How to Afford Your Homestead

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Like so many others, we moved out to the country thinking that we could build a small farm, sell some produce and maybe a little bit of livestock, and make some money. And of course, don’t forget the small fortune I planned to make from selling surplus honey.

I’m sure that someone can do that, but I’m not one of those people! As a special needs mom, community volunteer, small business owner, wife, whatever-other-title I have that particular day, I don’t have quite as much free time as most people. And frankly, I just don’t have the desire. We switched from thinking of this as a farm to thinking of it as a homestead. We have lots of food that we’ve grown for our family and enough to share with others. We really enjoy our livestock and fresh organic food. But we’re never going to get rich from this. So instead, let’s focus on how to save money and make your homestead affordable. Our farmstead cost us nearly $0 to run following these tips and many others that I look forward to sharing with you in the coming months. 

The first thing you need to do the minute you walk through the door of your home or farmstead is find a way to make compost. If you’re throwing those onion and banana peels in the trash, then you’re wasting money. Any food scraps should be going to feed your animals or make compost. Don’t waste anything. To make this convenient, I use a small plastic container with a lid and save scraps in the kitchen while I cook. Every few days, we simply take it out to the compost bin, wash the container and start anew. There are plenty of tutorials about how to build free or cheap compost bins online. Ours is simply four pallets stood up on end. You can even hold them together with zip ties from the dollar store. Total cost, one dollar. Here is a tutorial from HGTV.

The next step is to soil test. As a Master Gardener, this is something that I preach constantly. But most people still don’t get it. They want to garden the way their grandparents did and lime every year because Grandpa did. “Grandpa always added a certain fertilizer. So that’s what I do too.” You could be doing much more harm than good if you’re just guessing like this. A soil test turns guesswork gardening into science. It makes it much easier especially if you’re new to gardening or gardening in a new place.  By the way, Master Gardeners in your area will help you understand your soil test.

The next step is to not buy anything if you can make it. You have to balance your time and your skillset with this, obviously, but here’s an example. When I gardened in the city as a young professional, I worked downtown and gardened on the weekends. We went to a big box store and bought plant labels for seeds. Now that I run a 10-acre hobby farm, I cut apart milk jugs and make plant labels.  Check out my pictures for a simple tutorial.

Jessi is a Master Gardener in Upstate SC.  She runs Southern Roots Farm