Would You Live in an Off Grid Community & Farm? That’s a question I once asked myself and a question many other people in the off grid world ask themselves. “Would I, could I actually live in an off grid community and farm?”. Many important things need to be considered before one can answer that question. It’s a complete lifestyle change from typical suburban and urban living. It’s takes hard work, dedication, planning, and money. Let’s not forget the money. If you’re going to live off grid in a community of like minded individuals there are some very important factors to take into account.
Where Will Everyone Stay?
Shelter is the second most important aspect of living off the grid next to a water source, so it makes sense that if you’re living in a small community that you will need your own shelter, or at least be able to share a cabin with another person or family. Some people can live with others, some will want their own place as they enjoy their privacy. I think a happy medium can be found by having both a common shelter in the form of a lodge cabin which can double as both the center hub and community center as well as a place to live for those who enjoy living and sharing their space. Others will want their own space and privacy and will need their own cabin. Both lifestyles can be mingled and all people can feel welcome since everything is part of a single community.
How Close Will Cabins be Built To One Another?
How close cabins and the main lodge common area are together will depend greatly on the land. If there’s enough room to expand, say 40-80 acres, that provides everyone with more options to spread out and have more privacy. Being able to have a cabin nestled in the trees and having the privacy that provides goes a long way to being content and happy. And happy people make great neighbors.
How Much Privacy Do You Need Personally?
Privacy is an issue that is extremely important. People should respect the boundaries of others, always. I personally like my privacy and might stay in the main lodge from time to time on holidays and party nights, but for the most part I’ll most likely spend most of my time in my own cabin and garden area.
What Am I Willing & Able To Contribute?
Everyone brings with them skills and knowledge they can use to contribute to the community as whole. Everyone has valuable information and the ability to teach others and share with them the knowledge needed to grow the community. It’s not all about the money, as well it should never be. Our bank accounts should never be an influence on our status within the community. We’re talking about community and equality here. Where everyone is treated equally. Some folks will not be able to contribute as much financially a others, some folks will be physically unable to work hard labor and long hours due to health issues or other reasons and they should not be judged by others or left out. It’s about living in harmony and I believe we as human beings have a duty to help those who need help. Everyone can pull their own weight and contribute, some will contribute more than others, but at the end of the day what I think it comes down to is cooperation and equality. We’re all human and will all have our dignity and should all be respected equally. It’ll go a long way toward having a happy community.
This is probably the most important aspect of living off the grid. Water and food. Water is a given. There must be a clean and potable water source to supply everyone with enough water for cooking and sanitation. It’s a huge topic that one could write many books on which is way beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say there must be a well, stream, river, lake, pond or spring large enough to support 20-40 people and their children and guests. Keeping things clean and sanitary is of the highest priority and goes directly to the health of the community as a whole.
Food can be produced in both a common community garden which could be a large 10-20 acre plot of land dedicated to growing food, raising livestock, and perhaps even fish. 20-40 people eat a lot of food. On average (Americans) people consume approximately 1 ton of food annually. That’s 2000 pounds of food per person per year. Multiply that by 40 people and you need 80,000 pounds of food annually to feed people.
So how much land will that take? Well that depends on who you ask, and more importantly HOW you grow your food. Traditional row cropping is old fashioned and quite frankly outdated and obsolete. There are new and improved growing techniques that do not use as much surface area and square footage land area to grow food. As such the total amount of food produced per square foot of land has increased exponentially. Permaculture, aquaponics, hydroponics, raised beds, and vertical gardening all contribute to the ability to grow more food by weight per square foot than ever before in the history of human kind. Agriculture now has the ability to produce 20 pounds or more of food per square foot. Take a look here 6,000 Pounds of Food on 1/10 Acre . Scaled up, that’s 60,000 pounds of food per acre of land. And that’s not the half of it. That’s good, but we can do even better. How much better?
How about 1 MILLION pounds of food on 3 acres of land. That equates to 333k pounds of food per acre or 7.65 pounds per square foot of land! So yeah it’s more than possible to grow way more than 40 people could ever eat. Which brings us to an opportunity for an income for the community.
How Will Everyone Make A Living While Living Off Grid?
This too is a topic that one could write a book about (which I am currently doing btw) and is way beyond the scope of this short article. Having said that I’m a very strong advocate for making your own way, hence this website and the fact I’ve always owned my own home businesses since I was young. Having the ability to make a steady income from the community is part of what will make the community work.
