ABOVE: Things I did not buy from the grocery store!
One of my absolute favorite things about homesteading has been watching my grocery list get shorter and shorter.
It has been just about six months of not having to buy eggs from the grocery store. While that isn't an incredible savings (yet), it is one less thing I have to give someone else my money for. The money that we are making at our jobs goes directly back into our livestock and in turn directly back into our home - on our plates, into our bodies. That's something I can feel good about.
The money spent on feed goes to a local farm store that supports another local family and their dreams.
There is a potential flipside...
I recently read through a conversation on social media about homesteading actually being hurtful...
Local farmers - ones who are producing for a living, on a larger scale, getting their corn and cattle to market, and selling in local grocery stores, struggle with competition from giant producers and big box stores. We're all familiar with that conversation.
With the increased popularity of homesteaders and hobby farmers though, there is growing concern that they, too, may now be effecting local agriculture, as homesteaders are becoming more self-sufficient and not relying on local ag for meat or produce needs. The local farmers are, according to this conversation, being sandwiched in the middle of two entities that are not contributing to them financially, causing them to further struggle to make a living.
When I first read through the discussion I immediately felt as though we had done something wrong. I never set out to hurt our local farmers! If I didn't utilize a major chain as much, that was a good thing, but I never wanted to contribute to hurting the local economy and the farmers who do it for a living up the road.
I chewed on this concept for a while before getting the clarity I needed...
We are doing a great job on our homestead of producing a variety of things we need/use. We have fruit, vegetables, herbs, and some protiens. However, we don't have everything. We don't have wheat, or make our own grains. We don't produce milk. We will eventually have pork, but we don't have beef. We don't grow our own grapes for our homemade wine (yet), or have apple trees for fresh apple pies.
We don't produce our own milk currently, because goats and dairy cows didn't make sense for us. They're a lot of added work, and we don't use enough milk to justify having to milk an animal multiple times a day. We don't have apple trees (yet) and even if we did, it would take about a year before we yielded any fruit. This is also a good time to identify what your boundries are. We have a good plot of land, but it's not big enough to pasture some animals we'd like to have, or big enough to plant wheat crops. We also know that there are only 24 hours in a day, and not all of those are daylight. How much can you take on when it isn't your full time job?
Given these factors, I think I have my solution to supporting both ourselves, and our local farmers:
With the money I save from my own garden, eggs, and meats, I have more in my pocket to put towards buying better quality, locally owned brands, at the grocery store. If I compare the cost of milk from a major manufacturer, to the cost of a glass-bottled variety from up the road, the difference is approx. $0.50 - $1.50 more. In the long run, it's not that significant of an increase and that extra change spent is still less than the price of a pack of blueberries shipped in from California (currently a zero dollar cost to me since we grow them at home), so I'd still see some cost savings at the end of the check-out line.
What is significant, is knowing that what I am buying is making a difference to someone I probably run into at the local feed store, on a weekly basis! Nevermind the fact that buying from them means it is fresh off the farm, and a healthier option for our family.
Homesteading gives us the freedom to use our money better and more sustainably (after all the fence building is done... cha-ching!). If all of the homesteaders out there are concious about their shopping habits, and are honest with themselves about what they can and cannot do for themselves, then we actually have the opportunity to better support local farming by actively choosing to buy from them what we cannot produce ourselves, instead of buying from the big chain brands.
Remember folks, if you ate well today, thank a farmer (do so by keeping them in business)!