The Problematic term “Homestead”

wheelbarrow in front of a barn

In light of the need for a long-overdue acknowledgment that our nation is built on unceded land stolen from Indigenous peoples, we at Organic Growers School will be changing the name of our Homestead Dreams class. We want to provide an opportunity for community discussion around this topic. This blog post is our first step, and we invite readers to leave comments below.

It is important to note that the term ‘homesteading’ itself provides a problematic reference, as the term was coined during the Homestead Act of 1862, which led to the displacement and murder of thousands of Indigenous peoples. Given our commitment to Social Justice, we no longer feel this is an appropriate name for us to utilize. 

The Homestead Act of 1862 and the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 accelerated the colonization of the Western part of the U.S. by permitting white families to claim and defend once native-stewarded land, thereby forcing Indigenous peoples from their homeland and reducing access to resources, livelihood and culture. These Acts have had a lasting impact, with 98% of agricultural land held by white farmers today (Agrarian Trust). With these devastating results of the Homestead Act in mind, we want to reimagine the name of  this class and  acknowledge the problematic history and connotations of the term “homestead.”

At Organic Growers School, our mission since 1993 has been to inspire, educate, and support people to farm, garden, and live organically, and our vision guides us in building a mutually supportive network of thriving home growers through our workshops such as Spring Conference, the Harvest Conference, services such as Sustainability Coaching & Consulting and resources such as our CRAFT Network and the Home Grower’s Library

Home-growing has long been an act of resistance and resilience, as Fannie Lou Hamer and other early food revolutionaries knew well. The current homegrower movement has been bolstered by a renewed awareness of the need to disentangle ourselves from the industrial food system. 

Industrial agriculture requires applying industrial chemicals to our crops (many of which were wartime chemicals that were repurposed from making bombs to making pesticides and synthetic fertilizers) and high carbon footprints. Americans are starting to realize that sourcing our food closer to home — and best of all, from our own backyards! — means having control over how the food was grown and what we are putting into our bodies, as well as how reliably the food gets to us when we’re faced with unexpected shortages.

Growing your own food is empowering and lets you exercise your agency over what you put in your body. We understand that today ‘homesteading’ itself is more of a frame of mind than a scale of endeavor. People across the nation are realizing that the basic principles of “homesteading” — adopting an industrious approach to living with a bent towards a conservative and creative use of resources — can be incorporated into your life at any level. Although some aspects of home growing require land and financial resources, which is only accessible to the privileged few, urban farming and community gardens have long been a stronghold in the fight for food sovereignty. 

During the Civil Rights movement, Fannie Lou Hamer argued that access to nutrition and stewardship of the land was the only true path to full citizenship for Black southerners. This led to the concept of cooperative farming and a celebration of subsistence living, and made manifest Malcolm X’s declaration that land is the basis of equality, justice, and independence. 

Because home growing and farming are lifelong journeys of experiential learning, at Organic Growers School we offer a wide range of continuing education programs, from topic-specific webinars such as Gardening Series and Holistic Crop Management to year-long trainings such as Farm Beginnings®, one-on-one coaching and consulting, as well as a slew of resources on our website (https://organicgrowersschool.org/farmers/farming-resources/).

We’d love to hear your voice, and your ideas on how we can rename and reframe our Homestead Dreams program. Leave us a comment below!

 

 

Author: Nicole DelCogliano

Nicole DelCogliano is Farmer Program Coordinator at OGS. She teaches the year long Farm Beginnings program to new and beginning farmers. She also farms in Yancey County with her husband, at Green Toe Ground farm.