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The purpose of building a homestead is to create a strong and sustainable way of life. The words “self-sufficiency” can make it sound as if we have to achieve every necessity for ourselves, by ourselves! In reality, neglecting your nearby community as your greatest asset takes you farther from the sustainable life you wish to achieve!
As a pair of fellow homesteaders, we are actively striving to move away from unsustainable dependencies. It’s why we are leading this lifestyle, to begin with. Shifting our means of life away from unsustainable dependencies means that we need to seek sustainable dependencies!
What homesteader isn’t looking to stretch the time between needing to shop at stores in town?!
For us, eliminating the need to commute for our life basics would be a huge win! The dream! Requiring to drive to a store to survive is not a beneficial dependency that we desire to sustain, let alone have the ability to sustain.
These are the reasons that a nearby community is truthfully primary to your goal of self-sufficient living.
As an introvert growing up in the city, I felt like I was surrounded by a culture of people who almost unknowingly strived to be independent of each other for no real reason. This hindered my ability to realize the value of people and it was a very isolating way to be.
Later in this article, I will also talk about what to do if your community doesn’t reciprocate your efforts. I find this to be one of the interesting reasons that it seems almost normal not to know your neighbors for community anymore.
I think it’s important to us all that this distant social dynamic changes everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can create a homestead community in your downtown apartment or far out in the boonies on an acreage.
Knowing the people near you and finding mutually beneficial relationships can benefit the affordability and sustainability of most societies in general.
To build a solid homestead community, you will need two major ingredients. Firstly, you will need to learn a certain way of being, and secondly, you will need a frequency of doing. A solid community is generally active day to day, week to week, or month to month.
The more often people interact, the stronger the growth. Interaction between people is like nutrients for a plant; the more building blocks a plant receives the bigger and faster and greener it can grow.
Being active is the bottom line of building a successful homestead community.
Learn How To Be a Good Neighbor
Having a good relationship with your nearest neighbors is the most ideal community to have as a homesteader.
A good relationship with your neighbors has nothing to do with what you want. It has everything to do with what they need from you!
The last thing any neighbor wants from you is an invasion of privacy and pushing your ideas as if they are the only ones that matter.
Before you can be active with the people around you, it’s important to be aware of how you carry yourself around different types of people. Learning what it means to be a good neighbor will start your community construction journey off on the right foot.
You will need to understand that not every neighbor will want to be as active as you. That is okay, they likely don’t understand why they need you! It is your job to find out what they need from you and how you can help them. This includes finding out what boundaries they need you to respect.
Seeking an understanding of your neighbors will often draw them closer to you.
It’s how you can find a purposeful role within your community that positions a sensible path for you and the way you build out your homestead.
At the end of the day, you are only as good as what people need you for unless you can create a demand for what you wish to offer.
Promote Growth in Your Community
It’s so easy to stay home, not attend gatherings, and exercise the bad habit of complaining about what’s wrong with who or what.
To build a community we need to bring people together both vocally and physically.
We are all divided from each other enough these days by the endless idea-corners of the internet! We all have different views, old ideas, and new concepts that can be shared, respected, understood, and appreciated!
Rather than pushing your agenda as the right and only one, act in gratitude for the diversity in everyone around you. Accepting others will help achieve greater acceptance for everyone.
At all costs avoid dividing people by talking down or gossiping.
The way you speak about others reveals what you generally think and feel. What you say to someone about someone else can make them feel uneasy about you because it shows that you don’t talk nicely about people behind their backs.
This can create division between the people you talk to and who you talk about. What’s worse, is people who don’t feel the same negative way will distance themselves from you! So avoid being a downer to prevent alienating yourself from the community you need.
Finally, make a physical commitment that works for you right now. Commitments will naturally evolve to make sense over time, but to get started you could commit to hosting something perhaps once a month. It doesn’t have to be huge! It can be anything you are good with. Read on to learn about plenty of ideas.
Be Generous With Abundance
While you can’t force people to suddenly be a community together, you can certainly be the center of creating connections. An easy way to start making closer relationships with neighbors is to share your abundance.
Sharing your abundance is an inviting way to show who you are and how you can help. This doesn’t mean you have to give everything away all of the time.
Sharing abundance in the beginning and regularly can often yield greater returns because people naturally feel compelled to reciprocate good deeds.
