Modern homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency that focuses on living off the land you have available to you. Learn more about homestead living here.
The history of homesteading in the US starts with the pioneers who ventured west between 1850 and 1900 to settle on land European colonists had not yet populated. The concept of American homesteading dates back to The Homestead Act of 1862, which accelerated the settlement of western territory by granting 160 free acres of federal land to any citizen who would move to the frontier for at least five consecutive years.
From the Civil War era until 1935, when President Roosevelt withdrew the Act, the government granted over 270 million acres of land to over a million Americans who moved to the Western frontier. The Homestead Act symbolized the American dream that every able-bodied citizen had the chance and potential to pursue happiness on their own terms.
The Importance of Homesteading
Homesteading remains an important practice because it’s such a sustainable way of living. Modern homesteading can refer to a variety of things, including:
- A deeper connection to the natural world
- Self-reliance and self-sufficiency
- Having a holistic viewpoint
Homesteading is built upon core principles like working with the land, taking care of your own needs, and minimizing interactions with the government — all while using the land you have.
Considering skyrocketing grocery prices, another advantage of modern homesteading is the money you save when growing your own food. Furthermore, homegrown food is often more sustainable than buying it from big superstores and can drastically reduce the amount of plastic you use.
Is Modern Homesteading Different?
Modern homesteading differs from traditional homesteading in many ways. Today, homesteading is a lifestyle choice; in the 19th century, it was a necessity. Traditional homesteaders had to be self-sufficient, as they did not have stores to rely on to buy food and other products.
They needed to know how to garden, forage, hunt and raise animals for sustenance. Luckily, we now have the safety nets of grocery stores and farmers’ markets for our food. Being self-reliant in modern society is more complex than it used to be. This is particularly true about managing water and energy use, which requires specialized knowledge.
Aiming for a zero-waste kitchen is one way to be less dependent on grocery stores and more sustainable in your eating habits. Modern homesteading starts with a single step.
Easy Ways to Get Started
Even if you don’t live in the country, you can still practice some aspects of modern homestead living. Modern homesteading involves growing and producing your own food, as well as handmaking many of your own day-to-day goods.
- Making handmade soap or foaming hand soap
- Fermenting vegetables
- Drying your laundry naturally
- Making homemade toothpaste or DIY mouthwash
- Growing your own vegetables — start with the ten easiest vegetables to grow at home — or growing a herb garden on the windowsill
- Making homemade all-purpose cleaner
- Learning how composting works and what you can actually compost, and what you can’t
Making your own products cuts down on consumption and reduces your carbon footprint. If you have some space outside, you can compost, keep chickens or even practice urban gardening. These activities make fun hobbies and are an excellent start towards homestead living.
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