Homesteading, Gardening, and Off-Grid Living

Pros and Cons of Homesteading

By: Zac Friedman

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Homesteading can offer an incredibly rewarding and healthy lifestyle. While living on a homestead, you’ll enjoy fresh and delicious food and get lots of exercise. That said, it’s certainly not for everyone. There are plenty of disadvantages of homesteading to consider. Homesteading is time-consuming and requires an enormous amount of labor. You’ll also have to make some sacrifices to make it work. This guide outlines the pros and cons of homesteading to help you decide whether or not the lifestyle is right for you and your family. We’ll cover finances, work hours, diet, family, health, and much more.

Some of the benefits and drawbacks outlined in this guide don’t apply to all homesteaders. Homesteading is a spectrum. Some people homestead in an urban backyard. Others homestead on a 50 acre plot of land. Some homesteaders live completely off-grid and strive for complete self-sufficiency. Others just grow some extra food in a small garden. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll define homesteading as living a mostly self-sufficient lifestyle in a rural area on a few acres of land.

Pros of Homesteading

  • You get to enjoy fresh and tasty food every day- When you grow your own food, you know it is fresh. Fresh food always tastes better. There are several reasons for this. First, you harvest your fruits and vegetables when they’re ripe. This gives your produce the opportunity to fully develop its flavor. Store-bought produce is often ripened after harvest or artificially ripened. The flavor doesn’t fully develop this way. According to this scientific study, “naturally ripened bananas exhibit better sensory characteristics compared to treated fruits.” Next, you get to eat your food when it’s fresh. It’s not sitting around degrading or losing nutrients for weeks or months. Fresh food is more nutritious. Finally, you can grow heirloom varieties of your favorite fruits and veggies on your homestead. These are often more flavorful than varieties that are designed to be mass-produced and transported. 
  • Homesteading is affordable- The initial cost of setting up a homestead is pretty high. After everything is up and running, living on a homestead is much less expensive than living in a house in the city. Many homesteaders live comfortably on less than $20,000-$30,000 per year. Your food cost will decrease significantly because you will grow most of the food you eat. You’ll spend much less on groceries. Your monthly bills may be cheaper as well. For example, if you produce your own electricity with a solar system, you won’t have a power bill. If you live completely off-grid and have a well and septic tank, you won’t have a water or sewer bill. Property taxes are also generally cheaper in rural areas. You can even sell your own surplus products to offset some of your living costs. In the long run, you may spend less money by living on a homestead. Of course, you will have to spend some money to maintain your homestead. If you are self-sufficient, your only expenses will be taxes, insurance, equipment, fertilizer, animal feed, and maintenance on your home and equipment.
  • You’ll get lots of exercise- Working on your homestead forces you to be active every day. You may spend time working in your garden, caring for animals, processing food, cooking, repairing equipment, etc. You’ll spend more time on your feet and working with your hands. Staying active keeps your body healthy and fit. You won’t have as much time to sit around watching TV. Homesteading is an active lifestyle. Homesteaders are much less likely to suffer from obesity. 
  • You’ll spend more time with family when you live on a homestead- Many homesteaders live with their spouse and kids. Everyone works together on the homestead. This presents an excellent bonding opportunity for families. You can work in the garden together. You can teach your kids valuable life skills. In addition, you get to cook and enjoy delicious meals with your family every day. You’ll cherish these memories forever. When living in the city, you may only get to spend time with your family on rare occasions because everyone is busy working all the time. For example, when I was growing up, I only go to see my dad once every couple of weeks because he traveled for work. It was difficult.
  • You have lots of space- In order to homestead, you need some land. For most homesteaders, this means anywhere from 1-20 acres. For urban homesteaders, this might just mean a big backyard. Having land gives you space to spread out and store your belongings. For example, maybe you want a boat or an RV. You can easily park it on your property. You can’t do that in a crowded city. Maybe you want a pool, duck pond, workshop, or just a large shed. You can build one. Maybe you want a dirt bike track or a shooting range. You can build that too. The space also gives you distance from your neighbors. It’s nice to have some privacy. 
