Top 5 Crops for Increasing Food Self Sufficiency

Increasing Food Self-Sufficiency :: Five Little Homesteaders

photo via pdbreen on flickr

When setting up plans for your homestead, it is always nice to know how to get the most bang for your buck.  That is, which fruits, vegetables and other food items will give you the highest yield and provide the most nutrients for your family.

Most of us grow our own food in an attempt to be more self-sufficient and rely less on the grocery store.  So, with that in mind, what should we be growing to achieve this goal?

In this post, I’m going to give you the top 5 crops I think you should consider when trying to increase your food self sufficiency.

Top 5 Crops for Increasing Food Self Sufficiency

1.  Potatoes 

Generally speaking, potatoes will give you the most calories for the least amount of required planting space.  They are relatively easy to grow and will generally be ready to harvest in 65-90 days.  They store well, so can be eaten over a long period of time.

Being a member of the nightshade family, potatoes need to be rotated every year.  They are also susceptible to bugs and disease.

2. Corn

Corn is pretty easy to grow, though it is a heavy feeder and requires a lot of nitrogen to do well.   There are many types of corn including: dent, flour and flint.  (Additional types of corn include sweet and popcorn.)

Dent corn is the most common kind of field corn and is, unfortunately, almost all genetically modified.  If you are aiming for food self-sufficiency, you’ll probably want to grow a flint corn, as it is easy to grind and you can make all sorts of yummy things with it, like breads and pancakes.

3.  Legumes

You can grow different kinds of legumes during pretty much the whole year – depending on where you live.  In cool/cold weather, you can grow peas, fava beans, garbanzo beans and lentils.  As it warms up, you can add in bush beans, pole beans and peanuts.

4.  Winter Squash

High in fiber and vitamins A and C, winter squash is a great vegetable to grow.  it is tasty, can produce huge yields and stores well.  Per 100 square feet of growing area, you can usually yield somewhere around 50-91 lbs of squash.

5. Eggs

Saving the best for last and not something we would usually consider a “crop,” eggs are one of the world’s healthiest most nutrient dense foods.  Think of it this way, an eggs contains all the nutrients it needs to grow a baby chick.

Keeping a flock of chickens in your backyard not only gives you eggs but it can also give you a source of meat.  Eggs are packed with protein and contain a bunch of vitamins and minerals.  If you’re trying to boost your food self sufficiency, get yourself at least a half a dozen chickens.

So, there you have it, my list of the top 5 crops for increasing food self-sufficiency.  What would you add?  Do you disagree with my list?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

For more reading on this topic, check out this great post from Mother Earth News: -


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  1. Loved this. Thanks for the tips.

  2. I am not sure I would include corn on the list since it takes up so much room and only yield one or two ears. Plus, the raccoons love it. If you were going to grow an easy grain, it would probably be oats but you would have to be able to de-hull them.

    I do agree about beans. They are great since you can dry them for storage. Lentils and garbanzo beans yield so little, that I stopped growing them.

    • Here is a cool tip for your corn crop:

      Once your corn gets about 6-8 inches high go back and plant pole beans at the base of every corn plant. That makes double use of the same space.

  3. I have been changing my gardening plan to more storage vegetables(can or stores well). The one thing that I would add to your list is onions. I use them almost daily in my cooking. They also do not take up a lot of space for how much you get and store well.

    • Great addition :) You can make anything taste good with onions :)

      • Katie Strader says:

        I would add garlic to the list alongside onions. They are easy to grow and have many uses–cooking (of course!), herbal remedies, livestock feeding (chickens do much better with garlic), insect control to name a few.

  4. I think barley because it can be sprouted easy for all of your animals. Including people.

  5. Thanks very much! This looks like a good intermediate place, after we got our start. Right now, we are growing salad veggies (Kale, green lettuce, chard, tomatoes, etc.). We do have one squash plant, but it is getting too big, and it is shading our green peppers. So we are having to trim the branches and leaves on the squash plant. My wife is doing most of the work, as I have been having health problems (I have found out that to sniff salt water (1 tsp to 8 fl. oz.) up my nose once or twice a day relieves most of my COPD symptoms), which are an ongoing process to solve; am trying to find ways to exercise next. Am also going to save Anna’s comment. Oats also look good.