When we lived in an apartment building, it was next to a homestead that had the loudest flock of wild chirping birds! Each year, they set out huge 6×3′ bins of apples for the taking!
Everyone living in the apartments became intrigued and wanted to thank the homesteaders in some way. The actions of those homesteaders overall resulted in a noticeably more friendly and respectful atmosphere between the apartment dwellers.
Give It Time and Be Patient
Getting to know new people can be hard especially when you are the new face in the area. Having no idea what to expect from others might feel anxious until you learn a bit more about them. Same for them about you!
People can be weary of new neighbors because they have been living their way for as long as they have been and suddenly change has been introduced.
As long as you learn to be a good neighbor and build trust, all should be well with time and patience.
Even if the community you are trying to start or be part of feels stagnant at any point in time, there is always room for rebirth! Failure only happens when you stop trying completely.
Getting together, saying hello, and generally interacting often are what create community growth.
Growth and decline will happen, that’s life, but as long as you keep doing your part to keep it moving, the community will grow constantly in new ways. Just keep going.
Get Creative With Activities
Hopefully, by now you have a good idea of how to be in a collaborative community, and now we can focus on what to do!
After you’ve taken the time to get to know the people around you, you will be able to decide on appropriate activities to offer your community!
Keep in mind who you want to invite and what they are like. Some people will be looking to attend affordable events, others will look for timely events, non-awkward events, learning events, fun events, or just mild friendly get-togethers.
Getting creative and active doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. There are many ways to keep it collaborative!
People can bring their own goodies to contribute to the cost of an event or you can offer an event that could end up being fun for guests while profitable for you. There are different seasons and reasons for different types of gatherings.
In general, offering goods and bringing people into your space with events is just as important as shopping and exchanging from your local community.
Propose a Garden Harvest Swap for a Season
For the homesteaders who you know like to grow a garden, there are a couple of different approaches to a fun garden harvest swap.
The first way is perfect for people who suck at growing certain crops! Each person reveals what they like to grow most, and what they like to grow the least. From here, divide food groups and decide who focuses on growing what for the upcoming season.
One neighbor might grow beans, corn, and squash. Another might grow potatoes and herbs. Another may grow tomatoes and peppers!
Then when it’s time for harvest, you all make trades!
This garden swap method typically makes the garden experience easier and more efficient for everyone. It can certainly be a fun way to change up the way you grow food!
The second way is less of a somewhat intense commitment. Each person goes about their way of doing things and at a certain date or time, or a few dates and times, you get together to trade surpluses!
The way this method works is to each show up with a set number of items that would be worth the same amount of money. Say, 6 people could show up to a gathering with 6 units of items worth $5 each. Then the trade for everyone is fair!
Rather than just trading the raw harvest, while you still can, you can trade jams or sauces made from the garden too. Everyone gets the opportunity to trade their items for something unique from the other! What a great way to discover who you have?!
As intimidating as this may sound, it doesn’t matter how many people attend or if you mess up!
Teachers are learners too, simply stay humble in your approach, include your audience to interact in the lesson, and you’ll be gold!
Start by brainstorming what questions people tend to ask you, and put together a workshop based on their demands! Like many activities, the invitations can extend past your immediate neighbors and be a profitable way to make new connections.
If you are nervous about hosting a workshop because you’ve never done it before, consider offering it for free! You can still make this a profitable venture by having something ready for people to optionally buy at the end. You can frame the workshop lesson to make the item you are selling particularly useful to what they’ve learned.
Some workshop ideas could be about:
- Animal care
- Producing hay or straw
- Preserving the harvest
- Seed starting
- Garden Techniques
- Composting techniques
- Herbal remedies
- Home repairs
- How to build a greenhouse
- Worm farming
- Propagating perennials
- Making clothes
- Garden planning
This is a small list of certainly not exhaustive ideas! Whatever you are good at can be turned into a workshop that you can offer to people in person. The trick to having people attend is to offer lessons on a skill that they want to know about.
Use local fliers to announce your workshop. Ask local food stores or post offices to post your fliers on their bulletin boards.
You can also use locally targeted ads online to get the word out but this will cost you money.
Tell people who you know will be interested in attending and encourage them to bring someone so that they tell others all about it!
Neighborhood Book Swap or Club
Learning is always happening! Why not learn together as a community?
