Over the last few years, there has been a rise in people wanting to become self-sufficient. Growing their own produce, raising their own meat, having dairy animals, harvesting it all from their own property, and going completely off grid. All these things are great goals to have. Hearing this makes my heart sing with joy. Unfortunately, for some, being completely self-sustaining is just unattainable. For others, the grind (for lack of better term) will burn them out so quickly that they throw in the towel and walk away. I am here to tell you that you don’t have to do all the things to be sustaining on your homestead.
Of course, you could learn all the skills, buy 20-100+ acres of land, build the off-grid house, live completely off the land, raise and butcher your own meat, milk for fresh dairy every day, grow your own feed for your animals, hunt or fish for the meat you can’t raise, harvest fibers to make your own clothing, the list goes on. But how sustainable is that for you where you are right now? What if we looked at sufficiency in a different way? What if we didn’t put the focus on us but instead put the focus on our community? How can the community around you bring you closer to your goal of being self-sufficient?
Starting close to home, get to know who your neighbors are and what skills they may have. This will help you to narrow down the list of skills that are still needed in your immediate community. It will help you find people who can teach you the skills you want to know as well. Making connections with people in different generations than yourself can bring so much wisdom into your life.
Let's say you and a neighbor both garden. But you can’t get your tomatoes to thrive and they can’t get their potatoes going. You grow the potatoes, they grow the tomatoes, then you split the harvest. Maybe you don’t have a green thumb, but you raise chickens. You could trade eggs or meat for garden produce.
In my case, we don’t have an off-grid water source on our property currently. What we do have, is multiple neighbors with ponds. If the need arose, we could trade for water from a pond for sourdough bread, garden harvest, chicken eggs, or whatever the neighbor had a need for. Another example is I have two different older ladies close to me who garden. If I need help with an issue or have questions about what varieties work best in our area, I can go to them.
2. Farmers Markets
Zooming out from the home a little bit, let's look at farmers markets. Farmers markets are a great option to see what is out there to fill the voids you may have in your own property or within your immediate community. At our local market you can find homemade breads and other baked goods, jams and jellies, honey, homemade laundry soap, fresh flowers, farm grown fruits and veggies, fiber arts items, eggs, and more.
When you support the sellers at your local farmers market, you are putting money back into the pockets of small business owners around your community. You are also widening your community and resources to learn from. There are a variety of growing methods for animals and produce. You will probably find all of those right there at your farmers market. Ask questions about their growing practices. What do they feed the animals? Do they use organic growing practices? See if you can come to the farm and look at the operation to get hands-on learning.
3. Social Media Communities
I know most of us have a love / hate relationship with certain online options for community. On websites like Facebook, there are a vast number of different groups and pages to get into for any topic you could think of. My tip with these would be to read the groups guidelines to make sure it’s going to be a good fit for what you are looking for. If you want to be more on the holistic side with your animal raising practices, make sure you find groups that support that as well. This will help to avoid having posts removed or being kicked out of the group because you go against the guidelines.
Facebook Marketplace can be a good resource when looking for material or equipment you need for your homestead. It can also get you in connection with people who are selling animals, animal products, baked goods, clothing, kitchen supplies, etc. Especially when you find listings for yard and garage sales. You do need to be careful here though. There are a lot of fake accounts out there that are just looking to scam. Check out the profile of the lister before messaging them. Don’t pay anything until you see the item in person. If you are having something shipped to you, do your best to make sure it’s a legit listing. You can see what else the person has posted within Marketplace to get a feel for their operation.
4. Online Resources to find Communities
We have looked at a few different ways to find people in our surrounding area who may be able to help us be more productive with what we have in the right now. Granted, your immediate neighbors, local markets, and websites like Facebook are still going to put limits on the resources available to you.
Good ‘ol Google is always an option to help you find what you need. You may need to dig a little bit, but it’s still out there. I have been able to find a couple dairies in my area with raw milk that were not listed on the other websites I will share below. Google, being a main search engine, can be extremely resourceful. Trucks broke down and you don’t have the tools or know how to fix it, look for a mechanic near you. (I would suggest an independent shop personally over a dealership.) Sometimes you can just pull up your address on the map and browse the businesses on the map to see if any fit your needs. I have been able to find you-pick farms, organically grown farms, horse riding lessons, local honey, and beef farmers doing this. Westonaprice.org is a phenomenal resource to help you find real food. When you go to the site, there should be a find food/local chapters menu tab on the main menu when the website loads. From that page, find your state drop down and then the closest county to you. The following is directly from westonaprice.org: “Local chapters help you find locally grown organic and biodynamic vegetables, fruits and grains; and milk products, butter, eggs, chicken and meat from pasture-fed animals. They also represent the Weston A Price Foundation at local fairs and conferences and may host cooking classes, potluck dinners and other activities to help you learn to integrate properly prepared whole foods into your lifestyle. Local chapters may be able to put you in touch with health practitioners who share our philosophy and goals.”
From Weston A Price’s site, you can also find RealMilk.com. This site is useful in finding raw milk local to you as well as tons of educational and informational articles on the benefits of raw dairy. If you aren’t sure what your state laws are on raw milk, they have the regulations on their site to make that easy for you. If you are wanting to get into dairy animals, finding a dairy local to you will be one of your best resources. Ask them if you can shadow for a milking session or do a tour of the farm to see how they operate. If you can find multiple near you, maybe try to set this up with a couple different dairies.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the resources available to you, but it’s enough to get the wheels turning and get your legs moving. If you are just starting this journey, or have been on this journey for years, please remember that it is just that...a journey. Do the best you can with what you have. Turn your waiting room into a classroom, as Jess from Roots and Refuge would say, and just take the next step. We have dozens of free resources to help you on your journey as well and check out our podcast episode on community sufficiency here!
Until next time,