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What is Homesteading? Benefits, Types, and More

Have you ever considered ditching city life's noise for living off the grid? Perhaps you want to enjoy the simple things and live a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. Explore homesteading!

This way of living has been around for ages, and it was formerly born out of necessity. However, it has resurfaced and become popular among individuals and families looking for a more self-reliant lifestyle today. 

So, what is homesteading? Read on as we look into how it began, its benefits, and how you can venture into the homestead lifestyle. 

Related Read: Apartment Gardening, What Is An Adobe House? 

Broad Definition of Homesteading 

solar panel on roof
Photo by Watt A Lot on Unsplash.

Homesteading may mean different things to different people. But ultimately, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. 

Growing your own food, preserving food, raising animals, generating your own electricity using renewable energy sources, and even a small-scale production of your own clothing are all examples of homesteading activities.

A family may decide to start living together in a house or land they own, grow food, rear livestock for their meat and dairy products, and generate electricity using solar panels for household use. 

Some homesteaders may decide to sell extra produce to help finance their homesteads. In contrast, others may choose not to use money but to exchange goods. There is no one-size-fits-all to homesteading today. You can choose to adopt what suits you and make changes to your lifestyle. 

What is a homestead? 

farming
Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash.

A homestead is a free-standing or isolated dwelling with adjoining land an owner occupies as its principal residence. What qualifies as a homestead can differ depending on the country or state. 

For example, some states in the United States may allow homeowners to register a portion of their property as a homestead. Homeowners also have homestead exemptions, which help minimize property taxes, amongst other legal protections. 

How did homesteading start?

Homesteading as we know it today has its roots in agriculture and humanity. Thousands of years ago, homesteading started as a way to meet the basic needs of life, like food, water, and shelter, while striving for self-sufficiency and independence. 

Migration and land ownership 

In the United States, homesteading became famous thanks to The Homestead Act of 1862. The Act came into being on May 20th, 1862, and was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. 

Under the Homestead Act of 1862, public land was granted to US citizens willing to farm and settle on the land for at least five years. The goal was to encourage people to migrate to the American West. 

Over the years, millions of people became landowners. Through this Act, the federal government granted homesteaders almost 10% of the United States lands. 

However, in the 1970s and 1980s, the idea of ‘free land’ ended when the government repealed the Act.  

Modern-day homesteading 

With the uncertainty of today’s world, people now seek a more self-sufficient way of life. Homesteading has evolved over the years, and while it is still synonymous with growing your food, raising animals, and becoming self-sufficient, there are now various forms and styles of homesteading. 

For example, urban homesteading is one style that has also become popular. You will find modern homesteaders in small apartments growing gardens and rearing animals. 

So, you can start homesteading wherever you are, whether you stay in urban or rural areas. 

What do homesteaders do? 

man farming
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash.

Homesteading is all about producing what you need for survival and sustenance. It’s about making mindful choices that positively impact you, your family, your community, and our planet. Homestead activities can include:

  • Growing your own food. You could grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables in your homestead. 
  • Raising animals like goats, chickens, and bees. 
  • Making your own clothing and self-care products.
  • Preserving food using techniques like drying, canning, and so on.  
  • Generating clean energy like solar, wind, or hydroelectric energy. 
  • Doing home repairs.
  • Making your own furniture and other carpentry work.
  • Maintaining a compost pile.
  • Collecting rainwater for your garden.

Benefits of Homesteading 

Here are a few potential benefits of the homesteading lifestyle: 

Homesteading is a self-sufficient and independent lifestyle. For many homesteaders, this brings a sense of freedom. 

1. Self-reliance and freedom 

windmill
Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

You don’t have to rely on public power grids or centralized food supplies. You can produce food, raise animals on your farm, and generate renewable power sources using solar panels, wind turbines, or water. 

Related Read: Why Is Renewable Energy Important?

2. Healthy, fresh food 

chicken eggs
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.

What’s better than getting fresh food right from your home? With the growing concerns about toxic chemicals in our food, you can continuously supply fresh, healthy food. 

For example, growing vegetables and rearing backyard chickens can give you and your family an endless supply of chickens, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.

3. Security in hard times 

Homesteading gives you security whether there is economic hardship or an unusual event like COVID-19. As a homesteader, you not only grow your food but will have to preserve them. This ensures you always have a good food supply, even when the unexpected happens. 

What’s more, acquired skills like gardening, milking, butchering, baking, and home preservation of food can carry you through an extreme survival scenario. 

4. Save money and reduce waste

man harvesting
Photo by Kamala Bright on Unsplash.

Undoubtedly, the way we consume has negatively impacted our environment, from plastics polluting our oceans to cheap products ending up in our landfills. 

