What Does it Mean to be a Homesteader Anyway?

Alright. I’ve got some things I need to get off my chest.

It always baffles me when I’m on a homesteading forum or FB page and I see people shamed by others for not being a “true homesteader”. Seriously, what does that even mean anyway?

I’m gonna keep it real here friends. Unless any of us are pioneering the trail out west in our covered wagons, risking diphtheria and wild animals to pursue virgin land and opportunity in a brave new world, none of us are “real” homesteaders.

So what is homesteading supposed to look like in the twenty-first century? Does it mean having a well used collection of iron skillets to choose from when it’s supper time? Or do you have to skin and cook a opossum caught on your property in it before it counts as homesteading?

Why can’t it be both?

When we first set out on this journey, I had no clue what homesteading meant. I just knew that we wanted to live closer to the earth, grow and raise our own food, be good stewards of our land and escape the kind of commercialized living so many in my generation have become slaves to. We can our own food that we grow each year in the garden. We are raising our own pork and chickens that give us eggs, and we will soon add broiler chickens and turkeys to that mix. We make our own house cleaning supplies and my wife makes a killer homemade fire cider to boost our immunity.

But does that make us homesteaders?

I have a full time, off farm job that helps us pay for supplies that we need on the homestead. We have a satellite dish. We use rural municipal water and we irrigate our crops from the well. We don’t eat opossum, in an iron skillet or otherwise. We are very much “on the grid”. Do these things disqualify us as part of the homesteader community?

What exactly are the rules here?

There are many people living their lives in the city or some version of suburbia dreaming about moving to the country and buying their own land. That dream hasn’t become a reality for them yet. But they practice the idea of that dream daily right where they are, working each day to get closer to homesteading on their own terms. They can food bought in bulk at the farmer’s market or even the grocery store. They might even have a small garden themselves. They make their own elderberry syrup and use herbs and essential oils to improve the health of their families. Some people, let’s call them the homesteading elite, would say the person living this reality is not a “true homesteader”. Why not?

What makes their homesteading journey any less significant than the family living completely off-grid in the middle of the woods?

There are no rules to homesteading. It’s a journey that we get to explore at our own pace and with our own internal compass. I aspire one day to be able to support my family solely from our on-farm income, but I don’t ever feel inclined to pursue living “off-grid”. If that disqualifies me from some kind of secret fraternity of homesteaders, so be it. I don’t care.

What I do care about is the quality of life my family gets to experience. I care about healthy food and hard, honest work that produces not just for today but for a brighter and more sustainable future as well. I care about our soil and leaving a legacy for my children to continue to build on. I care about escaping the rat race of commercially driven greed and needless spending, and tapping into a simpler life where we can provide most of our needs with our own two hands, becoming producers rather than merely consumers.

The desire for these things has driven me and my family down this homesteading path, and the more I pursue them the more passionate I am about this journey. And not just for myself, but for others as well. I want to see others reach their homesteading dream, whatever that may look like for them.

And that’s why I get so angry when I see the elitist spirit rear its ugly head to smear someone for not being a “true homesteader” just because they take their kid to the doctor when they have strep throat.

If there’s anything that homesteading should NOT be, its a divisive cult. The world has enough segregation, if you ask me. Homesteading should instead be built on community.

If you want to experience the homesteading lifestyle, start now, right where you are. Start small. And if you have big dreams make a plan to reach them. Work on getting out of debt so you can buy that piece of land. Get a goat. Make some soap. Learn as much as you can from others. And have fun doing it.

But whatever you do, don’t let anyone shame you for making choices in your life that will lead to joy and fulfillment. You don’t need that.

Homesteading is a journey that welcomes all. We all come to it from different paths and with different ambitions. There are no rules, no initiations, no hierarchy. Most homesteaders are part of the same fan club rooting each other on. Community, remember? I for one will celebrate anyone who chooses to leave the Matrix in search of a better, more authentic life.

And I’ll always hold the light to help show the way.

Be well…

6 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to be a Homesteader Anyway?

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  1. Well I suppose the real meaning of homesteader is someone who is taking advantage of the homestead act and maintaining their government granted 100 acres or whatever it was so they can get permanent possession of it. I’m willing to bet the Facebook group members are not doing that. 😂

  2. J & D > We’ve no doubt you’re homesteaders, as far as we understand the notion of it – from the other side of the big pond. We’re certain that, were you over here instead of over there, you’d be a crofter, or – if not on a ‘registered croft’ – a smallholder. Lets say you’re an honorary crofter! It’s true, that here in Scotland there’s an equivalent to the attitudes you describe. Unless you’ve got cattle, you’re not a proper crofter, and Highland cows trumps everything else. Anyway, if asked what we do for a living, we say ‘we work’ and if they must have more – ‘living’.

  3. Hi Sean. My husband & I live just north of Atlanta in the burbs. We have a teenage son that will graduation high school in 2 years. At that time, we’d love to move closer to “homesteading.” As a realtor I feel I have easy access to acquiring the land, but I’m curious if you’d share what exactly you looked for when buying your land? I am not sure I have the capacity for pigs or cows, but would love chickens & goats. Outside of that, really just room for a large garden. Hoping someone seasoned, such as yourself, could share your thoughts on what was important when choosing your location/land. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Lisa! Great questions. When we bought our property we weren’t exactly sure where this journey would take us. But we knew we wanted to have the freedom to expand as we learned more things. It was important to us to be able to grow healthy food and raise animals without running into county or state laws that would be too restrictive. And since we were going to be growing organic food for our family and our community, it was important that we understood the history of the land we were buying. In Iowa, when you buy a house/land you get an abstract that has the complete history of how the land was used. Community was also important to us, and we have the greatest neighbors (even though there is a mile or more in between us). They may not fully understand our lifestyle, but they are supportive.

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