Getting Started with Urban Homesteading

Urban homesteading is a growing movement, in which many people are starting to grow and raise their own organic produce, make and create essential items from scratch, connect with their community, and live more frugal, lower impact lifestyles.

It is a great way to ‘adapt in place’, which means being prepared by making the most of what you have, where you are, all whilst living the best life you can.

What is Urban Homesteading?

Also known as backyard, suburban or city farming, urban homesteading encompasses a wide range of activities, being done by people living in smaller spaces, and balancing modern lifestyles too, such as:

  • keeping chickens, worms and bees
  • growing, preserving & cooking organic food
  • composting and natural garden solutions
  • making soap, toiletries & medicinal products
  • brewing beer, cider and wine
  • home crafts and frugal, green living
  • foraging, education & community connections

Urban homesteading has been around since ancient times, with resurgence in popularity and necessity, during such times as economic depressions, Victory Gardens and war support eras, back-to-the-land movements! Many cultures around the world embrace urban homesteading.

Home is where you make it, and so it goes, homesteading is where you make it. It may be as small as a balcony, or several hundred square metres of a suburban block, or even, a semi-rural acreage block. It isn’t just your garden or yard, but inside your house, on your roof, down your street, and over your fence. Urban agriculture embraces community gardens, school gardens, unused common areas, shared land, parks and reserves, verges, local farms and more.

Who can be an Urban Homesteader?

People who believe in the value of learning ‘back to basics’ or ‘simple living’ skills and knowledge, who enjoy the simple, but hard earned, pleasures in life, and are willing to give it a go.

What are the benefits to being an urban homesteader?

Urban homesteading is about health, satisfaction, resourcefulness, creativity, preparedness, and resilience! You can learn and practice skills that you can use now, and in the future… and it is something you can pass on to your children.

•    Aim for closed-loop systems using permaculture principles, and there can be environmental benefits from less carbon emissions, reliance on fossil fuels, pollution and waste

•    Fair Share means being ‘ethically-minded’ by looking after the land, animals and communities, knowing where your food (and other stuff) comes from, and who might have been affected by its production.

•    Security in times of rising food and energy costs, food unavailability, unemployment, environmental breakdown etc. Urban homesteading is a great way to increase your preparedness for short and longer term emergency situations.

•    Education and awareness for your kids

•    Being good role models for your kids, your family, and your community

•    Satisfaction from creating, growing, trouble shooting, connecting, accomplishing, and being a part of something purposeful!

•    Good health can come from getting out in the fresh air, doing some exercise, eating better

What advice can you give to someone starting urban homesteading?

•     Start your planning with a discussion – what you hope to achieve, how much time, energy and money do you have, and any restrictions

•     Design the lay out of your urban homestead, taking into account where you are, what you have, what you want, and what you can afford

•     Do what you can – Instead of trying to ‘do it all’ and do it instantly, try to grow or make some yourself, and outsource the rest from local producers/ farmers, by bartering, sharing or swapping with friends, family and neighbours. This is a great for community resilience!

•     Learn and integrate one new skill, project or stage at a time at a time

•     Get your family, or room mates on board by talking about the benefits, but consider trialling less permanent methods, such as container gardening or rent-a-chook.

References & Further Reading

The Best of Jackie French:

The Vegetable Gardeners Guide to Permaculture – Creating an Edible Eco System by Christopher Shein, 2013, Timber Press Inc.

The Urban Homesteading Book by Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne, and blog:

Homemade Living series of books, with Ashley English:

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