As regular readers know, we are living off the original land homesteaded to our family over 150 years ago. In fact, most of the community we live in is made up of folks also living on the original land their family was homesteaded. But that may not look like what you have pictured in your mind if you’ve never been to a homesteaded community.
Before I moved here, when I heard the word “homesteader” all that ever came to my mind was a picture of a historical homesteader—one that traveled far to stake a claim on a piece of ground that was thus-far not “civilized” and if they were able to live for the five years on it, they could have or purchase it for a small fee.
Many folks who talk about starting or building their own homestead often picture a group of things in their mind. They picture growing their own produce, raising their own meat, perhaps living off-grid, hauling their own water, making their own soaps and cleaners, and for some, homeschooling children.
But what usually gets them stuck is financing. You see, in this self-sufficient life, you need land if you want to depend on yourself. If you are blessed with fair weather and good soil, it won’t take as much as if you live in a harsh climate with poor soil.
So the conundrum becomes, how do I pay for the land? And then how do I pay for my necessities? Most people realize that if you want to live off the land and be self-sufficient, you will still have to make an income to pay a few necessities even after you own the land.
Most states make you pay property tax. You now must pay for healthcare, or the tax penalty for not having it (either way, you have to pay), and if you want the internet like we do, then there is that cost as well. Going to do some shopping for the items you can’t or don’t supply yourself? You’ll need money for that too.
Assuming you own your land, you still have to have money. So where do you get it? Many people believe you must be a farmer (on one scale or another) to pay the necessities.
As a farmer, I can see how when people talk to us, this fact may feed that particular perception.
It’s true that our homestead community is an agricultural one. There’s no doubt about that. If you aren’t willing to work in agriculture, it is nearly impossible for the newcomer to get a job.
But not all original homestead landowners are farmers. I took inventory of the families around us to share with you what others in our community do to finance their homesteads. You might be surprised.
Teachers. While one person manages the homestead, the other is a teacher. We have a high homeschooling rate here—but the truth is, homesteading is exceedingly difficult and many families send their children to a school during the week so they have time to run the homestead. It is a very small school, and many of the teachers teach multiple grades.
Golf course. No kidding. One family who received land here found much of it too rocky to farm or do anything else with. It’s not a perfectly smooth green golf course, mind you. There are plenty of sink holes and huge rock piles that are part of the course.
While in many places golf courses are a normal thing, there aren’t any around here. Tourists find it quite amusing to come here and be able to golf—and there aren’t any other choices. When our weather is fair, he makes a small profit off it.
Leasing out. When older couples are no longer physically able to keep up with a large piece of land, they manage a small bit of land and animals at their home, and lease the larger portion of land out to a willing farmer or rancher.
Ranching. For those who don’t want to grow crops, ranching is an option.
Tour guides. All of our sink holes, inactive volcanoes, canyons and steep terrain make for some good traffic during tour season.
Renting land during hunting season. This is not highly profitable, as only one group of hunters is allowed on your land at a time (because you want everyone to be safe).
Welding. There are always pipe, mainline and pivots to weld that farmers just don’t have time to do themselves. I highly suggest obtaining this skill beforehand if you are planning to start your own homestead in the future.
Mechanic work. Specifically diesels. Again, while most farmers know how to do their own, there isn’t always time.
Many kids go off to college to learn welding and in-depth mechanics before returning home to work on their family homestead.
Scrap metal. There is one guy who collects large amounts of everyone’s metal to help us all keep it clean around here. When his load is large enough, he hauls it to town and makes a bit of money that way.
Butchering. While most of us can butcher our own animals, many people simply call one of the local butchers. In our area of less than a 1000 people, 3 families run butcher shops.
I’m sure there are other ways that to finance your homestead, but those are the major ones in our community. So if you’re looking for a community to start your homestead in but you’re not sure you want to be a farmer, then I hope this gives you more of an idea of how you would make it a go.