Homesteading in the countryside or in a small basement apartment is becoming more common as the cost of living keeps rising.
With rising food prices, homesteading is becoming an option more people in the province are pursuing.
Steve McBride and his wife Lisa moved to Newfoundland and Labrador to get away from the high cost of living in Vancouver. The couple bought an acreage 10 years ago in Mobile, just an hour outside of St. John’s.
“To me, homesteading is being a little more involved in the production of your food,” said Steve. “Homesteading comes down to taking some aspect of your food from the very beginning, from the seed, whether you live in a big city or in the countryside.”
When the couple first moved here, Lisa worked full time as nurse and together they found time to slowly build their farm.
“This was an accumulation of baby steps to get here,” she said.
Now she only works part time and Steve works from home, so they manage to take care of their garden, and the many animals on their farm – goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and bees to name just a few.
“I think your average person now is aware that there are some big systemic threats, like climate change and the war in Ukraine,” Steve said.
When all those issues come together, Lisa says, the systems society currently depends on will falter.
“And the community will be a lot more important because you will have to rely on the people around you,” said Lisa.
They are part of a growing community of people who homestead, Steve says, each member contributing to another through sharing their products or skills.
“This is also what I say to people who don’t have time to learn everything – you don’t need to,” said Steve. “You can learn one or two things and then you can trade with other people in the community, honey for moose meat, for example.”
Steve studies pre-modern economies and he is interested in learning what would happen if people stopped depending on globalization.
“What would happen if someone grew a carrot and the entirety of the cost for that carrot stays in the local economy and we don’t have to pay for shipment from other countries? I think it would be good for us,” said Steve.
For the couple, homesteading is a personal choice because they feel it brings them authentic experiences and a connection to a growing community of homesteaders.
“There is something we miss when we buy food from the grocery store, but if you have a neighbour with chickens and that neighbour comes by and gives you eggs, you wake up every morning and you can hear those little chickens playing … That connects you to the process,” Lisa said.
The couple hosts events and workshops on homesteading throughout the year at various sites. Before the pandemic, they had over a 100 people attend one workshop.
But not every homesteader needs a farm. Megan Seabrook started homesteading almost three years ago in her the basement apartment she is renting in St. John’s near the Avalon Mall.
“It’s really about taking charge of getting back to the essence of producing and providing for yourself rather than relying on all of these external systems that we take for granted,” said Seabrook.
In her tiny living room, stacks of shelves contain rows of microgreens 12 months of the year, which are young plants about one or two inches high.
She recently ordered a few chickens with permission from her landlord. Chickens are legal to own within the city as long as they don’t violate noise bylaws.
“Like many Canadians at this point I’m getting the sticker shock at the grocery store and especially with everything that’s happening in Europe, and I don’t see it getting better in the near future,” she said.
“I want to be able to produce as much as I can on my own, I’m trying to get to a point where I’m only really buying things that I can’t produce like my grains, rice, and flour I buy in bulk.”
Seabrook believes most people can produce, on some level, their own food – especially in this province as it is much closer to a generation that once survived by working the land and fishing the waters.
“I think there is an interest in reclaiming those skills before they’re lost.”