Do you dream of reestablishing your roots, having a sense of purpose that runs deep, or a way of life that coexists with nature?
Homesteading is becoming increasingly popular, even in our modern world. Doing more with less and following a simpler way of life is at the crux of this quickly growing movement.
If you’ve been at all curious, intrigued, or interested in what homesteading looks like; if you want to learn about different types of homesteading, and some of the amazing benefits; or if you’re ready for simple tips on how to get started wherever you are, then this article is for you!
Spoiler alert: You don’t have to have lots of land, be a hippie, homeschool your kids, or prepare for an apocalypse to be a homesteader.
In fact, our family has been easing into this lifestyle for years by playing with edible landscaping, cooking meals from scratch, rewilding our kids, and making more intentional decisions about what we purchase.
After lots of research, experiencing life through others who homestead, and planning how we want our homestead life to look, we’ve decided to go all-in and transition from a life of athletics to a life of farming!
Come along — let’s dive in!
- What is homesteading?
- Types of homesteading
- Why people homestead
- Starting a homestead
- Homesteading resources
- Homesteading FAQs
What is homesteading?
Homesteading can mean different things to different people. It lies on a continuum of finding greater self-reliance, or self-sufficiency, and today can take on many shapes.
Most would agree that at the core of homesteading, there’s a mental shift from consumer to creator; from mass-produced to homemade; from powering over mother earth to reconnecting with nature.
The homesteading lifestyle may include various degrees of:
- Subsistence agriculture
- Raising animals
- Food preservation
- Alternative power through sun, wind, or water
- Sewing or craftwork
- Working the land (gardening, foraging, ranching, hunting)
The Homestead Act of 1862
In the US, the concept of homesteading began with The Homestead Act of 1862. Signed into law by Abraham Lincoln, the idea was to help settle the American West — the wild frontier.
The act provided public land grants of 160 acres to any adult citizen who agreed to live on the land for at least five consecutive years, build a home, make improvements, and farm. It was offered for a mere eighteen dollar filing fee, thus it was essentially a free government land program.
270 million acres of the US were claimed and settled under this act.
While homesteading today continues to represent a back to the land mentality, it doesn’t require 160 acre commitment. In fact, modern homesteading — which gained popularity in the 1960s — can take place in the city, suburbs, or rural areas. It doesn’t require an all-or-nothing approach.
Modern-day pioneers find regaining life skills to be rewarding, fulfilling, and purposeful, whether their commitment takes place in an apartment building or on a regenerative farm.
Being more environmentally conscious in an effort to reduce our impact on the earth is often where the shift begins. Recycling, reusing, refusing, renewing, repairing, and recreating can lead to a desire to live more simply.
Homesteading in today’s world may also stem from the recognition that we’ve become disconnected — disconnected from real food, from nature, and from each other. But, reclaiming those relationships through a lifestyle that relies on a deeper connection to the land, the ecosystem, and people can start simply, wherever you are.
Types of homesteading
Where and how you homestead depends on how deep you want to dive and where you want to live.
The amount of space you have, your degree of commitment, and your long-term goals may decide the type of homesteading you take on.
Homestead farming is usually defined by growing crops and livestock on a single family property. Many homestead farmers strive to live off their land as much as possible with significant acreage to work with.
A “farmstead” is another word used to describe this level of production and may include selling goods to others in the community.
Off grid homesteads
Off grid homesteading is living without the reliance on utility companies. It’s a homestead that supports itself. While this trend is no small undertaking, it was the way most people lived only 100 years ago.
An off grid homestead NEEDS to have predictable shelter, food, energy, water, and waste management. It’s a system that reduces the carbon footprint and provides a sense of independence.
Some people look at the luxury of connected resources we currently use as a fragile dependency that may not last as long as we think. An off grid homestead embraces the true meaning of self-sufficient.
A small homestead is sometimes called a “backyard homestead,” and tends to maximize a smaller land area to produce impressive amounts of sustenance.
It’s amazing what can be done on just a half to one acre of land — both inside and outside of the home — when efficiency is at the forefront. Many small family homesteads exist on two to four acres when they are well managed.
A small homestead may include a few smaller animals — chickens, a few pigs, and a couple of goats, whereas a medium homestead of 40-ish acres may have cattle. A large homestead of 100+ acres could also grow feed for its livestock.
Adopting more sustainable living methods can be done anywhere. Urban homesteading may take place on a quarter acre or in a small apartment.
Let your creativity guide the possibilities. Here are some homesteading practices even city dwellers can take on:
- Container gardens
- Community gardens
- Balcony greenhouse
- Food preservation
- Windowsill herb cultivation
- Small flock of chickens
- Compost system
- DIY cleaners and self-care potions
- Scratch cooking
- Homemade kombucha
- Small project carpentry
- Utilizing alternative energy
A growing urban trend is to unite with other like-minded neighbors to share in the responsibilities of greater self-sufficiency. Community gardens, renewable energy techniques, and shared skills can result in more eco-consciousness and efficient living practices.
Why people homestead
While there are different types of homesteads, there are also different reasons for homesteading. The challenge of survivalism may draw you to this lifestyle, or the desire to seek an alternative to the rat race of our current times.
This unconventional and inconvenient way of living is gaining traction because people are craving something different. They recognize the ease of life today may leave us disconnected from what matters most.
Food security and connection
The pandemic of 2020 opened eyes to the insecurity of our current food system. The goal of being able to grow more of our own nourishment is what pushes some to look beyond the supermarket shelves for their next meal.
