Written by Daleen Cowgar
It may feel isolating to be the only homesteaders, especially if you are in a less rural neighborhood, with neighbors right across the street from you. It can be even more difficult if you are in a suburban environment or if you are homesteading in a city.
It’s always important to be on good terms with your neighbors, whether they are homesteaders or not. This is especially important when you have animals who may be loud at awkward parts of the day, like a rooster who crows at the crack of dawn or a goat who loudly demands supper every night.
When your neighbors like your farm and what you are doing, you will be able to have a great relationship. You may also find help, a farm sitter for when you want to go on a trip or vacation, or someone who will run over to help you get the cows back in if they sneak out the gate.
If you develop a good rapport with your neighbors and they see how well homesteading is working for your family, they may also start homesteading. Then you will have another homesteading family in your area. It may continue to spread until you have a true homesteading community.
Involve them in your farm
Something that has always helped people see our family farm in a positive light is if they come and help out for a day, or a project, or even just come over a couple of minutes to hang out with the goat who has kids. When people work with the animals and get those fluffy faces into their hearts, they often can’t hold a grudge when the rooster wakes them up or they can hear the goat over their music.
Involving them also enables you to show them the benefits of what you are doing on your homestead. It gives them the chance to see a homestead up close and ask you questions about what you are doing and why. It can help spark their own desire for self-sufficiency and start them down the path of homesteading.
Do you have a one-day task you can’t do on your own? Or are you going out of town and need someone to stop by twice a day to feed the goats? Do you just want a little more help keeping the weeds under control in your garden?
Ask your neighbor! After all, as neighbors, you are there to help each other. By paying them to come help you, they now see you as a source of money. People don’t often want extra income to leave and can put up with your donkey’s braying for that. At the same time, they are getting more familiar with the homesteading way of life.
Barter with them
Does your neighbor have a skill you don’t? Do you have a skill they don’t? Help each other out! Perhaps, you exchange produce for help cutting down the tree. Perhaps you offer to till their garden plot if they help you build a fence.
Whatever it is, make sure it is mutually beneficial and equal to the work you are both putting in. For instance, one can of tomatoes is not going to be enough if they are cutting down an entire tree, but it might be enough if they are giving you a can of blackberry jam.
Sell to them
That’s right! If you don’t want to barter or your neighbors aren’t interested in it, sell your extra produce. You can set up a stand by the road, or post signs saying you have things for sale. What can you sell? Well, everything. Extra crops, eggs, milk, baby bunnies, chicks, other animals, and more.
By selling to your neighbors, you are giving them the option for fresh produce right in their backyard. You may even help other local farmers as your neighbors begin to learn about buying local. They may take these new skills and start applying them to other parts of their life.
Please note that before you begin selling, you need to check your state regulations about the sale of produce and animals.
Create a “share cow”
Do your neighbors want meat they know has been ethically cared for, is grass-fed, and hasn’t been pumped full of GMOs and antibiotics but they don’t have the land, skills, or desire to raise one themselves?
Raise it for them!
That’s right. If you have several neighbors willing to share the cost of the cow, then you can raise it for them and give them meat at the end of the season. It’s a great way to split up meat if you can’t eat or store a whole cow, and it gets your community involved in local farming and ethical animal treatment. What could be better?
Give them excess crop
Maybe you don’t want to go through all the work of selling. You’re just here to harvest and butcher enough food for your family. If you find out you have an extra can of corn, or a couple of pounds of hamburger more than what can fit in your freezer, throw it in the back of your car and go visiting the neighbors! Nothing makes people happier than free food, especially when they are accompanied by a friendly face and welcoming smile!
Think with a community mindset
As you travel down your homesteading path, think about the ways you can involve the people around you. That doesn’t mean you are trying to convert everyone to a homesteading lifestyle, but that you are looking for ways your homesteading can benefit not just you, but the people around you too. Maybe it’s not a drastic help, but it’s something they can smile at. Maybe it’s letting your autistic neighbor’s son play with the goats or trading produce for meat with someone, or even working together on one homestead with another family to support you both.
Homesteading is the perfect way to get involved with other families and make your community healthier, more friendly, and more connected to each other.