1. Try before you buy. Homesteading and even the smallest-scale farming is a physically and emotionally demanding lifestyle. Before you sign the dotted line on a piece of property or turn in your two-week notice at your day job, find a farm where you can get as close to a first-hand experience as you can. Short stays are okay, but a long-term internship is best.
For Hannah and Jesse, this meant interning at Bugtussle Farm for two seasons. There are many farms looking for dedicated apprentices. Look for listings at the website of the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships). If you don’t have time to complete a full-time internship, then consider a short stay through an organization like World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms. (wwoof.net)
2. Save, save, save. Whether or not your plan is to be off grid in three months or 10 years, now is the time to start saving and planning. The less debt you have, the better off you will be. Hannah and Jesse skipped a traditional wedding to save money for their homestead.
3. Transition slowly. Some folks might be cut out for trading in their flat screen TV for a life in the woods overnight, but are you? Start preparing now by learning to live simply, growing a small garden, learning to preserve your own food and living on a smaller budget.
4. Look for the right piece of land. Look for land that may need some sprucing up in order to stay in your price range. While you might be tempted to go very rural, think about your goals. Particularly if you plan on selling farm products at a farmers market, factor commute times into your consideration of a piece of property.
5. Don’t quit your day job, yet. The longer you can keep outside income coming in, the better your chances of success in living your off-grid dream. Even now, Hannah and Jesse do not live completely off of their farm product income. Jesse works as a freelance writer and has written a book about his journey into winemaking and farming. Hannah uses her skills as an artist to do freelance design work as well as design fun T-shirts and artwork that they sell at market, online and at various events.
6. Don’t give up. When Hannah and Jesse named their farmstead Rough Draft, mostly because of their talents as a writer and artist, they didn’t realize it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their ideas about their farm changed multiple times before they found what worked for them.
This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Spring 2015 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here.