Downsizing as a Way to Continue the Homestead Lifestyle

Downsizing as a Way to Continue the Homestead Lifestyle

Downsizing as a Way to Continue the Homestead Lifestyle

Interview with Longtime Homesteader and farmer Terry Garratt  

This month, I had a chance to catch up with a homesteader I have known for many years. Terry Garratt grew up knowing that she was going to live off the grid. At the Fresno County Fair, the goats captivated her. Her mother’s family was a farming family and her cousins encouraged her in her dream of one day being an off-grid farmer.   

Downsizing as a Way to Continue the Homestead Lifestyle

As life happens, Terry met and married a man with no farming background. In 1971 they settled into a home on a quarter-acre lot and began their life together. As it would also happen, Terry found Countryside magazine during this time. She began gardening and rekindling the dream to live a farm life.  

Soon after, the Garratt family moved from the suburban backyard garden to a larger property and began farming with goats in addition to the gardens. Terry notes that California isn’t the friendliest state for farmers and homesteaders to begin. Regulations in California have been working against agricultural pursuits for years. Yet, they stayed. They persisted, mainly because of her husband’s off-farm job in education.   

Eventually, Terry and her husband landed on their 40 acre, off-grid farm. Goats were the primary livestock and the Garratts made sure they raised plenty of food to support their dream of being self-sufficient.   

Over the years, Terry has seen many changes in the world of homesteading. One thing we discussed was the higher costs of farming. Depending on the region, hay has exponentially gone up in price and that is a huge factor to consider when homesteading with livestock.  

Moving forward to today, Terry is now a widow, living on a smaller property but still farming. After her husband’s passing, she gave serious thought to being far from neighbors and family on the larger farm property. She searched and found a smaller farm that is closer to her now-grown children. She still has the ability and space to do what brings her joy in life. Her goals remain tied to stewardship of the land, as her heart and passion are in farm life, as well as her DNA!  

Of course, I had to ask Terry what she would say to those retiring into homesteading life. The first topic we discussed was adapting. Her advice is to do what you can now without hurting yourself. She says her plan is to continue her life and care of the farm but hire help from the community as she needs it. Having lived frugally and saving throughout life, she has the means to afford the help, even without being wealthy.   

Moving from an off-grid situation to a much smaller property in a residential farming area can be an adjustment. Terry looked for an area where neighbors were respectful of her farm and garden pursuits. Fortunately, she found just the right place where she can do what she loves but has the security of being near her family. Both she and her animals have adjusted well.   

On the topic of self-sufficiency, Terry advises that we should do what we can and buy what we can’t. She includes the advice of not being so rigid that you make yourself do without to prove a point of self-sufficiency.   

In addition, getting to know the people you buy supplies from is a very good practice. She always tries to have a connection to the community she is relying on for supplies.   

Downsizing the farm was the way that Terry decided would enable her to continue an agricultural lifestyle after retirement. She mentioned that it isn’t for everyone and added this pearl of wisdom, “Isn’t it great that we don’t all want the same thing or it would get crowded there wouldn’t it?” 

Along that same thought line, we talked about the future of homesteading. It is a very popular movement at this time. We both agreed that it isn’t for everyone, and certainly not the retirement answer for most. She states that we will lose some homesteaders as time goes on. Some will drop off because they failed to understand what goes into this long term. A percentage of people who leave will drop off because they got in over their heads. Some will migrate back with a better plan.   

The future of Terry Garratt’s farm looks bright. Her grown children and their children are all showing interest in the small farming property that Terry has put together. Her grandchildren, nearing adulthood themselves, seem eager to join in and help on the farm. In the future, Terry sees herself continuing to evolve her dream and farming as she can. Smaller scale is one way to continue the life she loves.   

Have you considered taking your farming or homesteading dream to a different level if you have always lived an agricultural life? Please let us know your thoughts on this method or any of our other Homesteading After Retirement series articles. 

JANET GARMAN is a farmer, writer, instructor, and fiber artist living in central Maryland on the family’s farm. She loves all subjects related to small farms and homesteading. Raising chickens, ducks, sheep, and fiber goats led her to write her most recent books, 50 Do-It-Yourself Projects 

Originally published in March/April 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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