Lesson Two in the Corona-Induced Homesteading Movement seminar on Food Independence on a Shoestring:
Where am I going to get land?
The biggest obstacle to finding land for a small, sustainable farm isn’t money, it’s expectation.
Think about it. There’s land everywhere — all around us — we’re standing on some — and a whole lot of it is empty and abandoned. No, it doesn’t look like a farm — yet — but neither did any farm look like a farm before it was a farm. We farm the foothills of Appalachia, and it’s steep, rocky, with clay soil, shale bluffs, and mixed second-growth hardwood forest. It’s no one’s idea of what a farm looks like, but that’s because most of us have gotten our image for the word ‘farm’ from children’s picture books — green square with a fence around it, red-painted barn, Farmer Brown in overalls with a straw sticking out of his mouth, and fat, smiling farm animals standing around him — or from video ads for Tyson and Monsanto, with chickens strolling groomed lawns, and fields of genetically identical corn spreading for miles.
Lose that thought. Farms don’t just happen, like volcanoes and waterfalls, farms are made — when human beings arrive, stay, and begin partnering with the animals and plants to sequester water and capture sunlight in locally-adapted patterns that store more energy than they consume.
What does this look like? Picture yourself on five acres of the scrubby, brushy stuff you drive by on your way to wherever — you know what we mean, all those abandoned, scruffy-looking acres all around where you live. If you live in an area of even slightly high population density, there’s probably trash on it. Maybe a ramshackle building of some kind.
Don’t like the idea? Well, you can settle down on — and pay for — the work someone else has done to tame an acreage (probably in ways that won’t be helpful to your plans). It might even seem like a bargain.
But what that previous work may also have done for you is over-written what nature and geography are saying there, placing human preference and assumption over ecological gift or necessity. Trees planted where they’ll shade the best garden area. Springs tiled and run into the nearest ditch. Fences where you don’t want them. Native plants bulldozed to make way for lawn or planted ‘pasture’. No easy way now of determining what this land, local sunlight/rainfall patterns, native and naturalized plant and animal guilds are saying about how this land can be partnered with for food, fertility, fecundity.
No, land with minimal ‘improvements’ is just fine for people experiencing Covid-Induced Homesteading Fever. First, because they can afford it; and second, because the first essential to food independence is managing native plant populations with cows, goats, or sheep, and there’s a ruminant to love whatever may be growing on that ugly bit of land.
No money to buy land? We’ll talk about that in the next post.