By William Kelland
Is homesteading still a possibility for those desiring a simpler, more natural life? The answer is YES, with some qualifications. Find out the realities of homesteading today in this article.
Homesteading today is unlikely to begin with finding free property. There are no national programs that provide land in exchange for developing it. The programs that do exist are local, and tend to be in remote areas of the country.
This means that most likely you will be buying your homestead property, and possibly acquiring a mortgage to do so. Even if you are able to acquire the land and build on it mortgage-free, there will still be property taxes. Therefore homesteading today will require more cash money than in pioneer days.
This means you will need a plan to support yourself, with one or more work from home businesses, or a job off -homestead job. It is possible to run your homestead as a mini farm, raising vegetable crops and livestock to feed yourself, with a surplus for sale.
However, don't underestimate the learning curve required to be successful at these endeavors; it can take several seasons to learn how to reliably and efficiently produce most crops. And if you are depending on your mini farm for cash flow, you will need to focus on crops that provide a quick turnaround.
This would rule out starting an orchard for example, as most tree fruit will take several years to bear a crop. Even most small fruit will produce nothing the first season. One business that does provide relatively quick cashflow is a market garden.
The start-up cost for this homestead business can be quite low, if you start smart. You could begin by growing vegetables for yourself and perhaps a few friends and neighbours. You could even solicit some cash from them to help with the start-up costs, and pay them back with vegetables from your garden
Market gardening is easily scalable; that is, you can start small, then as your skills and confidence grow, you can expand to the limits of your property (and your ambition). This fulfills one of the requirements of homesteading today.
Raising meat chickens and weaner pigs are two more possibilities for the modern homesteader. Day-old meat chicks will be roaster size and ready for sale in 10 to 12 weeks; weaner pigs will reach market weight in about 4-5 months. This means that, in most areas, these livestock animals can be raised in a summer season. Raising your livestock in warm weather only means low start-up costs.
These are great starter farm businesses, and the whole family can help out. Kids can get involved looking after the animals, and learn where there food really comes from.
These three homestead businesses have the potential to provide you food and folding money. But before you jump in, you need to ask yourself if you are ready for the realities of homesteading today. Needless to say there will be hard work, but beyond this successful homesteading requires a mindset of self-reliance.
You are 100 percent responsible for the success of your homestead; you need to value function over form, have a tolerance for setbacks, and have a genuine love for going your own way. Your life partner better have these characteristics, too, or it will be an unhappy little homestead.
So if you are immune to stress, treat every problem like a learning opportunity, and believe that the only real security is what you can carve out for yourself, you may be ready for homesteading today.
William Kelland is the owner of award-winning New Terra Farm and the author of 4 books about making a living on a small property. You can find out more about the realities of modern homesteading at Homesteading Today
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