Sunday, May 27, 2012

Disambiguation: Homestead, Farm, or Hobby Farm

Do we live on a farm, a homestead, or are they the same thing? Or do we just live in a house on some land like everyone else around here? Should I (we) not try to make it sound different by calling it a "homestead" or "farm" since we don't do "commercial farming"? What is it we do here anyway? Hobby farming? The tax lady acted like we weren't "real farmers" since I hadn't made a profit in the first 2-3 years doing what we are doing. Is that true?

These are all questions I have asked myself over the past 4 years or so. You may have noticed that I have called our place here "farm" and "homestead" even when people living similar lifestyles around here just consider it "living" or nothing out of the ordinary. It sometimes makes me feel like I am trying to "talk up" our mundane life with animals; even if that isn't the case all the time. I thought I would try to analyze what we should classify our place in the country, and what better spot to do it than here.

So let's look at the definitions of these various terms: 

An area of land (or water) including various structures, devoted primarily to the practice of producing and managing food (produce, grains, or livestock), or fibers. Farms may be owned and operated by a single individual, family, community, corporation or a company. A farm can be a holding of any size.

The term may apply to anyone who follows the back-to-the-land movement by adopting a sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. While land is no longer freely available in most areas of the world, homesteading remains as a way of life. [Even including] small-scale, sustainable agriculture and homemaking. Broadly defined, homesteading is a lifestyle of simple self-sufficiency.

hobby farm
A smallholding or small farm that is maintained without expectation of being a primary source of income. Some are merely to provide some recreational land, and perhaps a few horses for the family's children. Others are managed as working farms for sideline income, or are even run at an ongoing loss as a lifestyle choice by people with the means to do so, functioning more like a country home than a business. Definition of a hobby farmer: a person who runs a farm as a hobby rather than a means of making a living. Honestly I would say any farm with non-working horses leans towards a hobby farm in my opinion.
subsistence agriculture:
Self-sufficiency farming in which the farmers focus on growing enough food to feed themselves and their families. The typical subsistence farm has a range of crops and animals needed by the family to eat and clothe themselves during the year. Planting decisions are made principally with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year, and secondarily toward market prices.

So yeah, which is it? 

Which should I be claiming? All of them sound like they are pretty much what I am working towards. By definition we do indeed live on a farm; so that is applicable.

Can we be called homesteaders? Perhaps not, since we don't by definition live self-sufficiently yet, but our place is "a house or estate and the adjoining land, buildings, etc, especially a farm." So while we might not be officially homesteaders, we do definitively live on a homestead, so that title would be applicable as well.

Are we hobby farmers? Well we do not expect our endeavors in livestock and vegetables to ever be a "primary source of income" and we do use our farm as a "sideline income" while maintaining an "ongoing loss" monetarily. Even with this checklist pointing us towards "hobby farmer" I would never say that I do the things I do as a hobby as opposed to a way of life. I suppose this could be an applicable title from an outsider's perspective, but not from my own.

Are we subsistence farmers? Our goals are indeed to grow enough food to feed our families and store some to boot. Everything about this designation fits except, once again, full self-sufficiency. Honestly it seems that "subsistence farmer" and "homesteader" could almost be interchangeable except for the fact that a subsistence farmer wouldn't necessarily require one to possess an estate or farm to come by their produce.

I suppose for our purposes it would boil down to self-sufficiency. We aren't there, but that is the long-term goal. Ideally I would like to be able to produce everything my family needs without having to go to the store. That is farfetched for sure, but one can dream.

Conclusion: We are aspiring homesteaders living on a farm striving towards self-sufficiency.

There you go. I suppose I will continue to use the words farm, farmstead, and homestead when referring to our little niche of Lauderdale County. Personally I do think "homestead" stands out a little more than "farm," but since "homesteader" implies self-sufficiency, it would seem that the use of "homestead" instead of "farm" would hint at the want for self-sufficiency at the very least. So there you go. This has been an explanation/analyzation of why I call our farm a "homestead," and yes, it has helped me realize that is indeed what we should call it after all.

Ps. I think I am going to make us one of those pallet signs like is shown from the Kinser Home blog. I'll let you know how it turns out.

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Yours Truly,
The Crowsons