  • Homesteading is a healthy lifestyle- Homesteading may improve your health. There are several reasons for this. First, you’ll be eating fresh food, which is more nutritious. The food you grow hasn’t been shipped in from overseas. It hasn’t been sitting in a storeroom for months. The air is also fresher. You’ll be exposed to less smog, particles in the air, and other chemicals when living outside the city. Breathing fresh air offers a wide range of health benefits. You’ll also get plenty of exercise while homesteading. This greatly reduces your likelihood of becoming overweight. This, in turn, reduces your chances of developing a number of diseases and medical conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. You’ll spend more time outdoors as well. You’ll get plenty of vitamin D. Homesteading can also benefit your mental health. The lifestyle is much less stressful than living in an expensive city and working a competitive job. You can live a slower-paced lifestyle if you choose. Homesteading very well may help you live a longer and healthier life.
  • Homesteading is environmentally friendly- Homesteading is a green lifestyle. When you homestead, you’ll produce far less waste. The food you produce doesn’t come with wasteful plastic packaging. If food is about to go bad, you can preserve it by drying it, freezing it, making jams, etc. All food scraps can be composted or fed to livestock. Homesteaders also use less energy. If you’re self-sufficient, you won’t be commuting to work every day. This means you’ll drive less and burn less gas. Your food also doesn’t have to be transported around the world. It’s grown on-site. No fuel is used transporting your food. This further reduces your carbon footprint. Most modern homesteaders produce at least a portion of their energy from renewable sources such as solar panels or a wind turbine. Homesteaders use fewer chemicals and pesticides as well. Instead, they rely on organic or natural alternatives. For example, instead of using weed killer, many homesteaders simply weed by hand. Homesteaders also tend to consume less. When something breaks, they repair it instead of buying new. For example, if your work jeans get torn, you can sew them up instead of buying a new pair. To read more about homesteading and the environment, check out this excellent article.
  • There are fewer rules and regulations to deal with- Rural areas often have fewer building codes. Some locations have no building codes at all. If you want to build a new barn or put up a fence, you can usually do it without having to deal with too much red tape. You won’t have to deal with a city or an annoying homeowners association. In cities, building codes are strict. You may not even be able to paint your house without getting it approved. On a homestead, you can use your property however you like, for the most part. Living in a rural area just gives you a bit more freedom. Of course, there are still laws and regulations. You can’t do whatever you want. Some jurisdictions are incredibly strict. Before building or making any changes to your property, be sure to check with your local government.
  • You’ll learn new skills- A homesteader needs to be a jack of all trades. While homesteading, you’ll learn about agriculture, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, mechanics, and more. There is always work that needs to be done on the homestead. For example, maybe you need to plant some tomatoes, clean out the chicken coop, repair a fence, and change the oil in your lawnmower all in the same day. All of these tasks require different skills. Being able to do your own work makes you more self-sufficient. It’s also cheaper to do everything yourself. Maintaining a homestead often involves learning a new skill. You will use the skills that you learn for the rest of your life.
  • Peace and quiet- Living in a rural setting outside of the city is quiet. You won’t be woken up by sirens or horns honking in the night. You won’t hear noisy leaf blowers or construction noises in the morning. In addition, you won’t have to listen to your neighbors fighting through a shared wall like you would in an apartment. There is less hustle and bustle. All you’ll hear in the morning is the birds chirping. Living on a homestead is quiet. 
  • Less crime- Rural areas tend to be more peaceful than urban areas. Crime rates are generally lower in the country. You don’t have to worry as much about becoming the victim of violent crimes such as robbery or assault. Most violent crimes in rural areas happen between people who know each other. As long as you keep the peace with your neighbors, chances are you won’t have any issues with crime. Property crime rates are usually lower as well. Your home is less likely to get burglarized or vandalized. Your belongings are less likely to get stolen. For more info on crime in rural areas, check out this interesting article.
  • Living on a homestead gives you more privacy- You won’t have to deal with nosy neighbors watching you or eavesdropping on your conversations when you live on a homestead. Living on a large piece of property gives you some distance from your neighbors and the rest of society. This is great for those of us who enjoy our privacy. If you choose to live off-grid, you can enjoy even more privacy.
  • Homesteading gives you a feeling of accomplishment- Homesteading is an incredibly rewarding lifestyle. Growing your own food makes you feel self-sufficient. You’ll feel accomplished and proud knowing that you can provide for yourself and your family. Your family will love you for feeding them a healthy and delicious meal made from ingredients that you grew. 
  • It’s fun- Homesteading isn’t all work. It can be a lot of fun as well. Watching your chickens peck around your yard can bring hours of enjoyment. Many people find joy in cooking. Getting your hands dirty in the garden can also be a lot of fun. Some people enjoy building and tinkering and working with their hands.
A small homestead

