Gallery: Homesteaders vs Preppers: What’s the Difference?

Image © cafemama Homesteader seedlings.
Image © cafemama Homesteader seedlings.

My lack of familiarity with these terms prompted me to do some research (as any good noob should do), and I found that there was a veritable treasure-trove of info to be found on the topic. At first glance, there seems to be a number of similarities between the two: both groups put a great deal of focus on self-sufficiency and off-grid living, but the differentiating factor seems to be the driving force behind said focus.

Image © Julochka

The homesteaders seem drawn to this self-sufficiency because they wish to live more holistically with the world around them; having first-hand experience with their food sources—be that through organic gardens, animal husbandry, or backyard chicken coops—and revisiting the home industry of their forebears. Many of them spin their own yarn, sew their own clothes, and make cheese from the milk given by a few goats or sheep that they keep on a small plot of land. They save their seeds, sew quilts from old clothes, and spend weekends canning and preserving food so they have a hearty bounty to draw from over the winter months.

Image © Remolacha

In comparison, preppers seem to be a more paranoid lot, and their drive towards self-sufficiency isn’t born of a desire to get back to the land, but is rather in preparation for whatever apocalypse is just around the corner. These folks are getting ready for when shit hits the fan, and you can be sure they’ll be well prepared when it does. Many have several years’ supply of canned goods, dried staples, and water in their cellars, along with an arsenal of weapons to fend off the inevitable zombie-like hoards that’ll come after their food and supplies when everything goes to hell. If they do grow any food around their property, it’s hidden in the woods and camouflaged so that invaders won’t realize it’s a food crop, and the razor wire around it will dissuade any trespassers from taking it.

I found it difficult to believe the prepping mindset until I discovered a show on the National Geographic channel entitled “Doomsday Preppers”. In it, viewers are introduced to several families who are making solid action plans, bunkers, and survival kits for what they believe is the inevitable end of the world — whether that arrives via EMP attack by terrorists/extra terrestrials, pandemics, war, societal collapse, or a nuclear incident. This type of preparedness is a far cry from the homesteaders whose blogs I’ve been reading—the ones who mulch their sustainable permaculture gardens with compost they’ve nurtured themselves; who sing to their goats as they milk them and treasure each bite of homemade cheese because they know how precious it is.

Though both groups are very knowledgeable about self-reliance, the major difference between them seems to be that one side is putting down roots and nurturing the land and its denizens in preparation for a brighter future, while the other is battening down hatches and bracing for future onslaught. As one woman stated in an online forum, “Homesteaders build: home is a nest. Preppers evade: home is a bunker.” Both groups might be seen as extremist by the general populace, who’d decry homesteaders as dirt-munching hippie Luddites, and preppers as paranoid, unstable crazies, but are their lifestyles really so bizarre? In a world where economic stability is a fairytale and store-bought foods are toxic, it’s understandable that many would wish to grow their own food, and have solid survival plans “just in case”.

Image © Mullica

There may be a fine line between being paranoid and being prepared, but who are we to say where those boundaries are? I think of people who survived disasters like Hurricane Katrina because they’d stockpiled food and water ahead of time to get them through a “What if?” scenario — what if these folks aren’t driven so much by paranoia as by some intuition about what might be around the corner? In any case, the two groups could probably benefit from one another’s skills: some preppers could take a cue from the homesteaders as far as industry is concerned, while some homesteaders might feel more secure if they put some of the preppers’ defensive precautions into effect. In fact, we could all learn a lesson from both sides:  being a bit more self-sufficient and having both a solid first aid kit and a week’s worth of food and water just in case wouldn’t do anyone any harm.

Lead Image © Slipstream JC


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  1. hilly7 April 27, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Somebody notices, thank you. We are called both by the ones who know us, personally I don’t think we’re either. We do stock up on things when they are on sale that we use. Key word, use. With prices going higher and higher it saves us money. We grow and stock what we grow, because that is what farmers do. The old adage, “Make hay while the sun is shinning” pretty much is self explanatory. Certain years certain crops will do better than others and one takes advantage of it by stocking up, while being mindful of neighbors who may not be able to grow or having a hard time. Other than enjoyment of producing food, one knows where their food comes from, what it is, how it is grown. Then the seed thing, well, common sense. One of the main focuses on gardening other than previously mentioned is cost saving. Not to mention if you can’t save the seeds it is not real food, and a large part of our problem with health. But we do not “homestead” either, just a mix I guess.

