What is Homesteading & How Does it Help the Environment?

Homesteading has garnered increased attention in recent years. As more and more people become increasingly aware and conscious of issues related to food security, health and wellness and the environment, it has prompted the re-emergence of the homesteading lifestyle.

The following article will outline everything you need to know about homesteading.

What is Homesteading?

A homestead is “a dwelling with its land and buildings, occupied by the owner as a home and exempted by a homestead law from seizure or sale from debt”. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, homesteading was a phenomenon in which immigrants were attracted to the Canadian West by the government to resettle the land. However, homesteading is used more informally today.

Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is the practice of living in a sustainable, natural way with all the resources on hand. Its definition is not bound to space, which means it does not matter where someone lives, rather what matters is the lifestyle choices they make. It usually goes hand-in-hand with minimalism and living a more frugal and conscious lifestyle.

Examples of homesteading self-sufficiencies include:

  • Subsistence agriculture (e.g. growing vegetables and raising livestock)
  • Home preservation of food
  • Small scale production of textiles, clothing and craftwork
  • Renewable energy (e.g. solar and wind power)

Being a modern homesteader is characterized by the following:

  • Self-reliance
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Preparedness
  • Autonomy
  • A deeper connection to the natural world

There was an increased desire to be connected to the supply chain, especially food, clothes, and other goods. Modern homesteading is perfect for those who want to be self-sufficient, take an active role in the consumption cycle, and enjoy making environmentally and socially conscious decisions. Modern homesteading can take many forms, from traditional farmsteads to urban roof gardens and compost bins.

6 Benefits of the Homesteading Lifestyle

Homesteading has several advantages, from an individual and financial perspective. Homesteading is a conscious decision to live a more sustainable and independent lifestyle.

1. Freedom and independence

Homesteading can provide a sense of freedom that working for someone else or living in the city cannot. It is a way to cut back on living costs, know where your food is coming from, and embark on a journey of self-sufficiency and reliance.

2. Satisfaction of living responsibly

Homesteading generally means you are living a sustainable lifestyle that avoids Depleting the earth’s natural resources by reducing demand for water, energy, trees and fossil fuels. There is great satisfaction in living a lifestyle that generates less waste, prioritizes the use of renewable resources and minimizes consumption.

3. Healthier lifestyle

Homesteading has benefits to your physical and mental health. Homesteading provides people with a deeper purpose and deeper connection to the earth, which is known to improve mental health. There are also many health benefits to growing and sourcing your own food. Homesteaders generally adopt organic agricultural practices and grow good-tasting foods. Homesteading provides a natural and non-toxic environment for a family to thrive where you are constantly inspired by your own resourcefulness.

4. Protection

A property that has been homesteaded is protected from forced sale to satisfy debts from personal loans. However, it does not protect you from foreclosure for not paying your property tax, mortgage, homeowner association fees, or construction fees. It guarantees that your family will still have a home after you are gone as your family will inherit the estate.

5. Tax Exemptions

In some states, homesteading a house will grant you a property tax exemption, that is based on the assessed value of your property. The exemption also protects the value of your home from property taxes, creditors and circumstances that arise from the death of the homeowner’s spouse.

6. Holistic

Homesteaders often have a holistic perspective and view of the environment. Holistic refers to the belief that all things are inherently connected and humans should approach life as such. Generally, this relates to the treatment of livestock, agricultural practices, and day-to-day decisions.

10 Ways homesteading helps the environment

  1. Uses less energy
  2. Produces fewer carbon emissions
  3. Uses alternative energy sources (e.g. wind turbines and solar panels)
  4. Produces less waste
  5. Produce less food waste
  6. Food doesn’t travel as far
  7. Use natural solutions and organic methods
  8. Helps protect and preserve biodiversity
  9. Produce more and buy less
  10. Reduce, reuse and recycle

Homesteaders embrace a sustainable lifestyle with the environment in mind. It offers a real, tangible way to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle that has minimal impact on the planet.

Many homesteaders use alternative energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels, to help decrease energy costs and help reduce fossil fuel consumption. Growing your own food helps cut down on consumerism and reduces packaging waste. Homesteaders adopt a local mentality, where they seek resources and food within a close distance to where they live.

Homesteaders are often very holistic and conscious of the importance of a thriving ecosystem. Many will plant gardens with blooming flowers to attract bees and other pollinators, build a home for bees or hang bird feeders. Through these small activities, they are helping to maintain a thriving ecosystem and protect biodiversity.

History and Future of Homesteading

Homesteading is not a new concept and has existed for centuries in various forms.

Homesteading as a government policy

Homesteading has been used by government entities to settle previously unsettled areas. It was a tactic used in the United States, Canada, and Australia to engage in national expansion. The historical definition of the homestead was made famous by The Homestead Act of 1862, which encouraged western migration by providing settlers with 160 acres of land in exchange for a nominal filing fee.

Public land in the western United States was granted to any US citizen willing to settle and farm the land for at least five years. In Canada, a similar act was adopted, called the Dominion Lands Act in 1872. It allowed for lands in Western Canada to be granted to individuals in an attempt to help prevent the area from being claimed by the United States.

