Why do people homestead? What Is Homesteading?

Why do people homestead? What Is Homesteading?

So, you have decided that you want to invest in building a homestead. It is essential to know what it is and its purpose to create something.

It is common for people to mistake a homestead for a farm, although they are vastly different. Daniel Mark Schwartz (n.d.) writes that “farms are generally larger, averaging over 400 acres in the United States, which are designed to grow crops for profit. Homesteaders live and work on their land, whereas farmers often don’t.”

You may be asking yourself if you sell food from a homestead, does that make you a farm? If a farmer consumes their products, does that make them a homestead? The lines can be easily blurred, but there are still significant ways to tell them apart.

  • For instance, a homestead will be known for growing a wide assortment of food, as its primary purpose is to provide for the family.
  • On the other hand, a farm will tend to specialize in producing a particular food or a few crops to maximize sales.
  • This causes homesteaders to primarily rely on the food grown on their land for a living, whereas farmers rely on the profit their food sales will bring, even though they may consume their corn or avocados sometimes.
  • This fundamental difference between the purpose of each land leads to different production methods. A homesteader will opt for low-volume manual production, as the magnitude of what they produce is not as large as that of a farmer, who tends to invest in agricultural machinery, such as harvesters and tractors.
  • The sheer volume of work required to generate produce and meet production standards demands technological assistance.
  • However, homesteaders can make a little extra income from selling some of the produce grown on their land plot to local restaurants or farmer’s markets. Yet, the magnitude of the plot and the primary intention behind its acquisition must be considered to offer a complete picture of what a homestead is.

What’s the difference between a homestead and a farm?

Homesteads tend to be far smaller in size than farms. There is no prescribed size for either, but the purpose is far different. The Homestead Act allows families to harbor 160 acres, yet this size is still relatively large, even by modern standards.

Most homesteads are plots of land ranging from 5-20 acres for usability and cost benefits. Most families tend to be okay with this range as it allows them to be self-sufficient.

What also seems to be popular is plots of land under 5 acres in neighborhoods where people are doing backyard homestead. They want the benefits of being self-sufficient but not away from everything.

Why is it called homestead?

The difference in the size of the plot leads to the next point, which is that homesteaders tend to live on their property, whereas farmers don’t. The nomenclature gives this away, but the word’s true origins date back to the Homestead Act of 1862, which Abraham Lincoln signed. The act sought to provide parcels of land to families prepared to build a home and ameliorate the land over five years.

Unlike homesteaders, farmers are not required to reside on their plots. It was not uncommon for farmers to do so in the past, particularly in the antebellum South. Yet, this practice has declined over the years, with farmers choosing to reside in tiny farm towns or other personal residences.

Is homesteading becoming popular?

Now that we know what a homestead is let us elaborate on why people choose to become homesteaders. It is easy to assume that all homesteaders share the same beliefs and reasons for choosing homesteading, but that’s not the case.

  • Some people start a homestead from a place of abundance; after having successful careers, they decide to retire to a more self-sufficient way of life. These people generally have the financial means to purchase and invest in the infrastructure to fully reap the benefits of the lifestyle.
  • Others may be approaching homesteading from a less prolific stance; after having experienced financial hardship, they want to construct a humble stronghold to provide sustenance for their families.
  • Other people want to become closer to nature and share physical labor. It is common for people to want to escape the “rat race” and sever ties with the industrial complex in pursuit of a more organic way of living.

There is a great joy, and a certain level of connection, which comes from a piece of fruit that was personally grown and tended to. These are practices that are lost for the average urban dweller and seeking to restore a connection with this aspect of humanity is what leads some to become homesteaders.

Homesteading is a term that encompasses multiple varieties. It can be a complicated notion to fully grasp because it is a complex way of living. The official definition of homesteading is to adopt a self-sufficient lifestyle. Although the definition seems relatively simple, it is important to address the various nuances of the movement.

What do homesteaders do all day?

The homesteader lifestyle can take on many forms. This depends on whether the homestead is in a rural, suburban, or urban area. When they begin their project, the person’s financial standing has the most noticeable impact on what the homestead will look like.

The core purpose of self-sufficiency remains present, but its real-life application varies regarding economic prowess. Older homesteads were more akin to those displayed in Little House on the Prairie, being large plots of land that produced sustenance for its occupants. These plots were usually as large as 160 acres.

Modern homesteads aren’t necessarily in the middle of nowhere like their prototypical counterparts and are typically selective in the type of habits that they require for sustainability. This could be gathering rainwater, setting up urban gardens, engaging in subsistence agriculture, hunting, composting, crafting, making clothes, digging a well for water, utilizing wind or solar energy, raising chicken or other livestock, wood burning for heat, and even forgoing the use of money for a barter system.

All of this may sound overwhelming for the average urban dweller. Still, it’s important to note that homesteading can start with something as small as being able to chop your firewood or raising a small number of chickens in the backyard as you work your way up to the more difficult habits that may be appealing to you.

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