We’ve brought Joel Salatin’s “What is a Homesteader?” talk out of the Homesteaders of America Conference lecture vault for everyone to enjoy as we get ready for another “agrarian Sabbath” this week!

Below you’ll find the key points from his transcript but set aside some time to watch the full lecture and enjoy Joel’s masterful storytelling!

Be sure you’ve reserved your seat to 2020 Homesteaders of America Online conference to watch Joel’s lecture this year! He’ll be speaking about How to Work with Your Kids So They Will Want to Work With You on the Farm.

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What is a Homesteader? Video with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm

What is a Homesteader? 

“We’ve got a conjunctive word… home…. steader.

“Home” of course is pretty obvious. It’s where you live. And “steader” is an old Latin conglomeration that talks about your focus.

It’s about where your heart is.

So a homesteader is a person whose heart and focus is in the home. It’s a person whose life focus is towards living, staying, loving home which is a far cry from everything else in our society which is obsessed with everything “out there.”

And there’s a lot of stuff out there. There is a lot of distractions in our life. 

What I’d like to do is go through and give a bullet point list of things I think we as homesteaders are passionate, we could say obsessed, about that are completely different than all those people out there.” 

Homesteaders Focus on Wellness Over Sickness

“As homesteaders we are obsessed with wellness rather than sickness. A functional immune system for ourselves, our plants, our animals, is far more important to us than dwelling on sicknesses and diseases that surround us. In my books, I’ve been very upfront. I don’t have big sections about diseases… we don’t have diseases. 

As homesteaders we don’t spend a lot of time dwelling about sickness because generally we don’t have a lot of sickness.

We’re all about trying to mimic natural templates. We actually move our animals. We don’t leave them stationary. We don’t grow hydroponically, we grow in compost and soil.  We build compost. If we’re going to house animals we put them on deep bedding so they’ll have all this big carbonaceous diaper. We practice herbology. We practice essential oils, homemade tinctures, the whole gamut of using things in and around the homestead where we live and where we work.

All these weirdo things.

And the fact is most of us, outside of here today, most of us in our circle of routine are used to being weirdos. 

So it’s good that Amy has provided a conference here for us to come for a day and enjoy a bunch of other weirdos. It’s a good thing.”



“It’s great to be in a place where we’re concentrated on immunological function, wellness, and functionality, staying healthy ourselves, eating well and properly, not eating things that have unpronounceable labels and require a laboratory to make.

We as homesteaders, we see our own places, the legal term is curtilage, that’s a good word. That’s like your house and the close area around it, our curtilage. We see that as our responsibility.

We’re not sitting here saying that we’re victims and we can’t do anything unless theres’s a government grant or unless there’s a tax concession. We just do it because it’s part of making our curtilage, which includes our own bodies, healthy. “

What is a Homesteader?

Homesteaders Are All About Growing Our Own Food

“We’re obsessed about growing our own food rather than the quantity and the lack of quality in corporate food. Like the Capital One slogan, “What’s in your wallet?” we ask, “What’s in your garden?” “What’s in your larder?”

We’re jazzed about producing our own food rather than being depend on the grocery store. Most of the society out there lives paranoid about what happens if the supermarket doesn’t have food? What happens if the Teamsters go on strike? What happens if the longshoremen don’t unload the truck? What happens if a factory farm in California spreads poop on a lettuce field and we get e. Coli from lettuce? 

Homesteaders have this crazy, countercultural idea that we want to grow what we eat. We want to know who grew it, where it was [grown]. We are actually so crazy we want to establish a relationship with our food. Imagine that. That’s nutso. 

We’re trading seeds, trading ideas, creating all sorts stuff. That’s part of our pitch, part of our tribe.”

Homesteaders are Domestic Culinary Artists

“We’re jazzed and obsessed about domestic culinary arts rather than corporatized processed food.

We use our kitchens. Never has a culture spent more remodeling and techno glitzifying their kitchens than ours and been more dysfunctional in them. 

We know that what we want to do is use our kitchens to process, package, preserve, and prepare our foods. 

We can’t have an integrity food system as a culture when so many people have abdicated any relationship with their kitchens and know so little about anything they’re eating. Ultimately, you cannot have honest, integrity food without a home-centric food system. 

We generally don’t believe the government orthodoxy is the only standard that determines what is safe to eat. The government’s track record is kind of abysmal actually. For decades they told us to throw out the butter and lard and eat hydrogenated vegetable oil. This was official policy.

It should give us all pause to realize that we would actually be a much healthier country if the government had never told us how to eat.

Those of us in this tribe appreciate domestic culinary arts. We appreciate the tactile, physical, practical, the interaction we have, the smell of the sauerkraut in the crock, the pungent odor of alfalfa sprouts being rinsed and put back in their jar on the windowsill.

We know that eating like grandma is healthier and safer. The closer our food system moves to home-centricity the better it will be in all terms.  

