Provide food for you and your family from the comfort of your suburban home – a micro homestead.
We’ve all seen the beautiful homestead Instagram feeds and thought to ourselves, “Wow. Wouldn’t that be nice?” You know the ones I’m talking about. The chickens curiously looking at you. The bountiful fall harvest with the roots still attached. We all think that a green thumb and farm fresh eggs are synonymous with owning 30 acres and having an extensive agriculture background. And I’m here to tell you something – it isn’t.
Rural areas with acres of land and farm animals aren’t the only way to live a self-sufficient lifestyle. In an urban setting, you may be surprised to find you actually have enough room to keep honey bees, have a vegetable garden, maybe even have fruit trees! It’s called urban homesteading, or micro homesteading. People (like us) are creating small homesteads in suburban areas, under local laws, utilizing local markets. It’s small-scale farming at its finest. And this is how you can get started.
In this post:
What is a micro homestead?
A micro homestead is typically recognized as someone producing their own food on less than 5 acres. The “food” doesn’t matter – poultry, produce, etc. A hobby farm may also fall into this, although hobby farms are usually considered to be anything less than 50 acres.
Why would you want one?
There are a thousand reasons you could want a micro homestead. To grow food by your own hand. To avoid disruptions with supply chains. To grow extra produce for a large family to offset food costs. Or to just grow into a more natural, homestead lifestyle.
For my family, we took our micro homestead seriously thanks to a pandemic and subsequent supply chain issues. New light was shed on the average American’s access to things like meat, produce, and other creature comforts we thoughtlessly put in our carts.
Some days, shelves would be barren. Some days, they weren’t. The stunted access made my husband and I question our current dependence on the international food system. What would we do if this were to disappear from store shelves forever? What if we were forced to grow our own food? Could we make this ourselves?
Our family wasn’t put in between a rock and a hard place. But we were at a point in our lives where we knew there were going to be supply issues coming down the line. We could either subject our lives to them or take responsibility for what we could control and mitigate coming change.
Tips for Starting Your Micro Homestead
We get it – feeding your family is a big deal. But making decisions fueled by fear will lead you to chase rabbits and maybe even spend money on rabbits. Both of which you may not need to do.
Our best tip – Craft a plan
Any good homestead is created with two things in mind – sustainability and growth.
When my husband and I got married, we knew we wanted to live on land some day. We loved the idea of raising our own beef, collecting and eating our own eggs and canning what we could from a garden. But it stayed a dream. We didn’t do too much research. We didn’t truly examine where to get started. So our plans stalled.
When we pulled the trigger and got chickens our first year of micro homesteading, that’s all we did. That winter, we knew we could handle the chickens and a garden, but not a large garden. So the following spring we had a container garden with plant starts I bought from a nursery. We learned about pest control, weeding, and how much space each plant truly needs. Our second year, we had a full sized garden and learned more about pest control, weed suppression, proper watering techniques and companion planting.
Every step of the way, we took a moment to see how our decisions were impacting our long term plans. We have since put pen to paper and truly mapped out what we want out of a homestead. Since we’re raising animals and growing food on a smaller scale, it’s a good start in learning a little more about what would come with acres of land, farm animals and other livestock and maintenance. And better yet – we’re developing skills that will come with us! When we do move onto a larger piece of land, we can immediately get started with raising our own beef because we won’t be tied up trying to figure out how to garden.
Are you struggling with getting started? Check out my ebook, Making a Micro Homestead! In it, I talk all about growth plans, making connections in your homesteading community, and ways to homestead if you don’t have a lot of land. It’s the perfect resource for making your dreams a reality – for FREE!
Clearly define your goals
Your plan will come when you decide what you want out of this journey. Are you looking to get rid of your local grocery store all together? Do you want to better support your local farmers markets? Do you want to increase your vegetable production?
Whether you’re established on a micro homestead or not, there’s a steep learning curve that comes with growing your own food and raising your own animals. Being able to remind yourself about why you started in the first place will help when things get tough.
Invest in what means something to you
Would you grow 100 pounds of green beans for your family if you don’t like green beans? I hope your answer is a resounding NO. So would you consider starting a homestead based around something you can’t spark any interest in? Again, I hope your answer is a resounding NO.
So, where do you start?
Our family has always admired animals from afar. We love watching them interact with each other. We love admiring God’s creation. So naturally, we decided to start our homestead with chickens. After looking in to our city’s animal ordinances and crunching a few numbers in our budget, we confirmed that was where we needed to start.
But if animals aren’t a passion of yours (yet), consider starting a garden. Or looking in to bees. Or starting a cut flower garden. There are several different avenues you can go down before investing in poultry and livestock.
Take a look at the outdoor space you do have. Is it small? You may start with a kitchen garden. Are you on a small homestead? Consider larger garden beds or even small livestock.
Don’t shy away from small spaces – begin considering creative ways you can utilize them!
Be prepared to fail
One of the greatest, and toughest, lessons homestead life will teach you is how grueling some parts of life truly are.
It can be something simple like neglecting to weed your garden. Or it can be something devastating, like disease wiping out your flock. Whatever your failure may be, be prepared to fail. There should be an outright expectation that something you’re doing may not work. If you do this, you’re laying an incredible foundation for you and your micro homestead.
But how does failure help?
First, you eliminate a lot of the shock and awe that comes with failure. “But my family – they need to be fed!” “But this gardening method – it was full proof!” Expecting failure prompts us to move to the second best part of your new life foundation – you learn to pivot. (For a few lessons on how we had to pivot, read this post.)
When you realize something may be salvageable, the elbow grease comes out. The odds and ends materials laying around your garage suddenly have purpose. The crazy idea you had a few months ago and held on to is now coming to life. Learning to breathe new life into your homestead will show you how resilient you and your family truly are.
