What do today's knitters, candlemakers, beekeepers, fermenters and gardeners have in common?

They’ve all started to shift to a lifestyle that our grandparents once knew—one that wasn’t reliant on shipping or globalization, but rather on goods gathered and grown around their homes.

The homesteading lifestyle has made a reappearance as people look for a way to jump off the hamster wheel of modern living and get back to their roots again. Between the climate crisis and the pandemic, there has been an increased worry over supply chains, food shortages and the rising price of goods.

What is the goal of homesteading?

Homesteading is all about being self-sufficient, about learning the basic skills that have been forgotten in our fast-paced world, like making our own clothes, growing our own food and preserving it. Homesteaders also seek to regain the connection between people and the planet, and have a holistic view of their environment. This translates to the treatment of animals and the plants that surround them with the belief that if we take care of the natural world, it will take care of us in return.

With the instability of the global supply chain and the lack of control over large-scale agriculture and the use of pesticides, homesteaders look to practices that shorten the distance from farm to table and that control the outcome of their food and the health of the planet and themselves. This self-sufficiency is an all-encompassing ideology, which means homesteaders also look to produce a lot of their goods such as soap, clothing, herbal medicines and bedding.

Although homesteaders are known to be rural dwellers, city developers are noticing the trend for sustainable living and helping to transform subdivisions into communal, self-sufficient havens.

Agrihoods spreading from the US to Canadahomesteader foodPhoto by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash

The trend of moving to agrihoods has spread from the United States and is taking root in Canada as well. These communal subdivisions are a way for city folks to grow food and learn about agriculture, but also live and interact with one another. These farm-to-table residencies range from being small and intimate to functioning on a large scale.

The purpose of agrihoods is to facilitate food production while at the same time providing recreation and connection for the members of its community. There is a benefit in the shared labour of agrihoods, whether it’s for personal or commercial purposes, as well as to reduce the cost of living through trading skills like teaching, cooking, growing and building.

As a microcosm of our cities, agrihoods have helped community members foster a deeper connection to one another through these shared goals and tasks. The community is either centred around existing nature, or looks to help reestablish native flora and fauna together, showing us that it’s possible for our city lifestyles to work in relationship with nature while also being in control of our source of food.

Small scale homesteading is possible

We don’t have to jump all into communal living or farmsteading in order to be practicing homesteaders. Living in a sustainable way has taken on various forms and has even spread to micro-steading in apartments and on lawns in the suburbs.

With a large portion of people living within the city, even with limited space, there are ways to adjust the lifestyle to the city. Most often in apartments this looks like home composting, growing food in containers, rooftop raised beds and balcony growing. For folks who have yards, there’s an opportunity to grow fruit and nut trees, use fences to help trellis food, and swap ornamental lawns for food-producing areas.

Indoor spaces can also be transformed from purely aesthetic into productive homes. With proper insulation and temperature controlling, rooms can be dedicated to storing canned goods, tinctures, wines and infused vinegars, and the kitchen can once again be a place filled with mess, community and nourishment.

The only downside to city living for homesteading has been in the bylaws against keeping backyard animals like chickens or ducks. In some cases, you can keep a backyard hive for honey, chickens and ducks in backyard coops, or have a small-scale indoor aquaponics system to raise sustainable fish but if you can’t, there is another option.

Both households and apartments can partner with a nearby farm or bordered county house to keep chickens and other animals as a collective. This can quickly turn into a weekly activity where you and your family or friends can tend to the animals, have access to fresh eggs, meat and other supplemental goods that you might not have the room for, and also be part of a growing community.

Lowering our cost of living and carbon footprint

Homesteading in any capacity can reduce your cost of living. Many homesteaders keep a side job to pay off their modern expenses, but spend the extra time tending to their home and space and can afford to do so  because of the savings with growing food at home. Some even earn extra money through their lifestyle like candle making, soap making, farming, or through teaching these skills to others.

As the climate crisis continues, more are also looking to homesteading as a way to reduce their global footprint. By growing their own food and making their own products, they’re reducing their emissions by cutting out mass-produced goods and shipping while also reducing their use of resources by recycling materials, collecting rainwater and composting their food scraps.

No matter where you are in your homesteading journey, it’s great to start looking into relearning these skills that our grandparents and ancestors relied on. Not only is it rewarding to produce our own goods to become more self-reliant, but it can bring us closer to our family and friends through sharing knowledge and spending time together.

Those looking to begin homesteading can start with reducing their waste, growing their own food or making their own items—it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing task. Most often it starts with a little vegetable garden before it grows into a full food forest, or it starts by throwing scraps into the garden before multiplying into full-on composting with worms. Every part is important, and the more we become connected with our food production, each other, and our environment, the more we can help the planet (and people) thrive.