Suburban Homesteading: Growing Change by Starting Small

Suburban homesteading seems to be the most challenging and most needed of all homesteading endeavors. Desires to homestead usually involve providing a high quality of life for ourselves and family, and may include growing nutrient-dense foods, decreasing societal pressures, lifestyle freedom and ways to spend personal energy. But the reality is if everyone that wanted to homestead bought their 40 or 100 acres, it would just add another layer by creating a new definition of suburbia. Protecting existing woodlands and open spaces is an important concept to consider versus overdeveloping land areas.

Erecting a hoop house or a permaculture orchard in an empty city lot is typically seen as an innovative movement in the right direction. Adding an aquaponics system and veggie gardens encourages a community at work to make a more beautiful world.  But it’s different in the suburbs. Victory gardens were grown on the land of private residences and public park areas during World Wars I and II. After the wars, our outlook changed. Suburbia became a place where cookie-cutter houses and postcard-perfect yards that replaced fruit, vegetable and herb gardens were equated with achievement of the American dream. What was once a patriotic act is now a sign of poverty. Gardens planted in front yards are seen as a sign of lack rather than innovation or forward movement, and are often prohibited by homeowners associations.

First, have the courage to start somewhere, like planting a square foot garden, such as the type recommended by Mel Bartholomew, originator and founder of the Square Foot Gardening Foundation. It provides a connection with growing nutrient-dense food, access to plant medicine, and reeducates us about sustainability.

Read about edible landscaping and permaculture. There are many books about these topics, including Food Not Lawns, by H.C. Flores and the Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew.  

Become involved in local politics. Codes are often written to industry standards and adopted on a local level because it’s just easier. The problem is that they are often written by people invested in the industries making money off the status quo. When people that are willing to think and make decisions with our next generations in mind get involved on a local level, they can create change for the better.

Seppi Garrett is a garden designer, life consultant, member of the Amethyst Retreat Center Community Council and a massage therapy student. For more information, call 717-557-8572.

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