Are you curious about how to live a more simple life? Become more self-sufficient? Growing your own food? Well, let’s dig into an introduction to homesteading to help get you started. Soon, you’ll be ready for your homesteading journey and self-sufficient living.
Whether you own or plan to own acres of land, want to live off grid in the middle of nowhere, build a backyard homestead or an urban homestead, there is good news! There are so many ways you can utilize any space, no matter how little the space, to grow your own food and develop a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Before I get started, let me introduce myself.
My name is Heather, from Second Chance Farm. My family and I, including my husband and son, are living the farm life in East Tennessee. Together, we currently focus on growing our own food, raising beef cattle, horses, and Guinea fowl. We also have our rescue animals (horses, dogs and cats right now). We are putting in efforts to expand and welcome more rescue animals in need of a forever home. Soon, we will be adding laying and meat chickens to our farm, as well as some donkeys that will serve as protection for our calves.
At the end of this post, I share more in detail about our homesteading journey. You will also find my contact information if you have any questions along your journey.
What is Homesteading?
There are a couple of terms used and interchanged when it comes to homesteading. It’s worth defining them, and knowing the difference, so you can clearly set your goals.
Homesteading refers to a self-sufficient lifestyle. Not to be confused with Farmsteading which is a homestead that is run like a business.
Hobby Farming is a pleasure venture and not focused on profit or self-sufficiency.
We currently run a small family farm as a business. Meanwhile, we are also homesteading by living off the land. This full time job has increased our self-sufficiency.
Our products, livestock, and the food we grow is for our family, first. Once we are fed, the remainder is marketed for sale. We both currently work full time on our farm, Jeff is a retired police officer and I am an educational leader turned stay at home mom and farm-her. I still work part time as a consultant, but I am able to make my job as a mom and farmer the priority.
Urban and Backyard Homesteading
The first step is evaluating your space and what resources you have available.
Using resources the land and your space already has to offer is the most affordable way to get started and also will help you to be the most successful. For example if you live on land with trees you may have your very own lumber source.
Working with what you have is a homesteader’s motto and quite honestly, a necessary skill!
Let’s consider some different settings.
If you live in a city setting, or an apartment, you, too, can start urban homesteading. You will likely need to plan growing food in containers, and work with local farmers to procure meat.
Search for an urban farm near you, and ask if you can have a tour. They are often open to sharing their space to aspiring homesteaders.
If you live in a neighborhood, chances are you have your own land with a backyard. A backyard is a great place to raise homegrown food, plant a herb garden, start a compost pile, and so much more. Family farms often start with a goal of small-scale sufficient country living.
Your basic needs can be met with little space in a backyard. For example, you may be gardening in raised beds or in the ground, and raising chickens for fresh eggs.
If you live on more land, there will be a significant difference when planning your homestead. There will be opportunities and challenges based on the climate and how much space you have on your land.
Different things to consider include water sources, rainfall amounts, gardening zone (length of season), native livestock and breeds, livestock feed source, etc.
Taking these into consideration is necessary for a homesteading lifestyle. Without taking small steps to plan, you will end up trying to grow and raise things that will not thrive.
Budgeting for Starting a Homestead
Time to start budgeting!
Most of the things you will grow and raise (or procure from a farmer) are seasonal. In the beginning, you will have up front costs that you will not have to pay for later. For example, tools, equipment, materials, and public land are upfront costs.
Other costs of modern homesteading include consumable items, feed, seeds, plants, veterinary costs, medications and supplies, etc.
Try not to get too overwhelmed by thinking about the money homesteading costs up front. The important part is prioritizing your needs once you have a budget and goals set.
Once you have a focus on the highest priorities, you can start getting creative, building, thrifting and buying used. With the exception of the consumable costs, there are many ways to accomplish your goals on a budget.
Additionally, start evaluating your lifestyle choices.
How can you make more things yourself as opposed to relying on purchasing them from the grocery store? A great way to do this is to learn how to preserve food.
When you are successfully growing food, you can learn to can it, dehydrate it, and freeze it. The best part is storing the fruits of your labor to last through the next growing season.
You can also begin looking into other DIY topics, such as making your own medicine, clothing, and more!
Developing skills that make you less reliant on buying is one of the first major steps into becoming more self-sufficient.
Introduction to Homesteading Resources
We highly recommend connecting with your local Agriculture Extension Office. They function in partnership with universities and provide a wealth of resources!
Additionally, they can inform you of the homestead act, organizations, and grants. Another good reason to contact your local extension office is for the help and support from the staff.
We have developed a great relationship with our local office, and can call them anytime we need information.
Follow people who are doing what you want to do on social media accounts, and build a network of resourceful friends. If you are connected on social media, there are many communities of homesteaders across the U.S. sharing ideas and answering questions. We have been astounded by the community we have found online. Many of them have become real life friends here in Tennessee.
If possible, find a homesteader, or farm-steader, that will show you how they have learned to be successful. . Most homesteaders you will find are helpful and more than willing to support others with their dreams of self-sufficiency.
Tips for Starting Homesteading
What are you waiting for? What is holding you back from getting started?
Here are some easy ideas to help you take your first steps:
- Find a local farmer and/or custom meat shop to procure your local meat.
- Find a local Mennonite and/or farmer to purchase fresh produce and other goods from.
- Learn what native plants grow where you are, and how they can be foraged for foods and medicines. Try making a tea or salve with them!
- Start cooking or baking one meal per week from scratch. Then, increase the frequency as you develop more scratch cooking skills and ideas.
- Learn how to make store bought goods like bread, noodles or tortillas.
- Learn how to preserve food with water bath canning such as jams, applesauce, and tomato sauce.
- Practice and learn other methods for preserving food such as dehydrating.
- Research what produce grows well in your area. Know the profile of your gardening zone.
- Grow something! Anything! Even if it’s just an herb you cook with. Just get to growing your own veggie garden.
- Consider replacing existing landscaping with fruiting plants or trees, or perennial vegetables such as asparagus. A living landscape of perennials can provide a food source each year.
My Homesteading Experience
I was lucky enough to grow up on a small farmstead. Growing up, we raised sheep, livestock and poultry for our own consumption.
We always had a seasonal garden as well as an orchard that provided food for our family.
I enjoyed showing cattle, horses, sheep, and rabbits, through 4-H and FFA. I loved it so much I went to college to be an Agriculture teacher!
After earning my Bachelor of Science in Agribusiness Marketing, I completed coursework for my Master’s of Science in Agriscience. Right away, I became busy in my education career. My career took a turn into school and district administration. When we moved from California to Tennessee, I decided to step away from my career and focus on farming and being a stay at home mom full time. I was able to immerse myself in this agriculture lifestyle again. Although I have a lot of knowledge about agriscience, homesteading is new to us!
We’re here to support, help, and build community. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We appreciate you taking time to read this introduction to homesteading, and look forward to sharing weekly tips on the blog.
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