News Home & Design What to Consider When Choosing a Homestead Looking to move to a more self-sufficient property? Here is what to keep in mind. By Elizabeth Waddington Writer, Permaculture Designer and Sustainability Consultant University of St Andrews (MA) Elizabeth has worked as a freelance writer since 2010 covering gardening, sustainability, and permaculture. She has also written a number of books and e-books on gardens and gardening. our editorial process Facebook Facebook LinkedIn LinkedIn Elizabeth Waddington Published February 11, 2021 12:41PM EST Björn Mußmann / EyeEm / Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices Many people dream of finding the perfect homestead and living in a more eco-conscious and self-reliant way. But choosing a homestead is not always easy. How do you know whether a site you are looking at is right for making your dream come true? There are plenty of things to think about when you are searching for the perfect plot and home. But here are some of the broad considerations that you should think about to make sure you make the right choice. You can use these questions as jumping-off points for further research. What Are Your Goals? Firstly, and most importantly, it is important to cement your goals. What exactly do you hope to achieve? Ask yourself how ambitious you would like to be. Are you looking for complete (or near-complete) self-sufficiency? Or are you simply looking to take a few forays into the world of sustainable growing and self-reliance? When people think about homesteading, usually they will have a home and food producing garden in mind. Many homesteaders will also want to bring livestock of some kind into their lives. Some homesteaders need their home to be a business too – and bring in revenue. While others may simply seek to keep things ticking over. Choosing a homestead means thinking very carefully about what you want your homestead to be. While you do not need to have everything worked out, you will need to have a clear idea of your goals when you are looking for a property. Homesteading The definition of homesteading has evolved since The Homestead Act of 1862. Modern-day homesteading is centered around self-sufficiency and may include subsistence agriculture, generating one's own power, home preservation of food, and other components of self-reliance. What is Your Budget? Dreams and reality can often oppose one another. As well as thinking about your goals, you also need to be pragmatic and think about what you can actually afford. After thinking about what you would like to achieve, you need to think about how much of that you can really do right now. It might be that you will have to build towards your goals over a longer timeframe. But that does not mean that you cannot move in the right direction. Remember, you do not have to have a 50-acre farm to start your journey to a homesteading lifestyle. You don't even have to have five acres. Not even one acre. As someone who produces food and keeps chickens on just 1/3 acre, I know that even the smallest of sites can be hugely productive. We are definitely not 100% self-sufficient where I live. But I do grow the majority of the fruit, vegetables, and herbs required for five people. And we have eggs from our rescue chickens. And I know full well that our land can provide still greater yields. When choosing a homestead, you need to balance out dreams and practical realities to find the best solution that is really achievable for you. Even when you have to compromise, you will often be able to achieve far more than you imagined possible – if you choose the right site. How is the Land? When choosing a property, many people focus first on the home. But when you want to be a homesteader, looking at land rather than any built structures is far more important. Of course, you need to think about whether there is already shelter on the site, or whether you plan on building your own home. And if you plan to build, you need to think about planning, and make sure you will not be too restricted by local ordinances in what you are allowed to do. A little research here will go a long way. But whether there is an existing home on the land or not, the land itself is the most important thing. What are the Climate and Microclimate? First of all, you need to consider the climate and microclimate of the site. What you can achieve on a given area of land in a lush and fertile temperate climate zone will, of course, be very different from what can be achieved on the same land area in a less ideal environment. Considering the general climatic conditions will be key in determining how much land you need to achieve your goals. Is There Water? Another key consideration, and one that is often overlooked, is water. Consider not just how much rainfall you can expect in the area, but how water behaves on the land. Is there a reliable water source? Will the water available on the land be sufficient for your needs, for your garden, and for any livestock you intend to keep? If theLook at patterns of water in the area, and make sure you think through all eventualities. And make sure you will be able to build in resilience. The Role of Water in a Forest Garden Design How is the Soil? Along with climate and water, the soil is another key issue to consider. Look at the quality and characteristics of the soil on any homestead sites you are considering. Make sure you understand its strengths and weaknesses. What was the land used for before? And how has this affected soil quality? Where topsoil is less than ideal, it can be improved. But you need to know from the outset what, if any, repair work will be required – to ecosystems as well as any built structures on the site. What is the Terrain Like? The terrain of a site will also be an important factor in determining whether or not it is the right site for you. Is the terrain largely flat, or steeply sloping? Will extensive earthworks be required? How does the terrain impact on temperatures, water flow, wind exposure etc? Thinking about these things upfront will ensure that you have strategies in place before you even move in. And can help you making costly mistakes. What Vegetation Exists? When analysing a potential homestead site, another important thing to look at is the existing vegetation on the site. Though it is likely that you will add plenty of plant life, looking at what is already there can give important clues about what will be achievable. What is more, looking at existing plant-based resources can help you see what a site can already provide. The right sight might already have plenty of natural resources that can give you a jump-start on homestead creation. What is the Energy Potential? Whether the sites you are considering are off grid, or connected, thinking about the potential for renewable energy generation can also be helpful. Think about whether you will be able to install solar panels, or a wind turbine on the site in question, for example. Or even about whether you might be able to generate hydroelectric power from a waterway on the property. Is There Good Access? Finally, another area often overlooked is accessibility. Homesteading obviously means spending a lot of time on the property itself. But you won't spend all your time there. Think about the accessibility of the site, and how easy it will be to create road/access infrastructure where this is not already in place. And how accessibility might be different at different times of the year. This is not an exhaustive list; but the above are certainly some of the most important things to consider when choosing a homestead.