Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
So I'm a little confused as to the difference between Farming and Homesteading.
Is it like if you are raising meat and vegetables to provide for your family then you are a farmer? But if you are raising vegetables and meat to provide for your family then you are homesteading?
to me a homesteader is more self-sufficiant than a farmer would be. A farmer generally concentrates on one area of specialization while those of us that homestead are what my Papa used to call "a jack of all trades, but a master of none" because we strive to be completely self-sufficiant with little to no outside interferance or support needed.
Yes, I like to consider my business a farmstead. We grow meat, produce, fruit, nuts, eggs, and milk for our family, but also sell breeding stock, have a CSA, and two markets where we sell off the farm. I am registered as a business and operate as a business with a goal to earn a profit. All enterprises are evaluated first, if they will provide food we like, and second, if there is a market for them. Other issues are levels of profitability, sustainability, and how much one enterprise links to another. For example, my rabbit does require parsley, raspberry twigs and leave, and greens. The rabbits provide manure that fertilizes those crops (and others). The manure also feeds red wigglers who turn them into castings that provide extra nutrients and microbiology for those crops and more. We aim to maximize nutrients and minimize off-farm inputs to increase sustainability and leave the land better than we found it.
Jeff Hamons said:
I think the hybrid term that I hear thrown around also applies-- Farmstead -- That is a farm that is also committed to providing as much for itself as possible.
So by your definition I am a Farmsteader instead of a homesteader or farmer. I must admit I seem to buy the animals that are on the decline in numbers, as I feel I should do my part to promote and keep such breeds around for future generations to enjoy. Not the best are growing crops yet, but I save my seeds and have been working at growing the heritage plants. The garden is much easier without all the chemical herbicides, fungicides etc.
Not sure what the difference is but its all vocabulary. Providing for our family and neighbors is what we do. Good food healthy animals.
Pat Barr said:
I also think that a Farmsteader is more inclined to buy "Heritage" things (not only in animals, but also in fruit trees, and vegatables). Things that have been around for a couple of hundred (or more) years have been around because they can survive. They may not grow the fastest, or produce the most milk, maybe only produce apples every other year etc., but they can survive without all the chemicals. They have mostly (I say mostly because if sometime in the recent past the animal was a "favorite" breed, the breeders didn't care to be for the "heritage" qualities... they bred for animals to sell) proved themselves by still being here.
I think there are a range of concepts conveyed in these two terms - homesteader and farmer - and having the discussion is great but I think it's not necessary (or likely) that we all sign up to the same definition.
Along with profit motivations and aspirations on lifestyle and relationship/connection to nature, there's also issues of scale. Small-scale farming can be a lot like homesteading. Other terms that sometimes pop up in my world are hobby farmer and smallholder (I'm a member of a smallholding association in England; in the same assn there are people with a variety of foci, some actively farming some not). And I know of people who consider themselves homesteaders that don't really grow all that much of their own food, though they may well aspire to. More significantly, they value the notions of self-sufficiency and living light on the planet and do concrete things within their means to support their own sustenance. Someone who raises potted herbs on their window sills, grows some potatoes/tomatoes in pots on a balcony, cans and preserves food to last and be economical, makes some of their own clothes etc. may well consider themselves justifiably a homesteader, IMO.
Personally, I don't much care about the labels but it's great to see forums that help people connect over similar interests - like this one!
Very thoughtful response, Heather. We don't want to be too tied down to labels, but it is a valuable exercise to reflect on how you define yourself based on your values and goals on your homestead/farm/farmstead/smallhold.
This showed up in the e-mail I received this morning, looks to be an old thread, but a good one! Some might not be aware that there are also different types of farmers as well. Their are actually chemical farmers ( No till), and ( what I call) plow farmers. Both names pretty much speak for themselves. No till has come into practice mainly due to the price of fuel, I believe.
I remember back in the 80's when my first husband and I were farming on a LARGE scale. We had never heard of a homesteader, the terminology might of been in practice somewhere in the world, but it wasn't something we ever thought about in rual Kansas. The old time farmers that I was around would have looked at you cross-eye'd if they'd read this discussion. Most of them would of said " My parents called it survival".
I've often thought about the difference between the two, since I've done both. When we farmed ( as the label suggest that I've read on here) We sold our crops ( Wheat) to the grain mills for flour. We sold our Milo to co-op for hog and cattle feed. Many times we would plow beans under if we planted them, because it made our soil much richer. We put our cattle out on wheat pasture so they could eat and furtilze the land for us as well. We had large machinery to cover all the land. I would not have wanted to plant or harvest 1,000 acres of any crop by hand. One of the good things that did come out of the farm bill at that time is they started to pay us not to grow so many crops. Well that resulted in many farmers allowing some of their land to sit idle for a year, which is VERY good for the land. The bible say's to let it rest every 7 years, I believe that's the number. But, considering, that many farmers had/have a bank loan or three, there was no way to let anything set idle, because the bank would not allow it. Something else that many people might not know.. I don't know if they've changed their practice or not, but in the 80's they came out with this new rule at the banks that your equipment could only be so old, you either up dated, or they would call your loans. Now, at that time, combines were running 100,000.00 for something you used 3 weeks to a month out of the year. This, I believe is what was giving birth to industrial farming. Many farmers couldn't afford to pay that for equipment. I remember reading at that point and time... one loaf of bread was costing 80 cents, but there was only 3 cents worth of wheat in it.... and the farmer was making VERY little and next to no profit.