What is a Homesteader?

Homesteaders Love Garden Culture Over Celebrity Culture

“We are obsessed about our gardens more than the Kardashians. Our civilization is obsessed with celebrity culture and entertainment.

The average American male between 25 and 35 years old spends 20 hours a week playing video games and then they complain they don’t have time to be in the kitchen. What a loss of time and ability. The most virile time of a male’s life and to squander 20 hours a week on video? Really? It’s unbelievable.  

Can you imagine the society that says, “She doesn’t have a garden?! Well phooey on her.” Wouldn’t that be a different thing?

Our world, our world folks, we’re just a different tribe and that’s a good thing. In fact, we’re the only normal ones out there! We’re the only reasonable ones out there.

We’re excited about saving seeds, trading varieties, growing tips, season extension, soil fertility techniques, companion planting, and drip irrigation.

All this about our own plants, vegetables, and gardens, that’s what excites us. People magazine can go take a hike.”

Homesteaders are Self-Reliant

“We’re obsessed about self-reliance rather than dependency on others. We carry our own load first. Now this is not meant to be negative about the poor and the disadvantaged. But the first admonition is to carry your own load first and when you carry your own load first then you have enough strength leftover to help the one that can’t carry their load. 

We are Do-It-Yourselfers. 

So if the economy fails or if the energy fails or if the food system fails, we know things. 

This is key. 

If you can fix something, grow something, or build something these are far more valuable things than your Wall Street portfolio. 

I am suggesting that in the 20 hours a week of playing Angry Birds (or whatever you’re playing) if we take that time to fix something, grow something, or build something, we’ll not only build resilience into our own lives, but we’ll actually add to the social equity of our culture.

It won’t be just wasted time. 

A mastery of practical skill is always valuable. 

Part of self-reliance is doing things long enough to feel comfortable doing them. From milking a cow to spinning fiber, you can’t Google experience.

You have to stay in it and stay in the slog day after day and then you pop out the other end and guess what? You have mastery. 

And mastery is something that’s better than banknotes. Mastery is something you can trade with neighbors when times get tough. You can use mastery to live and do other things.”

Basket of Eggs

Homesteaders Focus on Relationships Instead of Consumerism 

“The sixth obsession is about relationships rather than consumerism. 

Life’s richness is about family and friends not how many Chinese-made gadgets you have stashed in your storage unit.

This obsession with consumerism and the latest, greatest comes out to me all the time when people complain about the price of good food, they just can’t afford the price. 

If we’re really wanting to live healthy and take care of our planet, I suggest we can put our money in the other place. It starts with children, toys, and entertainment.

A homestead, a good, diversified, functional homestead where parents are excited about the daily discovery of “Oh, this is how you have more frogs,” “This is how you have more red wigglers,” “This is how you have more healthy and abundance.” Nature is a place of incredibly mysterious abundance and when our children are out with us in our homesteads, being a part of nature, they develop a healthy appreciation that they’re not the center of the universe. 

At the end of the day, we want kids who can grow tomatoes. Who cares if they get the top points on Angry Birds? I want to go into life with a kid next to me who knows how to grow a tomato, a kid who knows the world does not just exist at the end of a button or joystick, that life and death are real, and that we’re in it for all the marbles.

Does that mean I can’t have fun? Can’t have a joke and have a good time? No indeed. There’s a lot of fun on the homestead! And we know that living and loving are richer with shared noble goals, not just conversations about the latest movie in Hollywood or the show in Las Vegas.”

Homesteaders are Practical

“We’re obsessed about practical, not just theoretical or academic.

What-if’s” are metered out carefully. Who has time to feel fear and be paranoid about the “What-if’s” of life. Ultimately we can’t do anything about it.

Whether it’s a hole in Antartica, climate change, or whatever it is, I’m with Wendell Berry. There really aren’t any global issues. They’re really all local.

It’s so easy to get  all fired up about what those people should do over there and what those people should do over there, it’s really hard to go out our back door and do what we should do. The Chinese have a saying, “If everyone would sweep in front of their own door the whole world would be clean.” I tend to believe that. 

Every day there’s some new tension, some new thing to fear, some new boogeyman. Enough already. What can any of us do about it anyway? I have chickens to feed and zucchini bread to make for crying out loud. 

So we, as homesteaders going about our practical lives, we’re installing cisterns, we’re building solariums on our houses, we’re putting in rocket stoves, we’re composting toilets, we’re building compost piles, we’re butchering animals, and appreciating the rhythms, the pulsing of life knowing that things have been turning weird for a long, long time.

That’s one of the reasons I believe that the agrarian community, the farming agricultural community, is the stabilizer of a culture.

We know that droughts come. We know that floods come. We know that winds come. I’ve seen a lot of droughts in my life. And you know what? It always ends sometime.

