Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming about a life of sustainability, living off of the land, or simply being more in tune with nature? If so, you’ve come to the right place. It doesn’t matter your skill level, your surroundings, or your financial situation. Homesteading is possible for everyone. All it takes is some creativity, hard work, and lots of research on how to start a homestead!
Whether you already have an idea of what you want to produce, or you have no clue, we’re here to shed light on your journey. Here are the basics of homesteading and some tips and tricks to get you started today.
What Is Homesteading?
Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. Usually, it consists of a set of skills such as growing and preserving food or other products to consume or to sell on a small scale.
Homesteading isn’t limited to farming. It encompasses many categories of sustainability — all with the common goal to live off of what you produce.
Types of Homestead
Not all homesteads are built the same. The kind you have will be defined by how much space you have to work with. No matter where you live, you can always homestead in some way or another.
Indoor Homesteading / Apartment Homesteading
Growing your own food from your apartment may be challenging, but not impossible. For those that want to homestead in a modern setting, you’ll have to opt for fruits and vegetables that can grow in containers.
For natural lighting, place them by your windows or on your balcony, if you have one. Growing herbs are great because they take up very little space.
You could also check out indoor gardening kits - see this review from This Old House.
Urban homesteading is similar to indoor or apartment homesteading, except you have a small area to work outdoors. Its space can consist of a backyard less than an acre, or a small section of a community garden.
Urban homesteading can have a diversified small garden, a flock of hens for a quick stash of eggs, and maybe even small livestock if your local HOA allows it.
If you have more space you could even consider bee keeping! Raw honey is a great product to have around the house or sell locally. Plus raw honey can last a very long time!
A decent size piece of land in the rural area is the most sought after kind of property when it comes to homesteading. The number of acres you need will depend on what you plan to do.
If you want a farm to sustain your family, you’ll only need around 2 to 4 acres. If you plan on having a woodlot or plenty of livestock, you’ll need a much larger property.
How to Start a Homestead
Before you can begin your homestead plan, you must research to know what you want, what you’ll need for it, and if you have space for it. Use these guidelines to narrow down your options so that you don’t overwhelm yourself in the beginning — you’ll have plenty of time to add to your farm later on once you gain experience.
Here are some things to consider while you’re planning your homestead blueprint.
Your homestead is reliant on more than just space. Get familiar with your local laws so you know what you can and can’t grow, or what livestock you’re allowed to have on your property.
When you gain experience and decide to expand into a small farm business, you may need to apply for licenses and have it registered like any other company.
What you grow or raise must be favorable to the climate you’re in. This means you’ll have to get acquainted with the seasons, then act accordingly. With time, you’ll learn which vegetables grow better in warm or colder climates, and what season you should plant them. It also helps to learn how to preserve your food for winter so it will last longer during the harsh cold.
Your priorities will also be determined by what you intend to get out of your homestead. Do you want to live off-grid and generate your own water and energy? Are you doing this to decrease your carbon footprint? What you produce can also be tied to what you consume the most. For example, if you want to focus more on animal products, you may need to go on-grid for a while.
During the Great Depression, farming was ideal for providing for a whole family on a tight budget, and the same applies today. However, you’ll still need to calculate your expenses and find out how much you’re willing to spend to start and maintain your homestead.
For instance, building a vegetable garden bed and compost is a low-cost investment, whereas a chicken coop or bee hive can cost hundreds of dollars.
Learn from everyone you can; family, friends, neighbors, and everyone you know that has some background in sustainable living. Also check out some of the best homesteading books to read and mark up as you learn more.
There are also plenty of organizations designed to encourage better farming practices and help people like you to get a headstart in growing their own food.
Your Local Cooperative Extension System (CES)
Visit your local Cooperative Extension Office; it is where you will find grants listings that can benefit your situation. CES provides non-formal education and learning activities to farmers, residents in rural areas, as well as to people living in urban areas. The goal is to enrich lives by education and to expand agriculture education throughout the country.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Not only do they list funding resources for small farmers, but they also offer plenty of educational content. Their Small Farms Funding Resources publication includes a tutorial, helps you write a business plan, develop a grant proposal, and helps you find assistance programs for which you may be eligible.
Go to websites like Grant.gov and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. From there, you can search for grants and loans designated for small farmers and other agriculture producers. Agencies or educational institutions post sources for funding that may fit your needs and help you get started on your homestead.
Start your Homesteading Journey Today!
Your journey in homesteading will be a process of non-stop learning: You’ll make mistakes, achieve victories, and get excited to find new things to produce in your garden.
Not only will you be rewarded with self-sustainability and experience, but you’ll also create your own definition of what it means to homestead. There are no limitations to homesteading; with enough planning, you can grow and raise everything you need, right where you are. Now that you know how to start a homestead - let the journey begin!
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