Homesteading: What Is It and Why Is It Trending?

Looking to become more self-sufficient? Starting a homestead may be right up your alley.

Chickens at Blackberry Farm

Heirloom Chickens

Heirloom chickens at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Blackberry Farm ©2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Image courtesy of Blackberry Farm, 2013, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Homesteading is on the rise, but what exactly does this trendy term entail? It seems like every day more and more people have begun their journey into homesteading. Some raise chickens, some grow gardens, some make sourdough, some keep bees and some start a full-fledged farm. Below, we’ve broken down what homesteading is and why this back-to-the-land lifestyle has become so popular.

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What Is a Homestead?

Merriam-Webster defines a homestead as “the home and adjoining land occupied by a family.” However, when people speak of “homesteading,” it pertains to much more than a family home. Homesteading boils down to a self-sufficient lifestyle, particularly one that takes place in a family home, often with enough space to produce food and other essentials.

American homesteading is historically significant and can be traced to the Homesteading Act of 1862, an act that afforded land ownership for even the poorest Americans. All it took was a small filing fee and those who fit the criteria could claim a parcel of 160 acres, becoming outright owners after working the land for five years (count us in!). With this land came self-sufficiency and opportunity for income.

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Benefits of Homesteading

Homesteading is particularly appealing to self-starters who are naturally drawn to the idea of providing for themselves. While modern-day conveniences make life easier, some individuals see intrinsic value in taking the traditional route, trading convenience for self-sufficiency, sustainability and even possible financial gain.

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Serene Organic Produce Garden

The Victorian farmhouse in Ontario, CA sits on 160 acres of rolling countryside, and offers a serene 5,000 sq. ft. organic produce garden.

Photo by: Harvey Kalles Real Estate, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Harvey Kalles Real Estate, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Financially speaking, homesteading can be a serious saver. U.S. consumers spent over 11% of their disposable income on food in 2022, according to the USDA. Imagine how much money you could save by producing even a portion of your food at home. Plus, in many states, you can sell your excess production directly from your homestead.

While having more financial security undoubtedly puts you in a better position, achieving this through homesteading will only make it sweeter. Homesteading takes a lot of hard work and self-determination, especially for those who are starting without a big budget. The self-sufficiency you develop throughout the process will continue to serve you throughout your life.

Homesteading Tips and Tricks:

Sheep in Field

Pastoral Estate Entrance

The approach to the estate offers the quintessential Eastern Shore farm experience. Guests pass through farm fields, barn clusters, expansive meadows, and farm ponds. Just before arriving at the main house, guests are greeted by twelve black pastoral sheep grazing in a dedicated pasture complete with a custom stone sheep shed.

Photo by: Durston Saylor, Landscape Architect: Kevin Campion with Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Contractor: Mark Koski with GYC Group Ltd.

Durston Saylor, Landscape Architect: Kevin Campion with Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, Contractor: Mark Koski with GYC Group Ltd.

So, you’ve decided homesteading is for you. Here are some tips and tricks for ensuring your homesteading venture is successful:

  • Choose the right location for a homestead. While you certainly don't have to have 100 acres to homestead, a small city lot isn't ideal. Most homesteaders prefer to seek out rural communities where larger lots are available for homesteads, leaving plenty of room for a home, a garden, a pasture and a barn.
  • Learn essential skills for successful homesteading. Most elements of homesteading have some level of a learning curve. Whether you plan to keep bee hives, raise chickens for eggs, grow a bountiful vegetable garden or raise a milk cow or two, do your research and get to know what skills each task requires before you jump in headfirst.
  • Learn how to create a self-sustainable homestead on a budget. Modeling your homesteading on your favorite homesteader influencer’s life probably isn’t the best idea, as most of what you’re seeing is their highlight reel. Additionally, many social media representations of homesteading are funded by other forms of income, oftentimes the social media posts themselves. To homestead on a budget is a lot of work and it’s not always pretty, especially if you aim for it to be truly self-sustainable.

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