I’ve started the protocol at our farm whenever we’re in a drought and everybody’s moping and it’s dry I say, “Well, one day closer to rain.” It’s true. Every day of that drought goes by it’s one day closer to rain.

And so we become this anchor of stability in the culture. I mean part of our practical day-to-day work is in building resiliency into our landscapes so that as a result of our caress, our ecological nest is starting to gain in commons.

So I believe very strongly as a result our homesteads the commons should increase.

That we should have more air, breathable air by sequestering more carbon, more soil, more water hydration, and more social equity as a result of what we do.

So we build ponds, we build organic matter, we enjoy biological activity and the diversity in and around our homes, we’re not segregated in some far off place to be transported to a supermarket near you.

We’ve got this segregated idea that in order to co-commune with nature we’ve got to get on a jet and fly 2,000 miles away from home in order to take some hike somewhere to commune with nature. I’ve got news for you, you’re pot garden, legal or otherwise, on the patio IS communing with nature.

In fact, when we get up in the morning and draw our first waking breath it’s probably good to realize that that oxygen may have been exhaled by our tomato plant on the patio that recycled a carbon dioxide exhale from the earthworm in the compost pile that came from a walnut tree down the street. We are part of nature.

We believe very strongly in a practical integrated view of life and living.”

Hay Bales in Field

Homesteaders are Economical

“We are obsessed about how to live on less cash rather than more.  One of the reasons to move our homesteads into businesses, whether big or small is so we can deduct everything. Because everything’s a legitimate business experiment. That way we can pull all our income off as a cost of experimentation and sales. So we do everything before tax dollars to reduce the taxable income. One of the most subversive things we can do in our culture is to not make any money. 

That doesn’t mean you quit your job, don’t want to jump off the cliff and be living out of the trash can next year but do get out of debt. We actually think getting out of debt is a good thing. Save up a nest egg so you can making a living on your homestead. This is the ultimate.

Invest your money in project capitalization, your own education, your own experience. Basically, pull the plug on the problems, the fears, and the systems that extract wealth from the countryside and turn our people into pawns of exploitation. Instead take every dollar we’ve got, forget the soda, forget the Twinkies, forget the Cocoa Puffs, and turn those dollars into experience, information, and practical homestead businesses. “

Homesteaders are Nurturing

“We obsess about caressing rather than conquistadoring.

We live in a time when the overriding orthodoxy of our culture is that nature is a reluctant partner and we must dominate, control, and manipulate. We must get in here and get nature in a half-nelson.

Actually, nature is a benevolent lover who wants to shower us with abundance. Nature has a desire for abundance, for healing and there are principles to make that happen. They’re not rocket science.

We know how to do this, we just don’t do this. The question is how do we touch our nest?  We believe in abundance and not scarcity.”

Homesteaders Build Local Communities 

“We are obsessed about local-centric entrepreneurism rather than global jobs with upward mobility. In our homesteader tribe, the homesteader outlook is a very community-oriented outlook. I

’ve been all over the world and let me tell you something: Every community can pretty much take care of itself. The problem in most of the world is that the wealthy people are always trying to tell unwealthy people how to live and solve their problems. What they need is to solve their own problems.

We, as the homesteader movement, are looking at, “What does my community need?” “What do my neighbors want?” “How can I serve my community, my neighborhood?”

Ultimately, that moves us to a servant’s heart. The servant’s heart in our country resides in homesteaders. In a homesteading movement, we’re eager to share our information. We want success. Why? One of my goals is that we actually create a credible alternative so that there is no need whatsoever for a factory farm. Who needs them? When each of us doing our part, we don’t need industrial agriculture. T

he cumulative effect of the homesteader movement, of you and I, serving our neighbors, serving our community, each of us touching that sphere of influence and responsibility in our own lives, our own neighborhoods, our own communities as we have this servant’s heart. As it’s cultivated in our homesteader movement, as a group that help each other, we share, we trade, it’s a sharing group, let’s capitalize on that. Leverage it in our community [towards] the people who haven’t seen the light yet. Smother them with an alternative of abundance and self-reliance and lack of dependency on the man and the system.”

“We can bring those answers in our knowledge, our experience, and our sharing. We can bring that to our communities and ultimately serve our communities.

That’s how we will see the homesteader movement continue to make progress and we will offer those answers in a frenzied frantic harried hurried culture that doesn’t have time to sit and think about the earthworm, about the frog, about our own microbiome.

We have those answers. They are reposited in us. Let us be good stewards and faithful of being the alternative obsessives in our culture that are passionate about true healing in all of its aspects.”


We've brought Joel Salatin's "What is a Homesteader?" talk out of the Homesteaders of America Conference lecture vault for everyone to enjoy.
We've brought Joel Salatin's "What is a Homesteader?" talk out of the Homesteaders of America Conference lecture vault for everyone to enjoy.