Making a living while living your life off grid is not going to be easy, but it can be more fulfilling than anything else. We’ll start with the basics and that means growing food. The surplus food produced could be a very large and productive source of income for the entire community. Everyone would pitch in what they can and every would receive a share of the profits from the business. And it is a business. The community will have expenses, it will need to have accounting, and check and balances in place. The most important of which will be that everyone has an equal share in the net profits after all expenses are paid.
Some folks will keep their day jobs, some will find jobs in the city or town, some will have their own businesses, and some will work the farm and garden full time. Point being that everyone contributes in their own way, and everyone no matter what will be viewed as equal.
Let’s be clear. Living off the grid is not free. It’s not a free ride and will require a lot of work from everyone especially if the community is to be a success.
How Will Disagreements Be Handled?
This is a negative about community that most people shy away from, and to be fair and honest I really don’t know how a community would handle, nor do I think it’s possible to plan for every single possible argument or disagreement in a community, but I do think there can be a contingency plan, and a set of general, basic, and fair rules that everyone knows and agrees to.
All in all I think it comes down to everyone’s voice being heard equally and everyone have an equal vote. In the event of a tie vote, people vote a temporary leader for the deciding vote on each issue. Simple really. Though one could argue this aspect of democracy until the end of time.
Disputes and disagreements will happen. It’s inevitable. But if there’s a basis for handling them set up ahead of time, it will go a long way toward keeping the peace of the community.
How Will We Handle Waste?
I will repeat. Sanitation is vital to the health of the community. Without proper sanitation any community is at risk of disease and health issues. A good water source is vital to keeping things clean. There will need to be a good septic system (no humanure; Yuck!) I think most people would agree that using human waste to fertilize the food you eat is beyond the tolerance of the majority of folks. This is not to say that those who wish to have their own garden near their own cabin couldn’t use their own waste on their own food. That’s perfectly ok. But speaking for myself, that’s not going to happen. 😉
A good septic system is vital. each cabin could have it’s own system, it could be self contained, or there could be a central common bathroom shower area which empties into a large community septic system. Or it could be a combination of all the above. Whatever works and keeps things clean and sanitary.
What Kind of Livestock Will We Raise?
This is a question many people get stuck on. Pigs, cows, goats and chickens come to mind. They are the foundational staples of a good farm. They produce food and keep the ground aerated and keep pesky insect populations low. But raising fish, and shrimp, crayfish and water based livestock is also an option and, like most livestock can provide a revenue stream for the community.
Will There Be A Community Center/Common Area?
It’s probably a good idea to have a central area where everyone can congregate and socialize, hold events and parties and generally just enjoy each others company. Humans are a social bunch, and likewise need that communal and cultural interaction with one another.
Will Each Cabin Have Running Water & Appliances?
Again, yes. I think a water system which provides running water to each cabin and a central lodge common area is a good idea.
So… Could You Do It?
There are pros and cons to everything. Each item must be addressed on its own and by the group as a whole. In the end it comes down to what you as a person are willing to contribute, not what you can get from it. It’s about giving and being part of something, while at the same time being self sufficient, living sustainably, and making your own way while at the same time giving back.
Ultimately, living in an off grid community and farm is about being part of something with a greater purpose which not only respects the earth, it also provides you and your family with a place to get away from the daily grind, leave the rat race behind and rid yourself of the stresses of daily life that you have now that are holding you back.
Ask yourself what it is you really want out of life and whether you want to live the rest of your life on the treadmill chasing a carrot for the rest of your life. A carrot you will likely never catch unless you’re lucky.
It always, always, always comes down to one single motivating factor. I’ve written about it at length many times over the years, literally penning tens of thousands of words about it. It’s what we all seek. It’s what makes the world go round. It’s obvious and it’s something we don’t think about much though it’s an instinctual drive deeply engrained in our human condition.
It’s happiness. That happiness, in my opinion, comes from being secure, and safe and content in your lifestyle. Being happy is what it’s all about. Some will still choose to live on their own, and that’s perfectly fine. That’s ok. It makes them happy. Some will choose to live in a community, and still others will choose to have a balance between the two. The choice is yours, and it always should be. The question still remains.
So… Would you live in an off grid community and farm?