Learning how to set homestead goals that you can achieve will revolutionize the way you operate your homestead and make you more sustainable for the long term!
Goal setting is part of life for most of us: short term goals like getting our household chore finished and long term goals like saving money, losing weight or building a business.
But ask anyone who has set a goal and failed to accomplish it, it can be a frustrating experience!
How to Set Homesteading Goals that Work
Homestead goals, and goal setting in general, must consist of certain markers in order to be successful. Using a metric like the S.M.A.R.T. acronym can help! Goals should be measured by being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
Let’s discuss how to set homestead goals using these parameters.
Homestead Goals Need to be Specific
Making very specific homesteading goals will help you to narrow your focus and do the best possible job at what you’re trying to accomplish.
For example, say your goal is to “grow your own food” this year. That goal is far too broad. Growing food at home is a huge undertaking that takes years to accomplish.
Take a few steps back and examine what point you’re at on your homestead.
-Do you have any gardening experience?
-Do you currently have a plot of land where you’re gardening?
-Do you have a good understanding of soil composition and what kind of soil you have?
-Do you know what gardening zone you’re in and what grows best in your zone?
If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, then we can go to the next step. However, if you answered “no” to any of these questions, it would be wise to backtrack your efforts a bit.
I have found that the best way to be successful at just about anything is to educate yourself. Education can take the form of books, videos (especially YouTube), local clubs, extension offices and neighbors.
Make the choice to find out everything you can about your area, climate, soil and native plants. This may take a year to accomplish, but it will be worth it in the end. Why? Because you won’t make rookie mistakes and waste time.
Then, move to the next steps of growing your own food:
-Composting and enriching your soil.
-Learn how to attract beneficial bugs pollinators to your garden.
-Discover your first and last freeze dates.
All of these steps are paramount to your success at growing your own food. You’ll be far more successful than the person who buys a tomato plant at the nursery and sticks it in the ground.
Next Steps to Growing Your Own Food
The next steps to growing your own food at home might be:
-Learning how to start seeds inside with grow lights.
-Understand the different ways to plant a garden.
With all of this knowledge under your belt, I would say you are ready to start your garden and accomplish that goal of growing your own food!
Homestead Goals are Measurable
Goals must be measured in some way in order to decide if you’ve been successful. But how is this done on a homestead?
Homestead goals tend to include tangible items, often equipment, animals or supplies for the farm. These goals require funding of some kind, unless you are being gifted the item. Setting aside the funds from your budget, cutting back or the sale of other items is simple to measure.
For example, one of my goals last year was to stop the constant attacks of nearby foxes. I have “lost” more chickens than I could count, but with a pasture fence system that was a disaster, the remedy was going to be costly. Frankly, we needed a completely new fence system.
To set aside money for this goal, we set aside some other pre-planned purchases and cut back on spending.
It took most of last year to create the funds to redo the pasture fence system, but we finally completed it! I haven’t lost a chicken since! Besides that, I finally have a dry lot and a better system for loading and unloading animals.
That goal was easy to quantify, the fence is a tangible item. Once it was installed, the goal had been met.
Other goals might be to can or freeze a year’s worth of food. First, you must determine how much food you need to accomplish that. You must also determine what foods your family will eat, which can be tricky.
This type of goal will take time and documentation from year to year.
One year, you might have grown an amazing crop of green beans and were able to can 100 quarts! However, by the following year, you realize that you ran out of green beans in February. OR you have 50 quarts of green beans left at the beginning of the gardening season.
Further, what works one year may not work the following year. Life changes, children grow up and people get sick. Determining the amount of food I need from year to year is a moving target, but keeping good records helps.
When I grow more than I can put up, I often give it to adult children or donate to the local pantry.
Homestead Goals are Attainable
When setting homestead goals, we need to be realistic about what’s possible in our area and circumstance.
Growing an abundance of edible perennials has always been a goal of mine. Every year, I look for more ways in incorporate perennials into our homestead.
Some take longer than others to produce results. Take asparagus for example.
Although asparagus grows quite well here in Ohio, it has special soil needs that I wasn’t able to meet right away. My hard clay soil needed to be amended for a period of 3 years before I could grow much of anything in it.
Then, I planted two different plots of asparagus in two separate years, but they both failed.
It wasn’t until I took the time to relocate the asparagus to a well-drained sunny slope that they began to take off. This was one of the classic homestead mistakes: planting where you want it to be rather than planting where it needs to be.
Your gardening zone may limit you in terms of what you would like to plant. Going to a locally owned nursery and asking questions can be the best way to look at the plants and learn. Don’t waste money on a plant that won’t do well in your area, or that requires more time and maintenance than you want to give it.
Homestead Goals are Relevant
When setting goals, ask yourself if your ideas are relevant.
In other words, do your homestead goal ideas line up with why you begin homesteading in the first place?
Do your goal ideas line up with your family’s needs and capabilities?
Don’t take on projects that really have nothing to do with the overall picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. Free animals come to mind here.
Once people know you have a “farm”, they are much more likely to ask you to take every stray cat and dog they see. You will also be offered livestock that doesn’t fit in with your homestead goals.
But wait! It’s free! We should always take what’s free, right??
We have been the beneficiary of many “free” animals, who needed a good home, that cost us an arm and a leg in vet bills and heartache.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about rescuing animals (we have plenty of them!), but don’t allow yourself to become someone else’s “dumping ground” if you don’t have a specific need or plan to deal with the animal. It’s not fair to the animal or you.
Homestead Goals are Timely
In short, when setting goals, ask yourself if this is the right time in your life to do it.
There are so many factors that determine whether this is the right time for a certain goal or project.
-Does it make financial sense considering the state of your finances and bills? Do you have the means?
-Do you and your spouse have complete agreement?
-Does it make sense for your current lifestyle?
-Are you caring for elderly parents or a special needs child?
-Are you or your spouse between jobs?
-Do you have health issues that would limit your availability for this goal or project?
Homestead Goals: Final Thoughts
When setting homestead goals, I suggest that you put them on paper. Documenting those great ideas that you have takes them from just a dream or thought to something more concrete. I suggest placing your written goals in a place where you (and your spouse) can see them daily.
Revisit your goals by sitting down and re-evaluating often. Look at the status of your goal, have any obstacles come up? Can you overcome them? Is there a better way to go about this?
Dealing with resistance isn’t necessarily a reason to abandon your goal, you may need to revise. That’s normal and should be expected. The goal is to not get caught off guard because you weren’t paying enough attention to the details.
Despite your best planning, there are times when a goal will turn out to be a complete flop. Again, life is this way. Don’t let set-backs keep you from getting back on your feet and trying something else or doing it a different way.
Remember, I had to trench and plant new asparagus crowns for 3 years before I got a crop!
Set those homestead goals and give it all you’ve got! Just the setting of goals will put you far ahead of most people. You can be successful at homesteading, just keep working and dreaming!