Cons of Homesteading

  • You’ll earn less money- Depending on the size of your homestead, you may spend anywhere from 10-40+ hours per week working on it. During this time, you won’t be earning any money from a traditional job. When living on a homestead, you may not earn as much as you’re used to. Ideally, you’ll make up for this loss of income by saving money on food by growing your own. You’ll also save money by consuming less energy. You may simply earn less while living on a homestead. You may have to adapt to this lower level of income. You may not be able to afford a new iPhone every year or new clothes every month. Of course, there are ways to make money while homesteading. You can work part-time. You can earn a passive income from investments. You may be able to start an online business. Another option is to sell products or food that you produce on your homestead. For example, many homesteaders sell surplus fruits, vegetables, honey, eggs, etc. at a farmer’s market. Some homesteaders make and sell art or handmade goods. If you become completely self-sufficient, you can get by on very little money. Of course, you still have to earn enough to cover property tax, insurance, and equipment expenses.
  • Homesteading is hard work- When homesteading, you’ll have to build infrastructure, plant your crops, weed your garden, water your crops, harvest food, feed your animals, process food, cook, and maintain and repair your equipment and your home. The list of chores goes on and on. There is always something that needs to be done on a homestead. Exactly how much work you’ll need to do depends on the size of your homestead and how self-sufficient you’re trying to be. If you’re not in good physical health, you may have trouble performing some of the tasks that are required of homesteaders. For example, you may have to shovel dirt, lift heavy bags of fertilizer, operate power tools, etc. If you’re not capable of performing manual labor or if you simply prefer living a life of leisure, homesteading may not be for you. It’s hard work. 
  • Dealing with death- If you have livestock on your homestead, you will experience death. Animals get sick and die. Sometimes your animals may get killed by predators. An animal might suffer a miscarriage. Maybe a coyote gets into your chicken coop and kills your whole flock. It’s sad but it’s part of the circle of life. If you raise animals for meat, you’ll also have to slaughter them. This certainly takes some getting used to. Some people just can’t do it. Of course, you don’t have to keep livestock on your homestead. Some homesteaders just plant a garden. For more info on keeping livestock, check out my guide to 17 types of animals to keep on a homestead.
  • The smell- If you plan to keep livestock on your homestead, you’ll have to deal with some odor. Animals are stinky. Can you deal with the odor of manure in your home? Some people can’t. There are some ways to reduce the smell. You can strategically keep your livestock on the opposite side of your property, away from your home. There are also some products you can use to reduce the smell in your home. For example, you can burn candles, use air fresheners, or run an air diffuser. Even if you don’t keep livestock, you may still have to put up with that barnyard smell if your neighbor runs a large livestock farm. Some rural areas just have that agricultural smell.
  • It takes years to get a homestead set up- You can’t just move onto your new homestead and expect to become self-sufficient overnight. It takes years of hard work and planning to build a successful homestead. If you go in with your expectations too high, you’re likely to feel disappointed and fail. Many homesteaders quit for this reason. When starting a homestead, it’s best to keep your day job and start off slow at first. For example, in the first season, you could create a garden and plant some green beans, a couple of rows of corn, and a raspberry bush. The following season, you may add some raised garden beds, a chicken coop, and plant a small orchard. Maybe the following year you add a couple of bee hives and build a barn. After a few years, your homestead slowly but surely becomes more and more self-sufficient. If you try to build everything all at once, you might burn out or run out of money before you even get started. 
  • Living on a homestead can get lonely- Living on a homestead can be isolating. Particularly if you live alone. After all, most people live in cities these days. You probably won’t get to see your friends and extended family as often when you live on a homestead. You’ll also end up having fewer human interactions. For example, you probably won’t be going to work every day. You may not go shopping or out to eat as often. If you live in the country, you might only travel into town once per week. You’ll talk to fewer people. This can be a challenge for people who are social. The homestead lifestyle can also be difficult for people who are trying to date. Your options will be more limited outside of the city. If you already have a family, you probably won’t notice the loneliness as much. You’ll have your family to keep you company.
  • There is a massive learning curve to homesteading- If you grew up in the city as I did, there will be lots to learn before you can even start homesteading. For example, you’ll need to learn how to plant a garden and how to care for animals. You’ll need to learn some basic carpentry and plumbing to keep your home in livable condition. You’ll need to learn some basic mechanical and electrical skills to keep your vehicles and tools working. Most homesteaders can’t afford to just hire someone every time something breaks. There is a steep learning curve to all of these tasks. Sometimes you’ll fail and have to try again. The good news is that many of the skills you pick up while homesteading will come in handy for the rest of your life. These skills are all relatively easy to learn. Everyone can homestead. There are plenty of resources available online to help you learn any homesteading skill you could possibly need.