Bonus tip – Embrace the winds of change
Finally, learn to go with the flow. So much of homesteading relies on things like the weather and animal-related diseases. Modern homesteading is impacted by things like feed production, product regulation and sometimes even law. While we love this life and the freedoms it often provides us, there are some nuances we must learn to forge farther toward independence. But sometimes, there’s just too much (or too little) rain.
Consider where and when you’re planting your crops
We’ve touched about living on a smaller plot of land already. Limited space is always something you should consider when planting something that might need space, like corn, okra or watermelon. But different climates can also determine your success.
I don’t recommend growing mangos and oranges in Ohio. Or planting brussel sprouts at the beginning of summer. One of the first steps in your gardening journey should be researching what grows well in what zone you’re in. I give a few other tips about gardening in “5 Things You Need to Know Before Starting Your Garden.” Check out that blog post for some quick tips!
I’d also encourage you to pay attention to your growing season. Like I just said – brussel sprouts don’t do well during the summer. Fruit trees should be planted in the spring and summer when the ground is soft. Root crops may perform better in container gardens or raised beds. There are so many things to consider when starting your first garden! But again – don’t let a little bit of space discourage you. With proper research and care, you can grow a lot of food in a small space!
What if I can’t garden or raise chickens?
Support your local farmers! In our area, almost every large city along our local interstate has a farmer’s market. One in particular is the largest in our area! You can support your local farmer and get a better understanding of what grows seasonally in your area by shopping at a farmer’s market.
You could also look into a community garden. Community gardens may be more popular in more populated areas, like apartment complexes or the heart of a city. A community garden may be organized in a way each resident can rent or own a plot of land. That plot is where they can plant flowers, fruits or vegetables. Community gardens are also an incredible way to house something like a chicken coop. Our 10 hens provide us with an average of 6 eggs a day – that’s 3.5 dozen eggs per week! If the average couple is consuming one dozen eggs per week, imagine what a flock of chickens could do for a community caring for them!
For more blog posts about chickens, check out my Homestead Tab! I have all kind of information about getting chickens through the winter, feed options and more. Check out “Raising Chickens for Beginners” for a free printable!
Other perks to urban homesteading
Let’s break down what it means to raise chickens. If you were to build a chicken coop, you could easily save yourself hundreds of dollars. In our area, a dozen eggs was about $3 per dozen March 2023. A bag of feed for my chickens was $17 and their shavings were $14 per month. My girls lay an average of 6 eggs per day, or 3.5 dozen eggs per week. If I were to buy 4 dozen eggs per week, I’m spending $12 per week, or $48 per month. But at $31 per month (my feed and shavings), I can get 14 dozen eggs per month!
Since I just added to my laying flock, I could even sell my extra eggs and make extra income to offset my production costs, making my cost per dozen even cheaper.
Chickens are also the easiest way to be introduced to farm animals. Backyard chickens are commonly accepted by city ordinances and even home owners associations (usually so long as you avoid roosters).
Speaking of farm animals, they tend to be dirty, poopy and just gross. But chicken manure is highly coveted by gardeners. It’s also a great way to get free soil. In a compost pile, mix chicken shavings, chicken manure (from a run, for example) with equal parts food waste and grass clippings, turn it occasionally and voila! You have nutrient-rich compost. All from a by product normally disregarded by those who don’t know better.
And let us not forget the best part of all – chicken eggs!
Micro homestead garden
A garden is a great way to eat healthy food. You have total control over how its grown, what nutrients are added and what pesticides (if any) are sprayed. As an added bonus, you don’t have to go to the grocery store! From the comfort of your own backyard, you could have a salad for dinner.
We haven’t even touched on the price comparison of raising your own food. If you garden, I highly encourage you to track how much a pack of seeds cost you and the yield from those seeds. What does seasonal produce go for in your area? Cross compare how much food you grow with how much it would have cost you at the grocery store. Amendments and water bill aside, I think the numbers you find will be startling. Especially when you realize a pack of lettuce seeds is only about $3 and you could grow more than enough to munch on through the summer. But we want to spend $3 and up per one head of lettuce at the grocery store. Let’s be wise with our money and grow our own food!
Alternative ways to homestead
I am a huge proponent of the idea you can begin homesteading in your kitchen. You don’t need any amount of land. You don’t need backyard chickens. You just need a passion to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
How can you do that? Here are a few ideas –
Sourdough starter – dehydrating and selling, baking
Rendering tallow and lard
Buying meat in bulk from a local farmer
If you want other ideas for how to get started homesteading, check out my ebook, Making a Microhomestead! In it I have 12 ways to homestead when you don’t have land, as well as growth guides, ideas for finding your homesteading community and more.
Starting a small business
I had the wild idea to start making my own beauty products. I ran out of lotion and was looking for ways to make my own. That’s when I stumbled upon beeswax lotion bars (check out my recipe in this blog post). I started sharing the idea with a few of my friends and BAM – interest went through the roof! Between my beauty products and eggs, I’ve started a small business from the comfort of my own home and earned extra income.
Growing your own food can produce the same results. Sell your spent chicken shavings. Sell your eggs. Offer a roadside stand to people in your neighborhood to buy extra plant starts or extra produce you grow. Every extra dollar could go back into your homestead, or be a fun night out to celebrate how far you’ve come!
A final note of encouragement
Smaller spaces don’t mean you aren’t on to a great idea. There are a lot of people who have been able to successfully grown their own food in a small backyard. I’m on less than half an acre and I have backyard chickens! Don’t let the idea of traditional farms turn you away from just getting started. Becoming self-sufficient is too great a cause to let tradition get in the way! So try something new. Grow your own food. You can do this! All you have to do is get started!
Check out these great blog posts!