With homesteading, you can take matters into your own hands and reduce your carbon footprint. Generating your electricity and making clothes on a small scale can be pocket-friendly, helping you save more money. You must make some upfront financial investments, which come with long-term benefits. 

5. Brings people together 

While independence and self-reliance are essential aspects of homesteading, they don’t leave out the community. Homesteading can build a strong community of people who support one another. 

As a homesteader, you can swap food and other products with people around you and build strong bonds. You can connect with people who think like you and support local businesses and farmers in your community.  

Challenges of Homesteading 

man feeding animals
Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash

Homesteading comes with many rewarding benefits, but not without challenges. Here are some challenges you may face on your homesteading journey: 

1. Time and labor intensive 

Living a life of independence and freedom comes with a price of time and labor. You will need to carry out daily chores and tackle the unexpected challenges of sustaining a homestead, which requires a considerable investment of your time and energy. 

2. Requires financial investment  

You will need to make some financial investments to keep your homestead running as a homesteader. 

For example, you need to invest in solar or wind turbines to generate clean energy in your homestead. You may also need to invest in facilities to raise your animals. 

3. Unexpected weather conditions 

A flood or an earthquake can significantly affect your homestead. This can lead to a massive loss of food and other resources, causing a domino effect of problems. 

Types of Homesteading   

rooftop homesteading
Photo by Syced on Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Thinking of where to start your homesteading journey? The good news is you can be a homesteader no matter where you are. Here are a few types of homesteading you can explore:

1. Suburban homesteading 

You can start your homesteading journey if you have a backyard or a large space in a suburban neighborhood. Modern homesteaders may not have acres of land to work with but use their backyards or large spaces to grow their gardens, compost, grow animals, and more. 

If you’re a suburban dweller and can’t afford to live off-grid, suburban homesteading may be an excellent option for you.

2. Apartment or urban homesteading 

An apartment or urban homestead is typically found in cities with little or no land. If you have an apartment, you don’t have to pause on your dreams of switching to a self-sufficient lifestyle. 

If you have a rooftop or balcony, you can start growing plants for food. And if you are lucky enough to have a community garden, you can grow food, rear chickens, and much more. 

3. Small-scale homesteading 

If you have a property with a decent land size smaller than ten acres, you can consider being a small-scale homesteader. These types of homesteads are often located in rural areas with farms and are perfect for average-sized families. 

4. Traditional or large-scale homesteading  

These are the off-grid types of homesteads where the homesteader has over ten acres of land to work with. Here, you can have large crops, livestock pens, woods, ponds, and everything you need to be completely self-reliant.

How to Start Modern Homesteading Today

plantbox
Photo by Jonathan Hanna on Unsplash.

Ready to start homesteading today? You will need to plan and be willing to learn new skills carefully. Here are a few steps to help you on your homesteading journey: 

1. Change your mindset.

As we already emphasized, homesteading is a self-reliant way of life. This means you will need to switch your mindset from a consumer mindset to a producer self-reliant mindset. 

2. Define your goals.

Next, you will need to define what your goals are clearly. Why do you want to start homesteading? Are you seeking a more sustainable lifestyle? Do you want to connect with nature? Or do you want a simple life away from the city buzz? 

Clearly defining your goals will help you invest in activities that push you toward achieving them. 

3. Research and educate yourself.

To do homesteading correctly, you will need to learn about different aspects of homesteading. Ensure you develop a broad skill set that will make you more self-reliant.

For example, you may need to learn how to grow a garden, raise animals, generate renewable energy, and DIY skills. You can invest in books, use online resources, and visit local workshops to educate yourself. 

Related Read: Best Books On Foraging, Best Permaculture Books.

4. Choose a suitable location.

People often believe that homesteading can only happen on large properties. However, you can start where you are. 

Whether you have a small backyard or a spacious rural land, choose a location that aligns with your homesteading goals. Look into factors like climate, soil quality, and regulations within your region.

5. Start with small homestead activities.

You don’t have to go all out too fast. Start with simple, manageable projects that help you build skills and experience. You might start with baking bread, growing a small vegetable garden, rearing backyard chickens, or composting

6. Connect with the homesteading community.

You don’t have to start your homesteading journey alone. You can join local or online homesteading communities to exchange ideas, seek advice, and learn from others with similar interests.

7. Comply with regulations.

Be aware of zoning regulations and any legal requirements for land use, animal keeping, and water usage in your country and state.

Wrapping up

Homesteading is for everyone! No matter where you live, you can begin your journey to a life of self-sufficiency and freedom. You can grow healthy foods, access clean energy and water, learn new skills, and more. Keep in mind that the homesteading journey won’t be without challenges. However, the rewards make the experience worth it. 

By Jennifer Okafor, BSc.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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