If you have books that you’ve read and don’t mind passing along, create one of those little book exchanges and invite everyone to add in books and take one at the same time.
If that’s not your thing then maybe host a get-together for a weekly or monthly book club if you have some friends interested in learning about the same things. As you read books about homesteading skills you can all talk about how to implement them in and with your community. Help each other out with making new setups from what you learn.
Host a Backyard BBQ
Barbeques and food always make fun! However unless there is a small pitch fee it usually costs one person all the time, effort, and resources to make this type of gathering happen.
Taking turns hosting BBQs with neighbors is a popular option because of the cost! By doing this, in the end, it doesn’t really cost anyone anything extra if everyone does their fair share in taking turns. Everyone gets a meal and gives a meal.
The other option for the backyard barbeque could be a crowd-funded potluck instead. If everyone brings something, usually no one is at a loss!
Host Fire Pit Music Night
Music and fire have been going on for who knows how long?! This classic get-together is always a hit for folks who want to find new friends.
Not only is it nice to just sit and talk around a campfire, someone who is comfortable can play an instrument.
This can open up the opportunity to jam with other players too!
Make Local Personal Friends
Everywhere you go and everyone you invite is a potential personal friend! Not all activities you host have to be a huge event, but can simply be a friendly get-together!
I think the closest proximity you can make friends, the stronger relationship you can have.
Commutes cost money and time which makes getting together less appealing especially if the life goal is self-sufficiency.
I was so fortunate to grow up with my neighbor as my life-long best friend. To say that I have a 23-year-old friendship at 25 years is pretty cool! I would go to her house almost every day after school and we would play outside all evening in summer. It made for a much better time than being glued to screens for a childhood.
The proximity is what did it for me because it meant that I didn’t have to cost my parents’ money and time to drive me places. I would just skip on over 3 doors away.
Today, we don’t live in the same area anymore. But this means I have new neighborly friends to make!
I encourage everyone to get to know their neighbors on some kind of level. You have no idea what it might turn into!
Pay to Be Part of Local Events
Now that you have many hosting and activity ideas, remember it isn’t all on you! Get out there and support others’ events too even if it means paying an admission fee.
Some of your hosted gatherings might require an admission fee to fund the project and that’s okay! Funding each other is what a community is all about. It’s not much of a community if one person is funding and putting forth the effort to make everything happen.
Find Opportunities To Barter With Neighbors
Bartering doesn’t come with strings attached. When using a currency you are constantly being chipped away at every time you buy, sell, and make a means.
There is no tax on direct trade because you don’t need to use a currency owned by a corporate-owned country to make an exchange.
By trading directly with the producing people in your life, both parties reap full rewards.
Making friends or neighborly acquaintances can quickly offer opportunities to make a trade. I suggest you act on them where ever you can with a mindset that you are indeed making good savings when doing so.
For example, if you go help paint a fence for your neighbor, and they come to help you with stacking hay; nothing was taken from you in the process.
If your neighbor hired a professional to paint the fence, that painter most likely had to drive from somewhere, which means he had to pay for gas that was taxed. The painter also has to report his income and be taxed because they are using a currency in this exchange.
The homeowner has to pay the painter using a currency that he was likely taxed for when he earned it. He might also have to pay the painter some kind of service tax too. Both parties’ values have been slightly decreased twice. Not to mention that currencies are constantly inflating, which further devalues us all.
Find Locals To Shop From
Local shopping strengthens your community in the same way it strengthens your life when you successfully sell goods that you produced.
The purpose of a community is to make mutually beneficial relationships! The only way to do this is to use your relationships wherever possible.
Shopping locally and as close as possible keeps your efforts and resources inside the community for longer. This supports growth and quality of living between the people you share exchange with.
To start, you can find local Farmers’ markets to support near your area for the food needs that you haven’t been able to grow for yourself.
What’s even better is to buy homemade items from your homestead friends. If you know your neighbor likes to knit, ask for a custom scarf in exchange for a couple of jars of their favorite sauce you make.
Learn From Local People
The more you go learn, the more you unintentionally learn about your surroundings!
You could attend other homesteaders’ workshops or simply talk to local people you interact with on a daily.
I found it amazing how quickly the post office people got to know me when I first moved. From the big cities, I wasn’t used to being recognized at the post office. In this small town, I became recognized pretty much instantly!