  • Homesteading has a high initial startup cost- An average small homestead costs around $250,000 to start up. This includes the cost of a few acres of land in a rural area, a home, basic equipment, a well, a septic system, a solar system, outbuildings, livestock, supplies, etc. Of course, the exact cost of a homestead depends on your location, the amount of land you need, and the type of home you build or buy. It would be easy to spend millions of dollars setting up your dream homestead with a modern home near a city. There are ways to get started on a much lower budget. You could rent a home on some land. You could also move further away from the city or move to a different part of the country where land prices are lower. You can also save a chunk of money by building your own cabin to live in. You could even simply rent a small plot of land in a community garden. Of course, you can also finance your homestead and have a mortgage. If you’re frugal, it is possible to set up a basic homestead with less than $50,000.
  • Poor internet, phone, and TV options- Many rural areas still don’t have decent internet access. Usually, there is only one option. That may be DSL, satellite internet, or a mobile hotspot. Internet in rural areas is often expensive as well. If you rely on the internet for work, you’ll want to make sure you can get a decent connection before buying land. Starlink solves this problem in many locations In some remote areas, you still can’t get a decent cell connection. Oftentimes your only option for TV is satellite. Ther may only be one phone company that offers service.
  • It’s hard to take vacations when you’re a homesteader- Running a homestead requires work every day. You can’t just pack up and leave for a month-long vacation. It may be difficult to leave for more than a weekend. You have to water your crops. You have to feed and water your animals. If these things are neglected, they will die. If you want to leave for more than a few days, you may have to hire a housesitter to take care of the place while you’re gone. This can get expensive. It can also be difficult to train someone to take care of your homestead while you’re away. If you like to travel often, homesteading may not be for you.
  • Some products or services may not be available where you live- Living in a rural area can somewhat cut you off from the rest of society. For example, if you don’t feel like cooking, you may not be able to just order a pizza or Uber Eats. There might not be any restaurants near you. There may not be any public transportation available either. You have to drive everywhere you go. You may not be eligible for free 2 day shipping from Amazon. There may not be curbside garbage or recycling pickup. If you live near a small town, it may not have some of your favorite businesses. For example, maybe there is no McDonald’s or Ikea or Costco. You might have to drive for an hour to go shopping. Quality professional services can also be hard to come by. For example, there may not be a decent lawyer or doctor in the area. You may have to drive miles to pick up prescriptions at a pharmacy or have your car worked on. The local grocery store may not stock some of your favorite products. Of course, this depends entirely on where you live. If you live on the edge of a major city, you’ll have access to all of your favorite products and services. If you live off-grid in the middle of nowhere, you may have to do without. 
  • Some people aren’t suited for the homestead lifestyle- Many people dream and fantasize about living a simple and self-sufficient life on a homestead. When it comes to actually living the homestead lifestyle, some enjoy it and some just can’t handle it. If you don’t deal well with isolation, getting dirty, or hard labor, homesteading may not be for you. Homesteading isn’t for everyone.
  • Sometimes it’s not fun- Homesteading can get annoying. Maybe a disease kills one of your animals or crops. Maybe your lawnmower breaks down and you need to fix it. A neighbor could accidentally build a fence on your land and cause a property dispute. You will have to do some jobs that you don’t like. Nobody enjoys harvesting animals.
  • There are some risks to homesteading- You could get injured. Running a large homestead involves operating heavy machinery, such as a tractor. You could also get sick if you don’t prepare or preserve your food properly. Livestock can carry diseases. You are also taking on a large financial risk. If you buy a homestead and decide that you don’t like the lifestyle, you may lose a lot of money.  
  • There can be an opportunity cost- Homesteading is expensive and time-consuming. Consider what you’re giving up to make your dream of homesteading into a reality. If you give up a high-paying job to start homesteading, you might put yourself into a difficult financial situation down the road. For example, maybe you’re giving up a $100,000 per year job to make $30,000 per year homesteading. You won’t be able to retire as soon. Also, think about the time you’ll spend maintaining your homestead. When you start homesteading, you may not have as much free time to spend with friends. You may not have time for certain hobbies. It may become difficult to vacation. You will have to make some compromises.
A chicken coop

