College Writing 2
Dr. Jordan Canzonetta
"Homesteading: An Old Practice in a Modern World"
When I began considering my career-based topic to discuss and research extensively, I couldn’t think of one–or a good one for that matter...Whatever I came up with was very surface level and made-up–I knew writing about such things wouldn’t benefit me much. Instead, I chose something that has interested me for quite some time: homesteading. As I began researching and receiving feedback, I found out quickly that not many are actually aware of what homesteading is. Think of backyard chickens and gardening. Now scale these things up to a point where you can achieve almost complete self-sustainability. Homesteading narrows down to you, the land, and what you make of it. I like to think about homesteading as something floating in between the Amish lifestyle and modern living.
Although I come from a very typical suburban background, I’ve always been fond of farming, gardening, working outdoors and simply doing things myself. I plant a garden annually, have volunteered on a farm, love to bake from scratch, and have always wanted chickens. Even though these things often require hard work, they bring me peace and a sense of fulfillment. Integrating aspects of or fully embracing homesteading has been in my peripheral for quite some time, especially with how hectic the world has become. I think there are numerous benefits that come from embracing homesteading, or at least appreciating it! I will be exploring ways homesteading or aspects of self-sufficiency can fit into an average lifestyle and why doing so is important.
The History of Homesteading
In 1862, The Homestead Act granted United States citizens up to 160 acres of public land. As long as the land was lived and improved upon for a certain number of years, those who wanted the land got it for virtually nothing. However, this act was completely repealed in 1976. The act was clearly an incentive for western migration in the United States after the Civil War and its repeal appears obvious. However, some states still respect homesteading to a degree and many will offer certain tax benefits and land grants.
So...What is Homesteading?
Homesteading, at its core, is a voluntary self-sufficient lifestyle, with levels of sufficiency varying from person to person. Homesteading can range from an apartment rooftop garden to a large-scale ranch. The purpose of homesteading is to become more self-sufficient, resourceful, and kinder to the environment. Some common homesteading activities include gardening, raising live-stock, cooking from scratch, and food preservation. Homesteading commonly revolves around some form of isolation, so many who choose this lifestyle used to be stereotypically viewed as a strange fringe of society, typically preppers or extremely religious. However, more and more from typical urban and suburban backgrounds have been drawn to living off the land.
However, this lifestyle is broad and difficult to pinpoint an exact definition. Jack of the Freedom Homestead YouTube channel gathered input from fellow homesteaders answering the question, “What does homesteading mean to you?” in his video What Is Homesteading?. Some testimonies included: trying to get back to old ways, trying to learn how to do things for yourself instead of relying on others, taking things back to the way they were, doing what you can with what you have where you are, and a life-long building of skills.
After performing the interviews and analyzing patterns in many of the responses, Jack summed up his findings in three main points:
- Homesteading is a mindset of wanting to do more instead of relying solely on a store or industry or government (food, energy, schooling etc.).
- Homesteading is the regeneration of skills from the past and becoming a provider.
- Homesteading is a way of teaching your family skills and connecting them to nature.
These definitions and insights not only provide a better scope of what homesteading is, but begin to address the reasons behind homesteading.
Why Do People Homestead?
There are countless reasons many choose to homestead, whether it be out of want or need. The definition of homesteading gives a general idea of the mindset of homesteaders, but not core reasons. A Reddit post in r/homestead created by user jeffpcreations inquired why others have chosen to homestead. Many responses included how homesteading made them feel, concern for the environment, the quality of homegrown produce, independence, freedom, diet, racism, finances, and family. Users mentioned how good and rewarding homesteading felt (one even mentioned that they sleep better!) Homesteading is an opportunity to give back to the earth rather than constantly taking. Whether it be for financial obligations or a hobby, these reasons clear up many of the misconceptions about this lifestyle.
Increase in Popularity
The pandemic has caused many to reconsider the way they live. The shut-down of society sent many into a panic. Some are fearful of more future epidemics or pandemics and shortages, restrictions, and mandates that may accompany them. Working from home and online allowed many to reassess their career or lifestyle. Many have grown tired of being at a screen all day and need an excuse to escape. Regardless of reason, there has been a significant increase of interest in homesteading since the pandemic. A local Kentucky journalist addressed this rise in popularity and interviewed two fairly new homesteaders on their experiences. They say,
“We don't know what's going to happen, just cross your fingers that [the pandemic] doesn't get worse. But if it does, we have renewable sources of eggs and meat and protein...We've got chickens we could eat if everything were to close down tomorrow...It's money-saving and it guarantees you'll have something to eat.”