I learned quickly that in a small town, the way I behave is a representation of who I am. This of course applies to everyone everywhere regardless of town size.
However, coming from the big cities, upholding a level of integrity is often overlooked because you don’t know anyone you’re around! It’s like every time you go out, there is a reset button, and that nothing you did last time hurt the way people see you because you are about to walk into a new set of fresh faces.
Offer Your Help To Neighbors
Helping each other is what the homestead community is all about at the end of the day.
Getting things done together without hiring outside help from the locals is exactly what self-sufficiency looks like.
Be available to take care of neighbors’ gardens or chickens while they need to leave for a few days.
Say yes to giving a hand on the odd project they can’t get done alone.
Ask For Help From Neighbors
Asking for help is just as amazing as offering to help. You are not a burden to neighbors by needing help sometimes! Think of it as creating an opportunity for your community to grow (because that’s exactly what it is!)
So why not ask for help, create the opportunity, and give your community the choice to help you grow?
You are likely working on something useful or offering something of value if you need help or support.
Too often we feel shy about asking others. If you feel uneasy asking your neighbor for help on labor for labor basis, offer to pay or ask how you can return the favor! Whatever makes you feel most comfortable, you can make it work one way or another.
Asking the community for help instead of calling up a distant professional who has to drive 20-45 minutes to get to you not only saves the environment and our planet’s resources but directly supports the growth of you and your homestead community.
Utilizing your community is the greatest most purposeful form of being active with it. Building a tight homestead community requires you to provide others with the opportunity to engage with you.
What If No One Reciprocates Your Efforts?
If you’ve given it time, you’ve been patient, and you are truly concerned that no one is reciprocating your efforts there are a couple of things you can do to protect your sanity.
First, avoid making the assumption that everyone is intentionally shutting you out or using you. Maybe, you haven’t been clear about your intentions as a neighbor!
To approach this situation, you could have a non-accusatory conversation with the homesteaders you feel closest with. Ask them how they feel about the dynamic of the neighborhood, what direction they see things going, and what projects they are looking to accomplish.
Tell them what you offer and ask for support if you know it makes sense for them. Sometimes, you just need to learn a bit more about what the people need if communication has been lacking on either side.
If you are worried about being used too much, and you find that you are constantly giving and never receiving anything back, then maybe it’s a good time to start upholding fair exchange.
Start charging people for doing labor favors, start charging for your surplus produce. If you find people are turned off by that, maybe start up the community again by sticking to pot lucks, and fair garden harvest swaps. Continue to be generous with only the abundance that you can sustain.
Without imposing or self-inviting, encourage neighbors to use their beautiful landscapes where it makes sense. Tell them about the advantages of hosting events. Remind them what you see they are good at. Let them know about the value you see in them and the potential you see for them. Tell them about the different kinds of event ideas that could benefit their way of life and that you would happily be there to support them.
Avoid coming off as pushy and invasive by focusing on switching the way you put forth the effort. Usually, people will get the message when you can no longer do things the same way. It’s like putting a store out of business because it had no paying customers.
Usually, people don’t reciprocate when they feel like they don’t need to. Now, what can you do with this information for your particular situation?
Find Like-Minded People Online
There is a massive homestead community online that is only as far from you as your initiative to engage!
Homesteading is a very broad subject that has a large number of rabbit holes. To find yourself a suitable online homestead community, start searching for your interests!
Search for information on how to improve the skills you enjoy. In doing so, you will find people who are knowledgeable about those skills. Those will be people who can teach you and share their community with you!
Online content creators often naturally build communities as people are flocking to the information they offer.
So, your options are to find and join someone’s active online homestead community, or to create your own!
Join Pre-Existing Local Communities
Find bulletin boards!
Usually, people post fliers about local events both free or paid. On the boards, find activities to attend that you are interested in. This is where you might find people in close proximity to you with whom you could become friends. While the commute may not be as ideal as your neighbors’, there will still be many beneficial opportunities to discover!
You can find bulletin boards with local postings for small towns and big cities at nearby grocery stores, libraries, gyms, churches, coffee shops, community centers, town halls, Salons, book stores, local businesses, colleges, universities, apartment lobbies, pharmacies, or county/city/area websites!
This article was originally published on foodforestliving.com. If it is now published on any other site, it was done without permission from the copyright owner.
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