  6. I would add black oil sunflowers. The edible oil is easy to extract and the residual pulp is great feed for your chickens.

  7. A. States says:

    I would add tomatoes. I can pasta sauce, taco sauce, pizza sauce and whole tomatoes. Plus they grow easy in Ohio.

  8. Todd Richardson says:

    I would add asparagus and avocados. They are both perennials (plant once-harvest for years), both easy to grow, and they are both very nutrient dense.

  9. Todd Richardson says:

    You might want to think about sorghum to replace, or in addition to, the wheat and oats. You get the grain and as an added bonus you get the syrup. Strawberries are easy to grow, a perennial, and good for you. I just grow thgem in pots on my deck.

  10. Mike Purnell says:

    I think you are right on on every count. But you had to cut it off at some number. Asparagus has almost no predators, and are really good pickled. Corn has many predators so it must be protected. Beans grow only with bees, we have no bees, thus no beans. Greens only for those that know how to cook them in many ways, or are Raw Food fanatics. (We ain’t, as they are tougher to chew.) :>{ TO grow in marginal/edge areas that get no care try Jerusalem artichokes, also called Sunchokes. Our everbearing berries, black berries and red raspberries) hold a high spot at my garden. Darn potatoes “volunteer” all over my garden where I USED to plant them. Tomatoes for me are very hard to grow well here, but I love them, and glass (can) a lot of them. Beets also grow really well for me, so we eat a lot of them glassed in many ways/recipes. Getting chickens soon, just to help me handle bindweed., and the henfruit is a staple here. Winter squash is a decoration item for my spouse, but only food for me, she does not favor it YET. Butternut squash is a necessity for it’s bug resistance, too bad it’s not “pretty.”

    • Great comment and additions Mike! My mom grows Sunchokes and loves them! I might have to give them a try! And no bees? That’s terrible!

  11. Mike Purnell says:

    I forgot to report on my onion patch. It is the biggest item in my garden, all perennials. I eat a lot of them and still buy at the store the big round ones. Egyptian onions also called walking onions seem to do just that. They get scattered all over my garden and when they get large enough I harvest them. They do not subtract from what they accompany/complement, meaning I do not consider them “weeds” just appreciated volunteers.

  12. Chrissy says:

    These are all such great ideas! I’m surprised to no see anyone mention Garlic. I gave it a try this year. And was pleasantly surprised! I’m so happy with my harvest, I will definetky be doing more next year!! Garlic also has no pretitors. And it protects your other crops from predictors. Bugs and animals do not like Garlic!! :)

    • Garlic really is a super plant, both for its culinary and medicinal uses. You can start it in the fall and get much bigger heads than if you start it in the spring

  13. I agree with onions, tomatoes and berries! I also have apple, almond, pecan, nectarine and fig trees! :o9

    As far as chickens, something many people don’t think of is quail. Quail require 1/3 of the space, require about 1/3 of the feed for the same amount of egg production and are more nutritious than chicken eggs. Quail can also subsist on grasses and insects better than chickens, requiring even less feed and they are also much quieter, their small noises being appealing rather than obnoxious. The only drawback would be they are smaller meat-wise and their eggs are smaller, so you need more to achieve the same volume (say for an omelette), but seeing as you can have 3 quail for every chicken and Japanese quail can lay an egg a day their first year after they mature enough. Also quail are more of a possibility in urban/suburban homesteading as they have less space and noise and there are many less laws governing them. :)

  14. Thanks for the tips. I also was concerned about enough bees this year so I took some advise from a long time gardener and planted Borage. The bees loved it. I had great yields from my squash, beans and other flowering vegetables and the beautiful blue flowers were a great addition to my garden.

  15. Plenty of suggestions here for a top 5 already but I would give a shout out to ginger. This is such an easy crop to grow and great for cooking and medicinal. A real must have as it only takes a corner to establish.

  16. Potatoes, tomatoes, squash, beans, and chickens here in Northern Maine where our growing season is shorter for the most calories for the buck. Nice addins are berries, carrots, onions, peppers, greens and garlic.
    Great choices in your article.

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