Curious about the homesteading & health trend? Are homesteaders healthier? I’m sharing the details in this post.
Homesteading & Health
Ahhh, homesteading and health. It sounds like such a cliche, doesn’t it? Cliche or not, health related goals draw individuals and families toward homesteading. Whether it’s escaping the hustle and bustle of city life in favor of moving to the country, or simply raising a few backyard chickens in a backyard, the decision is usually influenced by a desire to live healthier. But what does “healthier” really mean, anyway? In many ways, health is a subjective term. People pursue and achieve health in various ways. Whether it’s following a specific diet, committing to an exercise regimen, or pursuing a lifestyle choice, there’s no “one size fits all” way of attaining health.
Which brings me back to the main question about homesteading and health. Are homesteaders healthier? Maybe, or maybe not.
Our health journey
It’s no secret that our initial interest in homesteading was grounded in health reasons. Due to an extensive family history of autoimmune diseases, Ben and I were motivated to make a major lifestyle shift. In an effort to have more control over the production of our food, homesteading felt like the most logical lifestyle choice for our family. What started off as a decision driven by health evolved into something so much more, and now we can’t imagine living life any other way.
Homesteading makes sense for our family, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to make sense for yours. But if you’re wondering what the hype is all about regarding homesteading and health, then you’ve come to the right place.
Are homesteaders healthier?
If you’ve been looking into the connection between homesteading and health, then it’s no surprise that increased exercise and sunshine/vitamin D are extremely common answers. And for good reason! Whether you participate in traditional exercise or not, farm chores force you to be more active on a daily basis. Hauling hay, carrying heavy water buckets, and cleaning stalls are just a few common chores. To top it off, homesteaders spend time outdoors everyday – rain, snow, or clear skies. Fresh air and sunshine truly does the body good!
But to be perfectly honest, increased exercise and Vitamin D kinda feels like a cop out to me. Individuals who live in urban areas can easily get the same amount of exercise and Vitamin D simply by going for a run outdoors or walking to the grocery store. Right?
Which brings me back to the topic of homesteading and health. Even though exercise and sunshine can improve health and happiness, this does not apply solely to homesteaders. So what gives? Are homesteaders healthier?
Perhaps the topic of homesteading and health isn’t so simple after all. The mere act of homesteading clearly doesn’t lead to health, even when you take into consideration the physical labor and extra time outdoors. Perhaps health itself is more multidimensional. People can’t “achieve” health simply through engaging in various behaviors.
Health is complex. For us, homesteading has led to a greater sense of purpose. It’s a feeling of connection to something greater than ourselves, and it puts the stressors of daily life in perspective. There’s something calming about spending time outdoors, even in subzero temps. Through caring for livestock, and in turn, producing your own food, also comes an increased gratitude and appreciation for things that we normally take for granted. Simple tasks take more work – feeding chickens, collecting eggs from the coop, and milking goats takes a whole lot more time and effort than simply purchasing a carton of eggs and milk from the grocery store. But that also leads to increased satisfaction and overall happiness, which impacts health.
See? It’s a bit more complicated than simply getting more exercise, isn’t it?
All about germs
Soon after starting our homestead, I started to worry that our lifestyle choices could actually have a detrimental effect on our kids. Farms have germs. A lot of germs. From poop to mud, it’s nearly impossible to keep kids clean. What if those germs are actually harmful for our kids?
I spoke with our Pediatrician about my concerns, and she immediately calmed my nervous. She stressed the importance and value associated with farm living, and encouraged me to research the Hygiene Hypothesis.
According to a peer reviewed article published in the Journal of Translational Immunology, the Hygiene Hypothesis refers to the idea that “Changes of lifestyle in industrialized countries have led to a decrease of the infectious burden and are associated with the rise of allergic and autoimmune diseases.” A direct correlation exists between decreased germ exposure and increased rates of autoimmune diseases and allergies. Seeing as our initial reason for pursuing this lifestyle pertained to my family history of autoimmune diseases, I clearly needed to expand my research.
Exposure to germs, especially those found on a farm with livestock, provides a protective factor against developing autoimmune diseases and allergies. Considering our family goals, it makes sense that our Pediatrician recommended for us to research the Hygiene Hypothesis. Farm germs really are good germs 😉
(If you’re interested in the science behind the Hygiene Hypothesis, along with direct information pertaining to farm living, then I highly recommend that you check out this article.)
More intentional choices
So what’s the connection between health and homesteading, anyway? Are homesteaders healthier? Well, sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
The act of homesteading does not lead to health; however, the the values and behaviors associated with homesteading perhaps can lead to greater health and happiness. Exercise, more time outdoors, and selflessly caring for animals are just a few behaviors that can lead to greater life satisfaction. Generally speaking, homesteaders put increased thought and intention behind their food choices, which can lead to a desire to consume whole food ingredients with minimal ingredients. Top it off with an increased exposure to beneficial germs, and the homesteading and health topic officially comes full circle.
Perhaps health isn’t “acquired”; rather, true health refers to a journey. Homesteaders know far too well that the most valuable things involve hard work and patience. Planting a garden. Raising baby chicks and waiting for eggs. Breeding and raising dairy goats. None of these tasks leads to an immediate return. Rather, the homesteader must selflessly work with an understanding that eventually, the whole cycle of life will come full circle.
And maybe that’s what health is all about, anyway.
Looking for more homesteading posts? Then check out these:
- Homesteading for beginners & tips for starting a homestead
- Modern Homesteading: what is a “modern homesteader”?
- Homesteading & simple living
- Homesteading on a small property