Who Should Live on a Homestead?

Homesteading is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice for those looking for a simpler and more self-sufficient way of living. In general, homesteaders tend to be people who have an interest in growing their own food, raising animals, creating crafts or other goods to sell, and generally living off the land with as little reliance on others as possible. Most homesteaders don’t become completely self-sufficient. It is possible to become nearly self-sufficient with as little as one acre of land.

Those who are drawn to homesteading typically enjoy being outdoors, working with their hands, experimenting with new ideas, and learning how to do things themselves. They often display a strong knowledge of sustainable farming practices or have the willingness to learn. 

Homesteaders also tend to place a high value on accountability, resourcefulness, problem-solving, and self-sufficiency. Ideal candidates for homesteading include those who are willing to commit the resources and time needed to build up a homestead from scratch. Getting a homestead off the ground is expensive and time-consuming. Without the right resources, homesteading can be extremely challenging. 

Those who care about the environment also enjoy the homestead lifestyle. You will greatly reduce your carbon footprint when you start homesteading. You won’t use as much energy or create as much waste.

Those who are prepared to handle potentially difficult decisions also make good homesteaders. For example, you may need to decide on the type of infrastructure you need to build (solar, outbuildings, fencing, raised beds, etc.), what animals they may decide to raise, and how their property will best serve them in terms of producing sustainable food sources.

In short, individuals who are passionate about sustaining an independent lifestyle through the production of their own food and goods are best suited for life on a homestead. Anyone can homestead but some people are better suited than others. As long as you have the willingness to learn, you can become a homesteader.

A small homestead

Who Shouldn’t Live on a Homestead?

While homesteading can be a rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle, it is not the right choice for everyone. Those who are uncomfortable with the idea of living in close proximity to nature or with limited access to some basic amenities may find that homesteading is not for them. 

In addition, those individuals who are not physically able or inclined to perform large amounts of manual labor should also avoid homesteading. Developing a successful homestead requires a significant amount of hard work and dedication, and many tasks must be completed on a regular basis such as tending to crops and animals, performing maintenance on tools and equipment, and other duties specific to each homestead. 

Finally, people who value convenience above all else may also want to think twice about homesteading since the process is often slow-paced and labor-intensive. Homesteaders need to take the time necessary to properly maintain their land while balancing any other obligations they may have off the property. 

