There’s lots of hype in my internet circles about homesteaders. And I get it; I respect homesteaders like crazy. They have a huge range of skills and many of them could literally survive with no outside contact for a long time. But that’s not the life I want; I want to be a farmer. Let’s start by defining our terms, shall we?
A homesteader is someone (or a family) whose life is characterized by self-sufficiency. Some are even off-grid. Most homesteaders raise their own meat, eggs, milk, vegetables, and more while also making things like soap, cheese, quilts, etc. They typically don’t aim to raise enough of these products to sell, but rather to support themselves. Homesteaders are very independent.
A farmer is someone (or a family) who raises food – crops and/or animals – to help support themselves and others. (note that this is my definition for the purpose of this post, not an all-encompassing definition) They often specialize in a number of products which they sell and make an income from. They do not live a self-sufficient lifestyle, but rather an interdependent lifestyle.
While it is wonderful to have a huge range of skills and to know that you and you could support your family with no outside help…. I believe that people were meant to be in relationships with each other, to work together and compliment each other.
Although to a point farms (and homesteads) can and should have many enterprises going on (for example, it just makes sense that cows follow chickens to eat the luscious grass that springs up after the chickens fertilize it), it can reach a point where the farmer or homesteader is stretched too far. I would rather focus on a few enterprises – hone my skills and be the absolute best at raising those particular products – and be able to sell them for a good profit. Then I can turn around and give someone else that money in exchange for a product I can’t grow or make as efficiently as they can. Both sides benefit, and neither is stretched too thin by trying to do everything ourselves. See?
Another awesome thing about farming is the community aspect. As a farmer, I will be interacting with people while I sell my products and buy theirs. Relationships can be built and friendships formed. Homesteaders can and do interact with the community and form friends! But there’s something special about providing your friends with quality food and knowing they trust you and really, really like what you’re selling. There’s something special about supporting a friend’s new farming venture by buying their products.
I’m all for mastering new skills, such as making soap or maple syrup. But I’m also excited about buying those products from someone else who makes them with quality and skill! You see, I want to be a farmer, not a homesteader.