Recent trying times and the overwhelming presence of tech in modern life have encouraged many to become more self-reliant and rekindle a connection to nature. Homesteading grants a sense of security and an escape from the hustle and bustle.
For some, homesteading may be a way to escape the tiresome grasp of the internet. However, the rapid expanse of the world wide web has encouraged the growth of this lifestyle. The internet has allowed many to work remotely, start a business, and share the ins and outs of homesteading via social media. Although not a homesteader, I have followed closely with Goldshaw Farms’ journey to becoming financially independent through social media and sales. Ironically, a self-sufficient lifestyle is more accessible than ever!
All Shapes and Sizes
When looking into homesteading, it may appear that this lifestyle requires a large acreage of land, a giant barn, and farming equipment. But in reality, a homestead can be any size or scale. Running off into the countryside and buying 100 acres may work for some, but most current homesteaders and those interested in it may not have the means just yet. Homesteading is a mentality of making do with what you have. Aust, the creator of the Homesteady YouTube channel, claims that the costs and necessities for homesteading are less than expected. Space is probably the largest hindrance to those who want to start homesteading. Any access to space, even an apartment balcony, could suffice for a piece of homestead. As long as you are making an effort to use that space resourcefully, it can count as a homestead.
What’s So Great About Homesteading?
There are a plethora of benefits that can flourish from a self-sustainable lifestyle! Not only can homesteading be a means of preparation, but can make you healthier, happier, more resourceful, and more environmentally aware.
Health Inside and Out
Organic and ethically sourced foods may be pricey or hard to come by. Growing and harvesting your own food can be an excellent source of organic vegetables, fruits, and meats. According to the USDA, organic foods lack the use of synthetic fertilizers, irradiation, sewage, and genetic engineering. Because of these growing methods, studies have shown that organic foods have shown to be more nutrient-dense than commercially grown foods and pose less of a risk of containing toxic heavy metals and synthetic pesticides. You may not be able to grow every single food yourself, but providing your own with nutritious vegetables and greens or cage-free eggs for your dinner table can make a big difference to your health and wallet!
There is no lack of nature when working on a homestead! Increasing the time you spend outside can have very positive benefits on mental health and stress reduction. An Oxford University study that investigated the correlation between natural exposure (“vegetation cover” and bird song) and mental health was able to conclude that increased exposure to nature in urban areas made significant differences in levels of anxiety, depression, and stress in participants.
The homesteading mentality strongly correlates with an environmentally aware attitude; making do with what you have inevitably puts you on a much greener path. Although you may not see homesteaders driving Teslas or solely relying on solar energy, growing and preserving seasonal food can eliminate plastic waste. Composting food scraps and repurposing waste keeps garbage out of landfills and directly benefits your garden or home. Many choose to collect rainwater from their gutters to save water (and money!). Larger homesteads may choose to set up solar grids as a primary or secondary source of energy for their homes. Even keeping your land untouched for native plants to grow will benefit the environment. All these practices will make you more eco-friendly and appreciative of what the earth so generously provides for us!
As previously mentioned, many choose to homestead as a precaution. Homesteading can arm you with the necessary food, materials, and attitude if another worldly disaster such as the pandemic were to happen. Even two years after the initial pandemic shock, food and supply shortages, such as meat, lumber, and fertilizer, are still going strong, with many more being anticipated to come in the near future. Homesteading values methods of preservation and planning of their land to prepare for the next event (or even just the winter) rather than buying and stocking persevered foods and supplies in bulk like a prepper. Self-sufficiency can grant you an extra cushion of preparation for you or your family if anything were to happen.
Some Harsh Realities
Homesteading may seem simple, but not everything is perfect. It’s simply another layer of responsibility. When you homestead, you have to take up the responsibility of your family or spouse (or maybe just yourself), your crops, your land, your home, and your livestock and pets. It’s very possible that you may never have a true day off. Things will go wrong: a frost can wipe out your seedlings, a nasty storm can blow down your fruit trees, or a bird flu can wipe out your flock of hens. Homesteading is messy, dirty, and stressful. But if you don’t take the risks, you won’t reap any of the rewards–this is true for any aspect of life!
Can You Balance a Job and a Homestead?
Homesteading can be difficult and strenuous, and a certain attitude is required, but after considering the benefits and satisfaction that this lifestyle may provide, I began to wonder how to begin homesteading, or at least fit aspects of self-sufficiency into my life. Being in college, my main focus lies towards getting a successful career, but other important aspects of my desired future sadly aren’t prioritized. I took this opportunity to investigate how a self-sufficient lifestyle can be prioritized into my future and how others balance a career and homestead.