Not only does growing your own food provide a sense of security, but it also reconnects you to your food — increasing awareness, knowledge, and appreciation for where it comes from, how it’s grown, and how food production impacts the environment.
Homesteaders tend to see less value in chasing the American dollar for the sake of excess, and more value in living with what is necessary. How far can that dollar stretch for a happy and healthy life with intentional spending?
Getting rid of debt, investing more inside your home, and spending money on the things most valued has many benefits in the eye of the homesteader.
Humans are meant to do hard work. Physical labor, paired with real life problem solving is incredibly gratifying at the end of the day.
We gain confidence when we learn to take care of our own needs. When the struggle is real the reward is magical.
People evolved to work with their hands, nurture living things, be outdoors, and move around. Convenience and instant gratification sounds good in theory, but the reality is that it leaves us unfulfilled, depressed, and sick.
It’s empowering to live and work intentionally with the land — with the natural world around us. Homesteading paves the way for people to reconnect with nature, tune into the natural rhythms, and live in a way that is more supportive of the environment.
We’ve been taking more than the earth can continue to provide us unless we change our ways. Top soil, oil for fuel, and clean water will be gone before our children live a full life if we don’t make adjustments.
Responsible homesteading is one way we can live in greater harmony with and reduce our impact on the planet.
Wholesome way to raise kids
A homesteading lifestyle exposes children to a different way — teaching them that it’s ok to get dirty, sing with the birds, and appreciate the natural cycles of life and death. We innately know these things when we are born, but we quickly lose this understanding in our modern world of sterility, screens, and participation awards.
Kids on a homestead learn where their food comes from, have a special connection with plants and animals, and gain skills that will lead to competence throughout life.
They have the freedom for imaginative and creative play, combined with the grit to roll up their sleeves and work towards something they are passionate about.
Starting a homestead
Starting a homestead begins with a positive attitude — a desire for lifelong learning, and the fulfillment felt from being hands on. Before your list of things to do grows too long, consider what you can do to simplify your existing life.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to get you going and thinking about the best path for your own homesteading adventure.
Choosing the best place to start a homestead
Homesteading is not defined by where, but how. The lifestyle choices that are made are far more important than where you decide to homestead. In fact, the best place to start may be right where you are!
Even if you are in a temporary living situation, or renting a piece of property, there are many things you can do to practice and develop homesteading skills.
If you are looking to move and choosing a new location, it’s important to evaluate the strengths, limitations, and possibilities of your potential property. Consider size, restrictions, and layout.
Be sure to take sun, wind, seasonal climate, water access, and soil health into account if you plan to grow food, or establish renewable energy systems. And spend time observing the land, noticing its patterns, and visualizing how you could build a coexisting habitat.
Research and learn new skills
One thing’s for sure — homesteading is a gradual process, requiring life-long learning and patience. It’s a challenge that (if committed to) should be embraced.
Be realistic about the capacity and limitations of:
- The property
- Your budget
- Your skills
- Your time
- The climate
- The resources you have access to
Read, study, and learn from those who are homesteading under similar conditions, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There’s nothing like hands-on learning and being willing to make plenty of mistakes to help you acquire the knowledge and skills to thrive.
The steps you take to start homesteading will depend largely on your goals and priorities. Make a list of possibilities and then prioritize those possibilities with your personal reasons for homesteading in mind.
Certain projects will naturally need to take place before others — they often build on one another. Here are a few that can often be tackled right away:
- Plant trees: They need time to grow, mature, and contribute to the system.
- Start a small veggie garden: All you need is soil, sun, water, and some seeds to get started.
- Begin composting: Food scraps and yard debris are enough to start transforming dirt into organic matter for a healthier living system.
- Plan ahead: Start working on your list making, time management, and organizational skills with processes you can implement anytime/anywhere — meal planning is a great example!
Get crafty and creative
Another early entrance to the homesteading lifestyle is DIY projects.
Learning how to…
- Make long-ferment sourdough
- Cook from scratch
- Make your own all-natural cleaners
- Mend your own clothes
- Make your own soap
- Can tomatoes and jar homemade salsa
- Or dry your own herbs
… are all examples of tasks that can be taken on wherever you currently are.
With a commitment to using less, preserving what you already have, and finding solutions beyond buying a “newer, bigger, or better” product, creativity will flourish.
As modern homesteading gains traction, the number of helpful resources are quickly growing. Homesteader magazines and homesteading classes online are options for immersion in new information.
Here are a few of my favorite websites to help get you started.
When it comes to homesteading, you may be wondering…
What does a homesteader mean?
A homesteader is a modern day pioneer with a drive to produce what’s necessary for a more sustainable life. A homesteader is a person taking part in a homesteading lifestyle.
Is homesteading still possible?
Of course — homesteading just looks a little different than it did back in 1862. Some states still have programs that will assist you with small plots of land if you are willing to move to remote areas and build a home. Although, most are tiny plots in subdivisions — maybe not the picture of a quintessential homestead.
How much does it cost to start homesteading?
The cost of homesteading all depends on your situation, your goals, and how much you want to commit to at once. Usually it costs more upfront for initial set up in order to save money down the road.
What is urban homesteading?
Urban homesteading is transforming a city home into a property producing some or all food and other necessities for greater self-sufficiency. It means taking a step backwards to regain a simpler, more purposeful, and less consumerist life within city borders.
Are you ready to join the self-reliant movement?
As they say, “don’t let perfection get in the way of excellence”!
If you’ve been intrigued by a homesteading way of life, it’s time to get started. Hopefully, this article has inspired you to begin where you are and feel comfort in the plethora of resources to help guide you along the way.