What sets a Homestead vs. a Farm Apart?


    Frequently, there’s a mix-up between homesteads and farms due to their shared practices and models. Many activities that happen on one are also found on the other. However, in broader terms, there are distinctions between a homestead vs. a farm.

    So, what’s the difference between a homestead and a farm? A farm aims to make money by selling its products, whether from livestock or land. On a homestead, the focus is on cultivating your own land with the goal of becoming self-sufficient and living off the land, rather than primarily selling products.

    Homesteaders often raise livestock or plant crops for personal consumption, while farmers grow crops or raise animals for sale. The crucial difference lies not in the activity itself but in the motivation behind it. This article will delve deeper into the disparities between these two systems and guide you on how to engage in them, covering aspects from buying land to the diverse agricultural systems available in both farming and homesteading.

    Homestead vs. Farm

    When talking about a homestead or farmstead, the later term points to the specific spot on a farm where the house and buildings are situated. For instance, you might mention, “Farmer Joe returned to the farmstead after a day of plowing in the field.” Usually, these structures were grouped closely together within the farm, giving rise to the term “farmstead.”

    As mentioned earlier, the key contrast between a homestead system and a farming system lies in the purpose of generating food yields. However, this distinction is not trivial; it involves various intricacies within the primary difference.


    When you look up what a farm is, you’ll find:

    • Land for growing crops.
    • Land for raising animals.
    • Water area for breeding aquatic animals.

    In simple terms, a farm system is about making things to sell. It’s like a cycle: people buy, so the farm can keep growing crops or raising animals to sell back. It needs your support to keep going.

    Farms usually aim to make money, so they stick to common methods, sometimes sidelining sustainability and creativity in farming. Farms often focus on specific types, like growing only cash crops or raising only certain animals. This specialization happens because specific equipment is costly, and being profitable means finding the right balance between costs, labor, and the size of the operation.


    When you look up the term homestead, you find things like:

    The first definition makes many farms seem like homesteads due to similar setups. To tell them apart, it’s crucial to focus on selling products and earning income. Homesteaders aim to be self-sufficient, relying on their land for food by raising animals and growing crops.

    While homesteads may sell excess products, that’s not the main goal. These systems often prioritize consuming organic, sustainable foods. Homesteaders are keen on sustainability, using all resources to care for the earth and produce abundantly.

    The key trait of a homesteader is the drive for self-sufficiency, whether through a small garden or raising various animals to meet their family’s food needs for the year.

    What about Homestead Farming vs. a Hobby Farm?

    People often mix up homesteads and hobby farms. In hobby farm vs. homestead situations, homestead means you’re looking to grow your own food and live off-grid, taking a hands-on approach without depending much on external sources. Now, let’s compare it to a hobby farm. It’s more about relaxation and enjoyment rather than striving for self-sufficiency.

    How to Start a Homestead or a Farm

    Below are some things to consider before you develop your homestead or farm:


    Starting a homestead or farm always begins with acquiring land. Unless you already have a vast plot, you’ll likely need to find suitable land for purchase. First, determine the land’s purpose. Decide if it will be a fully operating farm or a personal homestead. This is crucial because the type of land you need depends on the crops or livestock you plan to have.


    When thinking about having livestock, there’s a lot to consider because animals, much like humans, need various resources to survive. First, look at the vegetation on the land and think about the type of animal you want. Most livestock need space to graze, requiring fields or pasture.

    Inspect the pastures and observe the plant life. If the forage quality isn’t good, you might have to buy extra feed, which adds to your expenses. Ideal forage for cattle, horses, sheep, and goats includes grasses like timothy, bluestem, ryegrass, and legumes such as alfalfa, clover, peas, and birdsfoot trefoil. Forbs like chicory, kale, rape, radishes, and turnips are also good.

    If the land has these plant types, it’s likely suitable for livestock foraging. If the pasture has less desirable plants, consider the cost of working and replanting. Look for land with less rocky soil if possible, as rocky soil can be tough on equipment during replanting.


    The process for selecting land for crops mirrors that for animals. The first step is to think about the type of crops you want on your farmland. This choice influences the space required and the irrigation system setup.

    Infrastructure for crops varies based on what you grow. If you plan to grow grains or make silage, you’ll need a silo. Silage is fermented feed stored in a silo, and grains stay fresh longer and are protected from critters when stored in one. Soil type is crucial when planting crops. Poor soil composition leads to unsuccessful crops. You can request a recent soil test from the seller or arrange for a laboratory analysis before choosing the land to ensure it suits your needs.

    For those not well-versed in soil science, loam is the best for farmers because it retains water well. Unlike clay, which holds too much water, and sand, which doesn’t hold enough for crop growth. If the land you’re considering lacks loam soil, think twice about choosing that region.

    Other Considerations

    • Homesteading Considerations: Focus on house size, proximity to schools, and existing infrastructure. Homesteads usually need fewer acres compared to farms.
    • Budget Planning: Factor in property tax and ongoing maintenance costs. Also think about expenses as farm upkeep increases with more acres.
    • Realtor Assistance: Use a realtor with rural property experience for better guidance.
    • Location Matters: Weather impacts both livestock and crop farming. Avoid fire-prone areas that may risk crop loss. Also, cold climates need extra barn protection. Consider natural disasters like tornadoes and floods.
    • Preventing Setbacks: Be cautious about unexpected setbacks and losses. Choose land carefully to avoid weather-related challenges.

    Begin Your Homestead or Farm Project Today

    Embark on your journey into homesteading or farming with clarity. Distinguish between homesteads and farms, understanding the nuances that guide your choices. Explore the essentials, from land acquisition to livestock and crops. Discover the unique traits of homesteaders and farmers, and make informed decisions on location and budget. Whether homesteading for self-sufficiency or farming for profit, be prepared for the challenges and joys that come with each path. Begin your agricultural venture with confidence, and let the land you choose be the foundation for your sustainable future.