MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Homesteading on MARGINAL LAND

Many of us share the ideal of finding a place in the country where we can grow good, clean food in an environment of our choosing — a home, and perhaps a refuge in tumultuous times. A retreat. A haven. Despite the idyllic image, high land prices and an overall lack of affordable farms can make what should be an exciting bid for independence feel like brooding defeat. But what if we were to realize that little farms can be found in practically every locale, hidden from view and just waiting for a budding farmer to adopt them? And what if these small farms were among the most reasonably priced land out there?

It may sound too good to be true, but all land is, well, land, and most of it will grow something, however abused or neglected it’s been. When we realize this, our homestead possibilities suddenly widen. Modern homesteaders can partner with their own animals to take poor, neglected, or abused land and rebuild it into a fertile, regenerative ecosystem. Any place with dirt and water, ruminants, and a farmer to manage them can be a homestead.

A Discouraging Search

We didn’t know this 20 years ago. Our purchase of a small plot, designated “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio, was less an act of hope than one of desperation. Even looking for a farm had been intimidating.

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