goats
Pork For Family Use
Feed For Livestock on Small Acreages
Possibilities of a Small Woodlot
Limitations of Small Acreages as a Means of Self-Support

Price: $1.99

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Anonymous said...

I think it's terrible that you're charging for something that was once offered for free as a service to the taxpaying citizens of the United States.

Herrick Kimball said...

Are you serious?

If I had the taxpayer money that the US government has, I would republish these old writings for free.

But these old bulletins are no longer published and given away. Farmer's bulletins (and other old writings) can be purchased on Ebay, as they come up for sale, but you will pay much more than I charge for them, and they are not as easily read as an enlarged PDF file.

Do you think that it is terrible that people are selling the old Farmer's Bulletins on Ebay, when they were originally given away free?

I like to think that I am preserving and breathing new life into these valuable old writings by scanning and offering them here.

Thanks for the comment.

Unknown said...

Pay no attention to the moron behind the curtain of anonymity. Waste not your fine brain and honorable soul.
Your loyal fan and defender,
You needn't publish this. :0)

Karin said...

Just ordered and downloaded. Lots of info and a steal at $1.00. Thanks!

Susan Humeston said...

I think you have a wonderful idea here. As far as old out of patent books, India is buying the originals up and reprinting them and charging a lot for them. If you go to and look up an old title, you will find how many of them are reprints (none too good, either) or e-books. The original books themselves are scarce as hens teeth.

Buckeyebob said...

I choose to wait to download this until my new computer arrives , by which time it will have surely gone up . I consider it as a great and innovative way to supply a commodity that is in demand . I will consider it a wise investment in the future and I thank the " Old Agrarian " for consistently supplying what the Agrarian community needs and wants . A worker is worth his wages the Good Book reads .

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Kimball. I agree with you that you are preserving these writings. I personally would have never seen them, ever, if not for you. I would not have even known to look for them. Now, I can't get enough of them! I will purchase every one you re-publish. Thank you again for opening my eyes!
New Homesteader

Anonymous said...

Actually I think it is great that you are taking the time to uncover these old gems and creating them as pdf's for all of us. At this low cost and convenience, you are performing a service we should appreciate. Many thanks from a farmer in Belize.

fact said...

if its any consolation to you herrick, I was shocked to see that you are only asking $1 for it!!!

Herrick Kimball said...

Wow. Thank you Everyone for your words of support and encouragement. I appreciate it very much!

Jennifer Williams said...

I just discovered you through the Deliberate Agrarian blog, and I am in love!!! It is a great thing you are doing! I absolutely adore old publications like the one you are offering now, and I cannot believe it is only $1.00! You are absolutely correct that if this were offered on eBay, it would cost more. Thank you for your efforts. I will be hanging around Agriphemera a lot. God bless! :-)

Anonymous said...

I understand the time it takes to take on such an endeavor as to reprint these. If you can't make some money at it, it simply can't be done since you have bills to pay. I quit selling eggs because the money was only covering the cost and I wasn't getting anything for my time. I too would not even know about ANY of the things you post unless you share them. They are not in my circle. I am very very thankful for what you do and consider you a pillar for the rest of us trying to find our way. Thank you very much. KW

Tucanae Services said...

BE not deterred by the ignorant. I would suggest to Mr. Anon to go find it for free!

Minor suggestion for some future consideration. The publishing house Lindsay Publications has closed its doors. (Retirement I believe.) It might be possible to expand your horizon a little and include old machinery manuals and processes. An example being the US Navy publication 'metal casting' it was published during the war years but is a applicable today as it was then for some homesteader that has the interest.

Merely a thought. Great work you are doing Sir.

Pat, Marcus & Alexis said...

Wow, I'm truly surprised to find a subsistence manual put out by the United States in 1934. That's much later than I would have thought such a manual would have been issued by the U.S. I wonder if this reflects the conditions of the Great Depression?

Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

My, Herrick, you have some truly wonderful admirers as readers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart. To be sure, every man will give account for every word he has spoken.

Jodi said...

I agree with (most) all here. I would have NEVER found this information if not for you taking the time. I develop websites and do much content updating for clients. It is time consuming. I also run a small herb farm. Both take all my time. I appreciate the time you take to do all the things that you do Mr. Kimball and for sharing them for what are obvious, to most, helpful reasons. I'm sure you are making a killing selling this information for $1 or 2 (LOL, but I really wish you were!)