There was renewed interest in homesteading in the 1930s and 1940s when US President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced a program of subsistence homesteading. This program was based on a philosophy of “back-to-the-land” to encourage a partial return to the simpler farming life of the past.

Homesteading as a Social Movement

Aspects of modern homesteading gained popularity in the 1960s in the United States. There was great interest in the idea of getting “back-to-the-land”. Self-sufficiency movements started in the 1990s and continued throughout the 2000s. The characteristics of homesteading were adopted in both urban and suburban settings.

Homesteading as an Economic Choice

Homesteading focuses on self-reliance, independence, and self-determination. Independence and self-sufficiency vary across a spectrum depending on the individual homestead. For example, sometimes, the homesteading lifestyle follows a successful career that provides the funding for land, taxes, and specialized equipment. At the same time, homesteading may also save you money in some areas of life.

How to Become a Modern Homesteader

While there is no exact definition of what it means to be a modern homesteader, for many people, it involves owning land and building on it. Most homesteaders have a small-scale farm with the dream of being self-sufficient and self-reliant.

Types of Homesteading:

  • Homestead farming: growing crops and livestock on a single-family property.
  • Off-the-grid homesteads: living without the reliance on utility companies.
  • Small homestead: sometimes also called backyard homestead. Maximizes a smaller land area to produce impressive amounts of sustenance.
  • Urban homesteading: adopting more sustainable living methods can be done anywhere.

Moving from a typical modern lifestyle to being a homesteader does not usually happen overnight. It is often a gradual process that involves selling everything, buying land, and preparing to move. Start small and increase the scale of your homestead over time. Remember that homesteading is all about what feels right to you.

The easiest way to adopt a homesteading lifestyle is to produce some of your food through a garden. Planting a garden is a low-cost activity that can help kick start your homesteading journey. Micro-livestock animals, such as ducks, turkeys, chickens or quail, require only a small plot of land to raise and will provide your family with fresh eggs and meat.

Even if you are in an urban setting, you can still become a homesteader by starting a vegetable garden, getting a few backyard chickens and preserving your own food.

Homesteading does not mean you need to completely overhaul your life. It can be a full-time job and lifestyle or it can be a hobby or part-time job.

Things to Consider When Becoming a Modern Homesteader

Although the government is no longer handing out free land, there are still ways to become a modern homesteader. It is all about a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle. Before taking the plunge, consider the following:

  • Think about what homesteading involves
  • Make sure your spouse, partner and family are 100% onboard
  • Learn everything you can about homesteading before making a decision
  • Set goals
  • Decide where you want to live (e.g. remote area, close proximity to the city)
  • Figure out how much land you need
  • Identify if your land/area has water access, gas and other services
  • Modern government regulations can increase the cost of home production of food in areas where restrictions exist
  • Homesteading requires a lot of manual labor

Homesteading Tips

  1. Pay off your debt or stop accruing debt
  2. Sell your goods
  3. Raising larger livestock will generate more income
  4. Become an entrepreneur and have multiple streams of income
  5. Practice subsistence agriculture
  6. Learn to preserve your own food
  7. Produce your own textiles, clothing and other crafts
  8. Make friends with other homesteaders
  9. Make a budget
  10. Compost

Simple Homesteading Activities to Try

Interested in homesteading, but want to start slow? Try some of these activities to get started:

  • Raise your own chickens
  • Plant a vegetable garden,
  • Grow food to feed your family
  • Start an indoor herb garden
  • Learn to pickle, can and preserve
  • Create your own homestead kitchen
  • Stock a root cellar
  • Build your own furniture
  • Learn to dehydrate food
  • Forage for food
  • Make your own clothes
  • Making bread

Common Animals, Vegetables & Goods for Homesteading

While every homestead is different, homesteaders share some similarities. The following will explore the most popular animals, vegetables and goods that are found on a homestead.

Common animals on a homestead and their purpose

  • Bees (honey)
  • Quail (eggs and meat)
  • Pheasants (eggs and meat)
  • Chickens (eggs and meat)
  • Rabbits (meat and fur)
  • Dwarf and pygmy goats (milk)
  • Hogs (meat)
  • Sheep (wool, milk and meat)
  • Cows (milk and meat)

Common handmade goods on a homestead

  • Candles
  • Soap
  • Knit or woven clothes
  • Quilts
  • Folk medicines
  • Clothes from animal leathers

Common vegetables are grown on a homestead

  • Fastest-growing vegetables
    • Spinach
    • Kale
    • Arugula
    • Radish
    • Lettuce
    • Beans
    • Snap peas
    • Green onions
  • Best crops to be grown on a homestead
    • Corn
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Potatoes
    • Wheat
    • Leafy greens
    • Garlic
    • Hemp
    • Beans
    • Onions
    • Tomatoes
    • Peas

Best States to Homestead In

  • Iowa
  • Wyoming
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Oregon
  • Indiana
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Missouri

Homesteading is a lifestyle that means something different to everyone. It is about personal choices that lead to a life of self-sufficiency and simplicity.

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