What Are the Best Crops to Grow on a Homestead?

There are a few considerations when planning a garden space, or generally crop land, for the production oriented towards greater self-sufficiency on the homestead. 

Here are a few thoughts:

1.) Consider what types of food you and your family enjoy eating. It is generally not the wisest decision to plant a significant amount of crop that the family is either not used to eating, is not interested in learning to enjoy or otherwise will not use much in the family’s cooking tradition. This is because while some crops have a beautiful appearance or grow well where you live, if the plants will not be used as food, the experience including monetary and time investments, might not produce a positive or worthwhile experience.  

2.) Research what crops grow well in your growing zone. The phrase growing zone, sometimes shortened in phrasing to “zone” refers to the geographical area, and its resultant climate conditions, where you are seeking to plant the crops. There are maps available online that help to illustrate. Here is a good link from the USDA to help you locate your growing zone: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/. 

Understanding your growing zone is critical because it will help you to understand the potential crops which grow well in the area you want to plant. Not all crops are able to thrive in all conditions. Knowing where you intend to plant and the crops that grow well in that region will help you to choose crops that are optimal for the region. 

3.) Create a Plan of what you like to use in your cooking, or the things you want to begin using. One of the great things about planting a garden and incorporating more crops into the homestead is that there is an enormous amount of options. Quickly you become accustomed to seed catalogs with an incredible diversity of plants – many of which you might have nearly no familiarity with and yet can grow well right where you intend to plant! When you consider planting, begin with what you and your family want to already use in the kitchen, then what you would like to use in the kitchen and then afterwards what you think might be of interest or want to experiment with. In this order, you can plan a scale of how much you want to plant to support your culinary intentions. 

4.) Consider local varieties of plants or seed-stock from local producers. Sometimes it is tempting to consider only using seed varieties that are shipped to you from places far away. One of the benefits of buying local seed-stock is that the plant varieties are likely to have thrived in the growing zone you live in. This is because to get to seed-stock, the plants had to have produced a sufficient amount in the prior year. For some plants, this is more important than others but is generally a good consideration. 

There are many other considerations for what to plant, how to plant, crop selection and more. Please consider this response a brief note of consideration for which crops and plants to include in a homestead. The conversation regarding what plants to include in a homestead is vast, often highly nuanced and ultimately one that help promote a wonderful family experience. 

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