What is a Homestead?

Homestead Flowers

Define Homestead

Merriam-Webster says the word “homestead (hōm-ˌsted)” can be either a noun or a verb.

Noun: “the home and adjoining land occupied by a family.”

Verb: “to acquire or occupy as a homestead.”

Is My Home a Homestead?

Using the definition above it would seem that the place you call home is a homestead if you occupy it as such.

You don’t need to have 160 acres of good farmland or live in a rustic one-room sod house or log cabin.

Many homesteaders live in apartments and grow tomatoes or salad greens in containers on a balcony or under grow lights.

Define Homesteader

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a “homesteader” is “someone who goes to live and grow crops on land given by the government, especially in the past.”

Am I a Homesteader?

While you are probably not living and growing crops on land given to you by the government (and if you are I’d love to meet you), I think we can all agree that a more modern definition would include anyone that is pursuing a more self-reliant lifestyle.

Some homesteaders are interested in cleaner food for their families. Some are trying to rediscover the old ways of producing and preserving food outside of commercial agriculture.

Others just enjoy the challenge and reward of planting a seed or buying a baby critter and watching it grow.

Harold Thornbro from SmallTownHomestead.com and The Modern Homesteading Podcast routinely encourages people interested in living a homestead lifestyle to start now, where you are. I’d have to agree with him that many people think they have to wait until they are on a bigger property or their “dream property” but that’s just not true. Start where you are, start small and gain knowledge and experience. Sure you might not be able to have chickens or raise pigs. But growing a tomato plant in a pot can teach you invaluable lessons that cannot be learned any other way.

Homesteading in Small Spaces

Lehman’s has some good options and information for growing vegetables in small spaces. You can use raised beds and elevated planting solutions even if you don’t own any ground to plant in. These Smart Pots are also a good solution on a patio or in a small yard. AeroGarden makes a small countertop aquaponics set up that will fit on your windowsill and provide you with fresh herbs all year long.

Farmer’s Markets

If you are not ready to start growing your own produce farmer’s markets can be a good place to start. Beginning in the spring of the year you can find homegrown produce fairly cheap. The greatest value is the ability to talk to the people that grew it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how the produce you’re interested in was grown, how to prepare or preserve it. In my experience, these folks are often more than happy to share their knowledge and love of their harvest.

While at the farmer’s market you can buy many different varieties and get a feel for what you like and will use the most of. You may find that you love eggplant and your family eats it three times per week. Or maybe no one liked it at all. At least it didn’t take all spring to grow it to figure it out.

United States Public Lands

Every U.S. citizen owns 640 Million Acres of public land. These public lands can be a valuable resource for your homestead. Sure there are some restrictions. For instance, you cannot build a house or plant a garden. You can, however, hunt, fish, and forage on nearly all of it. All you have to do is purchase the proper license or hold the proper exemptions. Your state Department of Natural Resources is your go-to source for information on access and rules on these lands.

Sometimes public lands get a bad rap. People often claim they are overcrowded and mismanaged. I’ve used public lands in a few states for activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and foraging.

Of course, days like opening day of deer firearms season competition for prime locations close to parking areas can be extreme. By getting up a little earlier and walk a little farther I avoid 99% of my counterparts.

Any time I’ve been hiking or fishing the people I’ve encountered were just like me, a friendly wave and reasonable personal space is returned in kind. If you really want solitude on public land a late summer squirrel hunt in the hardwood forest is hard to beat.

It seems that every few years our public lands come under attack from politicians. They want to sell our land to private interests. This unites hunters, anglers, horseback riders, backpackers and birdwatchers. Together, we’ve been able to defeat such initiatives. #keepitpublic

Land & Water Conservation Fund

Homestead Resource

In many cases, these public lands are right in our back yards. The Land & Water Conservation Fund is funded by an excise tax placed on offshore oil development. The Department of the Interior distributes these funds to nearly every county in the U.S. Counties use the funds to provide recreation access for the public. Often these consist of walking trails, picnic areas and even small lakes where you can fish.

Are You a Homesteader?

Honestly, if you think you are then no one has the right to disagree. Homesteading is a state of mind for the most part. I guess if all you do is play video games and eat fast food it would be hard to call you a homesteader. However, if you’re interested at all and take one step toward your dream then welcome to the club!

We are all glad to have you join us!


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