There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding to homestead. They include financial cost, time commitment, animal husbandry responsibility, environmental factors, legal restrictions and considerations, and overall impact on your family. The first two alone are enough to deter some people. So why has there been such a surge in homesteaders and “preppers”? Why are we seeing more and more of them represented in the online community? To answer those questions, I believe we have to look at the United States’ national economy, health and wellness trends, and even global events. That’s a lot to cover in one post though, so let’s start with our own economic situation.
Economically speaking, we keep hearing about how we’re clambering out of the recession, or that the worst of it is over. The unemployment rate is down from December 2015 to January 2016… What you aren’t hearing, what none of us are hearing is where and how those gains are being made. According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics website, employment in the US has risen… but let’s take a closer look at how, shall we?
February 05, 2016
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 151,000 in January, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.9 percent. Job gains were led by retail trade, food services, health care, and manufacturing. Employment declined in educational services, transportation and warehousing, and mining.
So… Retail, food services, health care, and manufacturing. That means that while we are in a period of having the highest number of college graduates our nation has ever seen, the biggest employment spikes are being seen in unskilled labor. At a certain point, students have to ask themselves if it’s really worth working 2 bar tending jobs, a cashier job at Walgreens, and teaching geriatric yoga on the side, none of which are related to their course of study, just to pay back the student loans…? It calls to mind the quintessential question of Princeton in Avenue Q, “What CAN you do with a B.A. in English?” A valid question. We also see that employment declined in areas such as educational services. Example: I’ve felt the brunt of that particular declination in that I worked as an exceptional children (special education) teacher assistant in the state of North Carolina for about three years. Due to budget cuts and educational reform, I was lucky to have maintained my position that long. The benefit of that position was that I was basically there to be (to quote a dear friend) the “fire pisser.” Student has a problem with teacher? No worries- I’d handle it. Parent has a problem with teacher? I had it under control. Teacher can’t get through to student? I’ve got your back, Jack! The teacher assistant is the extra set of hands, or professional middle man. They enable the teacher to do their job of educating children without the grunt work. It truly is to the detriment of the children when the educational system deprives them of instructional support. Then I moved and found a job at a child care facility where I was paid federal minimum wage without benefits of any kind. On top of that, after I had my son, my paycheck after childcare costs had me clearing about $200 per week, which barely covered my gas and diapers and breast milk storage paraphernalia that was necessary at the time. Bogus, right? If we care so much about our children’s welfare and education, how can we care so little for the teachers and instructional support staff we entrust them to for nearly 10% of their lives? That’s a question for another rant.
The trend we see is that even with more and more people attending and graduating from college, with the exception of people entering into the medical field, we aren’t seeing those same educated people leaving universities with degrees in hand to march in to the career of their dreams. People aren’t able to feed their families on a burger-flipper’s salary! That’s why there was the huge uproar over increasing fast-food workers’ wages; it’s unskilled labor. This means more and more that these grads, single parents, people raising their grandchildren, retired individuals are having to find additional sources of income, or alternative methods to provide for their families and dependents. Enter homesteading. Can’t afford groceries each month, yet don’t qualify for government assistance? Grow your own food. No, really! Check out this series of articles from Mother Earth News if you don’t believe me. A homesteading lifestyle answers the question of “Where is my next meal coming from?” From the pasture when we butcher that cow; from the chicken coop when we butcher that rooster who’s been overly aggressive with the other livestock; from the fresh harvest of vegetables we harvested from the garden we planted. Economically speaking, homesteading is absolutely an investment and a life-altering one at that. Land is expensive. If that’s your dilemma now, do what my husband and I are doing and garden share with a friend! We are basically supplying the seed and labor to their land and sharing the bountiful harvest. I could also point you in the direction of several helpful resources. If you’re living in an apartment or other rental home, check out Homesteadinarental on YouTube. They’re making it happen for their family and allowing their current situation to work for them! OR- look in to community gardens! There is one near my local library. For a little bit of my precious time and elbow grease, I can have access to fresh veggies and valuable hands on experience in vegetable gardening, care, and maintenance. Also, learn from people who are already making a living or at the very least supplementing their income or decreasing their food cost by growing their own food. For example, The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier details how he and his wife run their micro farm on 1.5 acres of land.
So what is it that is keeping you from homesteading?
Where there is a will, there IS a way. One simply has to be willing to put forth the effort to find it.