Use of the term “Homesteading” dates back to the Homestead Act of 1862, which provided 160 acres of land to applicants at little or no cost. The policy was part of an effort by Northerners to encourage the development of small, individually owned farms over vast plantations run by slave labor. Essentially, the act gave every American with the inclination to own and farm land an opportunity to do so.
Although opportunities for free land still exist, these days “Homesteading” commonly refers to practices which encourage self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and sustainability. Homesteaders might build their own mobile homes, grow vertical gardens in their urban backyards, or drive cars which run on vegetable oil. Modern Homesteaders aren’t usually isolationists or traditionalists; they thrive on community efforts for free trade like farmers’ markets and they use emergent technology (like solar panels and DIY irrigation) to make their self-sustainability possible.
Most of all, homesteading involves getting in touch with our own independence. It’s finding deep satisfaction from eating a meal you brought from seed to table. It’s discovering uncorrupted, egalitarian free trade when you exchange two dozen eggs from your home coop with the ranch down the road and receive enough juicy steaks to last you a few weeks. It’s finding simplicity and connection within a complicated, detached world.
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