Ultimately, regardless of an individual’s goals or motivations for wanting to live on a homestead, it is important to ensure that it is the right fit before taking on this endeavor. Starting a homestead is a big commitment, both in terms of money and time. 

Raised garden beds growing letuce

A Few Questions to Ask Yourself Before Moving to a Homestead

If you’re still undecided as to whether or not the homestead lifestyle is for you, ask yourself the following questions to help make the decision process a bit easier:

  • Can you afford to start a homestead? Take a look at your finances. Do some research on the prices of land and real estate in your area. Talk to a lender to see how much you can afford to spend on a homestead. Don’t forget to consider the cost of equipment, insurance, and supplies. Chances are, you’ll go over budget so be sure to factor in a safety net as well. The cost to start a homestead depends entirely on your location.
  • Do you have enough time to homestead? If you need to work full-time, you may not have time to develop your homestead, take care of maintenance, grow crops, harvest, process your food, etc. Before you start a homestead, think about how much time you’ll have. If you’re a busy person, and you can’t make more time, homesteading may not be for you.
  • Are you okay without having regular human interaction? If you’re an introvert, you may love homesteading. You can spend your days working by yourself on your property. It’s a great way to recharge. If you’re an extrovert, you may struggle spending days on end without having any meaningful human interaction.
  • Do I have the skills to homestead? If not, can I learn? If you already have basic knowledge of agriculture, electrical, plumbing, mechanics, and carpentry, you’ll probably get along just fine. If you’re not a handy person, you’ll have to have the ability to learn new skills. YouTube is a great resource. If you’re not good at working with your hands and you’re not good at teaching yourself new skills, you may struggle. 
  • Do you have any serious medical conditions that could prevent you from working on a homestead? Homesteading requires lots of manual labor. If you’re incapable of performing the daily tasks required to keep the homestead running, you’ll have to either rely on a family member or hire a helper.
  • Do you stay calm under pressure? While homesteading, little emergencies will pop up all the time. For example, maybe an animal escapes. Maybe a pipe breaks. Maybe your lawnmower breaks down. You need to be able to keep your cool and solve any problem that pops up.
  • Do you enjoy cooking and are you a good cook? You’ll prepare most of your own meals on your homestead. You need to enjoy cooking and eating your own food. If you’re not a good cook, or you don’t enjoy cooking, homesteading may not be for you.
  • Will your family enjoy the homestead lifestyle? If you’re planning to move onto a homestead with your family, you’ll want to consider their preferences. For example, if your spouse is a socialite, they may not enjoy living on a homestead in the middle of nowhere. If you have kids, they might have to change schools. If someone isn’t happy with the change, they can make it miserable for everyone.  
A vegetable garden on a homestead

Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Homesteading

As you can see, homesteading has plenty of benefits and drawbacks. With proper planning and the right attitude, many people find happiness and satisfaction in living the homestead lifestyle. At the same time, many people give up or fail because their expectations were too high or because they were ill-prepared

Homesteading can offer an incredibly healthy, private, and affordable lifestyle with plenty of freedom. At the same time, it homesteading involves lots of hard and time-consuming work. It can be dirty, smelly, and lonely as well. There are plenty of sacrifices you’ll have to make to make this lifestyle into a reality. It’s important to consider them all before you commit. Some homesteaders try and fail. Some simply don’t enjoy living on a homestead. The lifestyle isn’t right for everyone.  

If you like the idea of the homestead lifestyle but you don’t want to fully commit, there are a couple of ways to give yourself a taste. If you live in a house, you could start a small homestead in your backyard. Plant a garden and grow some of your favorite fruits and veggies. Build a chicken coop and raise a few chickens. You’d be surprised how much food you can produce in an average backyard. If you enjoy the work, you may decide that the homestead life is right for you.

Another option is to make the transition gradually. Buy a piece of land and slowly develop your homestead over the course of a few years while continuing to work your regular day job. Homesteading doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Whether or not you decide to homestead, I hope this guide helps make the decision a little easier.

Do you live on a homestead? Share your experience in the comments below!

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