I guess I have a question in here as well - In our country, School teachers, policmen, firmen etc.. are all held out on some pedistal... but the farmer, they are lower then the dirt they plow. Why is that, I wonder? You can live without a teacher, they've done it.......YOu can live without a police force, they've done it... You can live without firemen, they've done it. But, you can not live without food.
I guess for me... I think on different terms then many, and while I see many simularities and differences in farmer, homesteader, farmsteader, gardner... they are all just a name for growing food. Many of these are for profit... all the way to the gardner... you can't live without food and water, and in this society, you can't live without money either.
I disagree on one point. Homesteaders may also profit from the items they grow, just not on the same scale as a farmer. That side profit from extra livestock or produce, after you have provided for your family's needs, can pay for feed for the other animals.
I can homestead an acre, still sell some livestock, eggs, vegetables or apples from it, but I will not be considered a farmer. I will have profited from the sale but I will still not be considered a farmer.
I think the distinction is in intent and scale...one can homestead a few acres or many acres, but is not likely doing it for the main goal of making money . Usually they are wanting to gain an independence from the very things that keep most farmers in pocket money....commercially grown foods. If they sell a little something on the side, it is usually so they can continue their level of independence from the normal food sources provided by commercial agriculture.
Farmers, on the other hand, can be farming on smaller or larger acreage but the goal is still to produce food for sale to the public. That is why they raise it or grow it and they probably would not raise it on that scale otherwise.
I agree with you J Green, many a homesteader sells eggs to neighbours as a sideline - a means to support the lifestyle. In terms of scale, there are farmers working as little as an 1 acre who are managing to make a few dollars at it (albeit that can be tough, but then when isn't farming?). Like many badges, sometimes we start out with one hat but find ourselves easing towards another as our priorities change or circumstances dictate - think homesteader who discovers all the neighbours want their eggs and decide to spend more time providing them, whether to make money or support local food security. I know small farmers who farm because of a 'homesteading' mindset but need the land/farm to pay its way (or a bit more), in order to be able to stay on it, and so adopt some business efficiencies - so the issue of values, while a decent distinction, isn't necessarily a black and white divide either - but then what is!? I guess it comes down to using the badge that feels right for you at the time.
Good question and great answers! As a 2nd generation non-farmer who is attempting to return to a rural life, I have been asking myself this very question. My grandparents (and theirs) I believe would have considered themselves Farmers who had a Homestead, regardless of whether they grew food for themselves, to trade with neighbors, or sale at market. Clearly times have changed and such labels are necessary to define both purpose and intent. In any case, I have learned fairly quickly not to call a homesteader a farmer or vice versa (at the risk of offending either group). As for myself, I am as yet unaffiliated, haha. Thanks again for the info.
To me, the original definition of the word implied that one had acquired a tract of land(back then it was from the government) that one had to clear off of trees and brush and turn into farm land in order to "prove up". When this was done and the claim was proven(structure was built, lived on for one year and growing crops) then the person was then considered a farmer. A dirt poor farmer, but a farmer nonetheless. It is also why many old farms are referred to as the old "homestead"...because that is how it started.
Many people are moving into the country and building their own homes from the land, trying to grow crops and raise animals so I guess that would be considered a homestead. The bulk of my formative years was spent clearing land, building log cabins, growing massive gardens and preserving them and growing small scale livestock~we were homesteading.
If the house is there, the fields and fences are there and you just move onto it and into it in order to grow crops and livestock, then I guess that would be considered a farm(in my state it needs to be 5 acres or more to be considered a farm).
So...are you still proving up on a claim or are you now into farming?
When my first husband and I 'farmed' it was 1000 acres +/- Many heads of cattle and hogs. We didn't actually put a garden in, we didn't have chickens for eggs, we grew crops ( Wheat, Milo, Soy beans) for retail sale. We had the big tractors, combines and bank notes that came along with them - We were farmers.
Scott and I have 3 acres, garden, chickens, hogs, goats, cattle. We milk the goats/cows, collect the eggs, will butcher the chickens /calf for meat, and can what comes from the garden or the "farmers market when needed" NO bank notes - We are homesteaders.
This is how I've viewed this, it might not be accurate, but it's the best way I could put it into words. Many of the 'farmers' I've known 'farmed' Wheat, Corn etc... But they did it with machinary, not just a little garden tractor. I've often said the difference between a farmer and a homesteader is a banker.