“Homesteading” has become a term on the internet, and to many, it may appear like a fresh or revived notion. This new movement has deep roots and a vast, daily-growing following. Homesteading has increased throughout central Texas and the Texas Hill Country is positioned well to ride these trends.
Who started homesteading? Most would refer to the early history of the United States, when President Abraham Lincoln enacted the Homesteading Act of 1862, enabling pioneers to claim the property as long as they used it to create a subsistence livelihood. This included pasturing animals, planting crops, gathering trees for constructing, and erecting a dwelling and outbuildings such as silos or root cellars. This policy allowed people to relocate out of cities and into the “Wild West” of the US, relieving congestion (and food/housing shortages) and populating government-owned property.
While analogous regulations are rare today, there is a rising push toward self-sufficiency, decreasing living costs, simplifying lifestyles, and producing one’s own food and commodities. Social media and the internet have helped the movement flourish in the past 8 years. The rebirth of homesteading has several causes.
In the last 20 years, Americans from all walks of life and political, social, religious, and economic sectors have joined the homesteading movement. People want to be independent of the government for energy and food.
Others aspire to return to the countryside and work with their hands in a technology-obsessed world. Some worry about the environmental effect of the contemporary, industrialized lifestyle and want to produce their food and energy. Some want to escape the rat race and live simply. Others oppose popular culture based on social, environmental, or religious reasons. For others, it’s the struggle of learning to produce their fundamental necessities.
Several elements shaped the present homesteading movement:
- Know-the-farmer trend. Suspicion and lack of trust in the food business due to the negative press of huge agricultural corporations and worry over pollution from moving food and other items from around the world have prompted many to only consume from local farmers. Farmers’ markets, CSAs, and artisan marketplaces have increased nationwide. This allows homesteaders to sell their items in addition to using them themselves.
- Organic, non-GMO, and locally-produced food. This includes heritage fruits and vegetables instead of genetically modified, pesticide- and fertilizer-free products and cereals, and small, privately held farms.
- Happy Cow. Demand for grass-fed, organic beef and animal welfare. Related to the “Know your Farmer ” trend and the exposure of problematic practices in the beef, pig, dairy, and poultry sectors, many have convictions about animal care or desire to avoid antibiotics, corn-based diets, and disease risk from vast feedlots and chicken farms. Many homesteaders grow their eggs, dairy, and meat and sell the surplus at local markets.
- Off-Grid. Off-gridders produce their own energy, water, and garbage removal. Off-grid is getting at least most of one’s electricity from solar, hydro, or wind instead of the “electrical grid.” There are various motivations to accomplish this, including a desire for almost free energy or a desire to be self-sufficient in case of tragedy.
Whatever the trend or motivation for becoming a homesteader, the movement has many followers and will certainly increase. Some regions are better for homesteading for several reasons.
Why Central Texas? Central Texas is ideal for homesteading. Choosing a homestead location involves numerous criteria. First, investigate economical arable land for gardening and animal husbandry.
Despite being less than three hours apart, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston have lots of inexpensive acreage with suitable soil for farming and grazing. Land near cities is usually costly, making homesteading impractical. Central Texas terrain isn’t like this.
Central Texas has reliable water sources from rivers, aquifers, and rain. The warm temperature and plentiful sunshine make Central Texas ideal for homesteading (East of I-35 is the general boundary for the subtropical climate). Central Texas’ closeness to cities makes it ideal for homesteading. Those who garden or keep animals are near enough to a variety of major and local markets to sell their wares. They also have the option of selling at several markets during the week if desired.
Central Texas’ Agriculture exemption is another advantage of homesteading. This tax assessment lowers the proportion of eligible land’s market value. Grassland, crops, and orchards may qualify for this exemption. It’s worth researching each county’s criteria.
These are only a few of the benefits of homesteading on Central Texas land, and many have already begun to live more self-sufficient on their own plots. Central Texas is an excellent place to start homesteading, whether you’re fresh or have expertise.