18 Tips to Build a Homesteading Community
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about neighbors.
We recently moved from a place where I sort of knew two of my neighbors and I think one other person on our road had a garden.
Now we’re living in a place where we’re related to a couple of our neighbors and I’ve already met several more. Many people have gardens, several people have hayfields, one neighbor is a blacksmith, and one stopped and admired the animals. Pretty nifty eh?
While it would be awesome if there were vibrant, connected, homestead communities with affordable land for all of us to join that’s just not the case.
Many modern homesteaders start their homesteads from scratch wherever they can afford too whether it be an inner-city apartment or 100 acres in a rural community in the mountains. Modern homesteaders often build their homesteads from bare bones clearing forested land, fixing up run-down farmhouses, or turning sub-urban lots into permaculture paradises.
We all talk about how to build the perfect homestead/barn/garden but we so frequently overlook building relationships with the people around us. I’ve had times where I’ve thought wow I wish I had cool, like-minded neighbors then we would hang out or then I would talk to them. Pretty lousy excuse for not meeting your neighbors am I right?
I may have had like-minded neighbors I simply never met or ones that would’ve been interested in the “homestead stuff” if they knew where to start. So here’s my collection of tips on getting out there and starting your own homestead community.
1. Grow some roadside fruit/veggies.
If you have space to grow near the the road use it! Our gardens have always been visible from the road and I’ve met neighbors while I’m working in the garden. A lot of people have been curious about our garden. You can even offer some shared harvest like Tenth Acre Farm. It’s also a great way to get customers too if you want to sell produce…. which brings us to our next tip.
2. Have a farmstand or free food table.
Selling your extra homestead products is a great way to make some cash and meet people. Also you’re definitely more likely to find like-minded folks among those willing to doll out some cash for some homegrown goodness. If you’re not into selling considering setting up a table with free, extra, produce (um hello summer squash).
3. Donate plants.
If you grow your own plants or seedlings consider donating some to a community plant sale. You can get involved for a good cause! You might also find some plants you need too.
4. Teach a class.
Many homesteaders have a skill or two that others would love to learn. You may find friends who want to live a similar lifestyle but simply don’t know how. Consider ideas like knitting, canning, bread making, and plant identification.
5. Take a class.
If you’re not up for teaching a class consider taking one or joining a group. You could learn something new or just practice a skill you already have in good company. I don’t know about you but I think knitting circles and canning parties are where it’s at.
6. Organize harvest swap.
Many rural communities already have a lot of homestead minded folks. You just have to meet them. Setting up a harvest swap is a great way to get to know people and get some great products. Scott and I attended one and it was actually rather simple. You just have everyone bring items worth a certain amount (say $5 or $10 increments) and then trade them. Ideas for items include maple syrup, fresh vegetables, preserves, fresh fruit, homemade baked goods, knitted goods, and other handcrafts.
7. Shop or sell at farmer’s markets.
Both shopping and selling at farmer’s markets are excellent ways to get to know other local farmers. Chat with vendors and other market goers as you shop. Some farmer’s markets even have live music and other fun events!
8. Look for ways to buy things as locally as possible.
For example there’s a hardware store not far from here that sells hay. It would be really simple to buy from them. However we noticed our neighbors making hay last summer and stopped an asked if they’d sell any. As it turns out they can sell us enough to meet our needs and they even deliver it! Much better for our community and than environment than buying out-of-state hay that’s been trucked in to the store.
9. Organize a community harvest pot luck.
Get together. Eat. Celebrate. A pot luck is great because there’s no need for a lot of cash. If everyone brings something they grew/made from scratch it will be one of the cheapest parties you’ve ever attended.
10. Barter/rent farm equipment from neighbors.
Why rent something from a big company if you can rent it from a neighbor or even barter for its use. Maybe you could borrow their tractor in return for helping put up hay? Whatever the arrangement you can build relationships and rely on your community instead of big companies.
11. Use your local library.
I know, you’re thinking I want to build a homestead community not a book club but hear me out. Local libraries are a great place to meet people and learn about local events. As an added bonus many libraries I’ve used have a yearly budget for adding knew books. Get some homestead books on that list and get people reading about the simple life!
If you’ve got experience offer to farm sit or tend gardens while people are away. You may make some cash or homegrown products and you might connect with someone willing to help you in the future. This could also be a good way to learn if you don’t have a lot of experience like if you’re debating about building a greenhouse. Wouldn’t be cool to try caring for plants in one for a week first?
13. Join online groups.
If you’re not so great at meeting people face to face find some online groups. You’re be surprised at how many off-grid, homesteading, gardening, and farming groups are out there. You may even find one specifically for your region or county.
14. Bake extra and share with your neighbors.
Many homesteaders also bake quite a bit. If this is you, consider baking some extra and sharing it with neighbors. Who doesn’t love homemade bread or cookies? Don’t answer that. I don’t actually want to hear about your gluten free neighbor, you get the idea.
15. Ask for help when you need it.
This is pretty important and applies to all issues homestead related or not. We all need help sometimes but don’t expect your community to know (yes, even if you’re super involved) if you don’t tell them.
16. Talk to community elders.
They’re so important. Everyday we lose more knowledge of traditional skills and our local history. Talking to community elders can help save traditions, brighten your day and their’s.
17. Host an open homestead.
Okay so this one I just kind of came up with but I think it’s a pretty cool idea. Each spring where I grew up there was an open house day at all the sugar houses (places where they boil sap to make maple syrup). You could go, hang out with neighbors, help sugar, and learn. Sounds pretty great right? Well I think the concept could easily be applied to several other aspects of homesteading.
18. Join a CSA.
It’s good for you and the farmer! Many farms also have CSA members do some farm work during the season. You can get involved and learn with your fellow CSA members.
Did I miss anything? Please comment with any ideas you think we should add to the list!
This post has been linked to the Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop, and the Homestead Blog Hop.