It IS Your Grandmother’s Lifestyle
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act. The law allowed for 160 acres of previously-identified public land in exchange for five years of residence and cultivation of the land. Four decades later, Central Oregon became a hotbed of homesteading activity as part of the “last rush for free land.” Those local homesteaders were somewhat duped, however, by the timing of an unusually wet climate that temporarily made our typically arid land appear to be farmable.
These days—because of the lack of available land—modern day homesteading is defined by simply building a self-sustaining aspect to your property and lifestyle.
The Homesteading Lifestyle
“It’s more important than ever right now,” says Tyler Doza of Good Earth Farms in Bend. “After 50 years of the current methods of farming, we’ve ruined massive amounts of farmland, leaching resources and leaving dust bowls. And, the carbon footprint of moving food from all over is something we have to avoid.”
Today, we are well aware of the challenges of growing our own food in the high desert. At Good Earth Farms, they employ shade tents when the sun will be harsh, and frost cover ready for the inevitable surprise freeze. And, they are conscious of their soil conditions both for current and future crops.
“It’s a matter of controlling the environment for the plants at all times of the day and night,” Doza says.
For those who don’t have farmland at their disposal, Doza recommends a whole-neighborhood approach. Coordinate a small greenhouse or raised-bed crops with neighbors and share the bounty. Then rotate next year. Doza also prefers freezing to canning vegetables for his personal use and that of the communal living group that runs the farm.
If your home site, zoning, CC&Rs and other rules allow, having chickens for a homegrown protein source in eggs is an option. At a bare minimum, purchasing food from local farmers and ranchers is the manageable “homestead” activity we can all take part in, boosting our local economy and restoring our planet.