Searching for Answers (Methods)
In order to find an answer to my question, I turned to Reddit to gather some personal testimonies from users. Although many turn to a self-sustainable lifestyle to minimize the presence of the internet, many homesteaders create online platforms to make themselves and their practices known, as well as to share with and receive advice from other fellow homesteaders. Reddit has a very dedicated population of homesteaders on r/homestead, a subreddit with over 2.3 million members, many of whom share the ins and outs of their homesteading experiences. I decided to post my inquiries there:
Hello!! I’m currently doing research on homesteading for my college writing class and I was hoping to input some testimonies from those who have ex-perience to whatever degree with homesteading and/or farming into my pro-ject. I’m interested in homesteading myself and would love to hear some of your experiences! Please consider the following questions:
-What are some factors that led you to homestead?
-How long have you been homesteading?
-Do you consider homesteading a priority or something you fit into your life?
-What were some things you did to prepare for your homestead?
-What were some challenges you faced getting started with your home-stead?
-How do you manage homesteading finances and a career? Or, is home-steading your main source of financial support?
-If you have a job outside of homesteading, what are some difficulties you face in trying to commit to both?
There was a mix of ideas and opinions regarding working and homesteading sim-ultaneously. Out of the seven replies I received, only one was a fully monetized home-steader making money off of produce. They saw demand for premium fresh produce amongst friends and family, quit their job three years ago, and now make 100% of their revenue from homesteading. The remaining repliers either worked alongside their homestead, focused on their career, but integrated self-sufficiency, or did not homestead at all.
One user who has been working a day job alongside homesteading, provided some criticism towards solely homesteading. They claimed that a career provides valida-tion that homesteading could not and that there is little recognition for hard work. They then suggested I look into USDA and IRS data regarding farmers with second non-farm incomes, which apparently is a majority of farmers. The statistics should be similar amongst homesteaders. I was previously under the impression that many fully mone-tized their homestead. However, according to my data, this may be a minority.
Other users mentioned that they were currently focusing on their career and slowly building up homesteading skills. It appears that many kept homesteading as a
side hobby with the intention of eventually turning it into a profiting lifestyle. One user based his career choices on his future plans to start a homestead—planning ahead is im-portant. Another user touched on how the pandemic (which caused their work to go re-mote) allotted extra time to focus on the homestead and become more serious about it. Working remotely has definitely made homesteading more accessible. This response is also backed by the previously mentioned article regarding the recent increase in home-steading due to the pandemic.
Balancing homesteading and career is an individual choice and depends on one’s personal habits and motivation. But, most current homesteaders do have a job along-side, and the “great resignation” from the corporate world to homesteading isn’t as prominent as suggested. Many keep doing both because of the sense of security, free-dom, and satisfaction a homesteading lifestyle offers them. It may need extra work, planning, and willpower, but I can conclude that it is fully possible to homestead along-side a career.
Need a Change? Are you tired of the repetitive and seemingly shallow reality of today? Do you have the desire to do more for yourself and grow closer to nature? If so, homesteading may be an option for you! Homesteading has been around for over a hundred years, but because of many recent global circumstances and the exponential growth of the internet, many more have been drawn to this pioneering lifestyle. With extra free time and work-ing remotely, homesteading and its benefits are more accessible today than ever before. However, it takes planning, patience, and hard work to receive the benefits of fresh home-grown organic foods, a deeper connection to nature, and a stocked pantry. Alt-hough homesteading may seem unattainable, anyone from any background can home-stead. As long as you are committed to being resourceful with what they have, your homestead can happen on a windowsill.
If you want to reap the benefits of homesteading alongside a career, it is very pos-sible! Plenty of homesteaders have jobs and careers. You don’t have to run away into the wilderness to live a dream of living with nature and off the land. It can very much hap-pen with where you already are and with what you already have. Homesteading may not be for everyone, but if you want to find an escape from everyday chaos, provide more for yourself, or even just pick up an outdoor hobby, homesteading, or pieces of it, is a great way to do so. I certainly know that I will be planning my future plans around the intent of living more self-sufficiently!
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U.S. Department of Agriculture. “What is Organic? | Agricultural Marketing Service.” Agricultural Marketing Service, 1 September 2011, https://www.ams.usda.gov/publications/content/what-organic.
“What Is Homesteading?” YouTube, uploaded by Freedom Homestead, 29 August 2019, https://youtu.be/l1YIThPzxJs.