    Now for the “Prepper” side of things I have friends that do that and I guess in some ways we do too, maybe not the “Doomsday Type” though. Still, to an extent they got my respect. One needs a radio that gets news and even calls out in an emergency. Country people keep firearms to protect themselves and their charges, that is a given. Naturally that evolves into keeping ammo, otherwise you have a pretty stick (long gun) and an awkward rock (pistol). Keeping in mind in the country dialing 911 don’t work too well. Many “Prepper” buy their food and supplies which begs one to wonder just where they think the food will come from once exhausted. They buy fancy equipment, like tents in cold areas. They buy food they don’t like, food that is laced with chemicals. Not exactly my bag of tea. That is not being self sufficient and remember, when it runs out, homesteaders and farmers have defense too. BOBs or Bug Out Bags, will be a target.

    I see flaws in being either. When I sold houses I saw plenty of people who thought they could be self-sufficient, and it is possible, but one would have to live very different and it is very hard. I sold plenty of small farms only to relist them a few years later. It ain’t as glamorous as one thinks it is, most of us grew up like this and don’t know no better. :)

  2. Uncle B September 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    The American Dream, and American styled Capitalism having forsaken them, they have but this to pursue! reference: Google Detroit City Ruins?

  3. joy2b February 24, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Preppers and homesteaders are some of the most visible people in many diy communities. You can compare them to the athletes and the organizers who you need for a friendly team sport. They usually don’t make up the whole team.

    I’ve noticed these categories:
    Farmers – The pros. They grew up on a family farm, they’ve always made their own food, they know what’s worth saving, and they’re used to having enough on hand to get through till next summer. They’re used to living in the country, and not calling repair men. They know how to make it, fix it, cook it, garden it, shoot it, build it, whatever they have to do. (This community is slowly being weakened by the push to monoculture farming, but it still exists, and is to some extent, the paragon of the rest.)
    Homesteaders – They have a lifestyle that in some way resembles romantic rural life. Their family pets may be more useful than average, but they’re still probably cute and lovable. Gardening is probably a full time hobby. Many families went from hobbyists to homesteaders during WWII, and then went back afterwards.
    Hobbyists – There’s a few things they do for fun that make them a little more self sufficient than average. Gardeners, knitters, seamstresses, cooks, home brewers, carpenters, etc… a lot of people do a few things to relax.
    Preppers – Everyone thinks about what to do during emergencies. Preppers just do it more. Many learn the skills of the groups above, because they feel it’s necessary… and they often feel compelled to share skills. They often produce good articles on how to learn a new skill quickly, so they can be pretty great internet citizens and magazine contributors. Many are also hunters. Some are extreme enough to make it on tv, some have a nice camping kit, others just don’t plan to get to the store often. (In rural areas which get real blizzards, being a prepper isn’t optional.)
    Frugalists – When you learn how things are made, you can often save a lot of money. Some people are self sufficient in a lot of little ways, because it seems wasteful to them to do otherwise.
    Religious – Mormons often keep a year’s worth of essentials on hand. They tend to come off as hobbyist or frugalists, but they usually start doing it from a sense of necessity.

  4. jerry030 February 20, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    You could also say that preppers are just prepared for a major conflict if such a thing happens. Homesteaders have always been that, farmers and living on there land while needing little help from the outside. The problem with this on both fronts is mobility in conflict and how one deals with that. Everyone should be self-reflective and not joking about such measures by either people…within a few hundred years ago you would all be dead if questioning any of this. That is less than a pin heads worth of time in human existence! Think about that… The internet and msm news you watch with total confidence does nothing to change the reality of risk in this world.

  5. thelight February 20, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Wow, stereotyping much? You watched a show designed to sell and think that accurately represents a subculture? So everyone from the Jersey Shore looks like an Oompa Loompa? Come on. Like any group, the radical element will get the press, but that does not mean that everyone who self-identifies as a prepper is a radical. You\\\’ll find there\\\’s a lot more overlap than you seem to believe.
    Take a listen to the Survival Podcast. Jack Spirko talks about living in the here and now, and building a self-sufficient long-term future. I\\\’d say her represents the majority more accurately than \\\”Doomsday Preppers\\\” (which most preppers make fun of, btw).

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