If I were to say to you, my new neighbor is a “prepper” what picture do you get in your mind? Most people will likely picture a single male in his late 20’s to late 40’s wearing camouflage and loaded down with guns, knives, and ammo, right? You’d expect to find his basement, or maybe even an underground bunker, piled high with MREs, water, and bulk bags of rice and beans packed away in mylar bags and food grade buckets.
But if I were to tell you that my new neighbor is a homesteader, don’t you get a completely different picture? You likely picture a woman or a family with children who are homeschooled to protect them from the influence of public school. You see a family who all work together to harvest their garden and care for their livestock and who store any excess by home canning, dehydrating, or otherwise preserving the food for winter.
Two totally different images come to mind just based on the term used. But if you belong to one of these groups, then you probably know right away that your group is often misrepresented in the media.
In reality, when you think of prepper or homesteader, imagine the group as a number line or a scale. The image you see when someone says “Prepper” is the doomsday prepper at the extreme end of the prepping group, whereas the image you see when someone says homesteader is a family who shuns anything modern and goes completely off grid.
Yes, there are some preppers and homesteaders who fit this stereotypical image, but don’t let that discourage you from digging deeper for lessons and advice that you can fit into your own lifestyle.
Most preppers and homesteaders fall somewhere along the scale and have very similar goals and values and there can be a lot of crossover skills and habits between the two groups. Members of both groups are committed to the protection of their families regardless of what it takes. The lifestyle that both groups lead is motivated by their desire to protect themselves and their families, although their methods may vary greatly.
Preppers are preparing or getting ready to survive some event they believe is coming. Most preppers are getting ready for some type of life altering event is looming on the horizon which will change life as we know it and threatens to wipe out anyone not prepared to withstand the initial chaos. The type of event varies depending on location, personal experience, beliefs, and knowledge.
But some members of this group are content to prepare for emergencies such as being stranded on the highway in winter weather or being in the path of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood, wildfire, or earthquake. Still others prepare for the more common short-term events like a power outage that lasts a few days or weeks or an unexpected loss of income due to illness or injury.
Many preppers are preparing for a longer-term event which they call SHTF or TEOTWAWKI. This is a more widespread catastrophic event, like an economic collapse, a long term or indefinite power outage caused by an EMP, or even nuclear war. The way they prepare can also vary depending on their values, and skill level.
Most preppers prepare to bug in inside their homes or to bug out to an isolated and well-stocked bug out retreat. Some preppers may go so far as to strategically relocate so they can bug in at a location that is away from the urban centers, military targets, extreme weather, and nuclear power plants.
Why Homesteaders Homestead
Homesteaders believe that living a more traditional, simplistic lifestyle is better for their long-term health and quality of life. Most strive for a self-sustaining lifestyle on a daily basis versus “waiting” for something bad to happen that necessitates a change. The lifestyle of a homesteader can look different based on how committed they are to a purely organic diet, personal taste, location, and whether they believe in raising their own livestock for food in addition to a garden.
Homesteaders must be ready to deal with a wide variety of events, but these generally revolve around their property, livestock, and family. Homesteaders prepare for a loss of income due to injury or illness, a storm that damages or wipes out crops or a illness that kills off their livestock.
So, we know what’s similar about the two groups, let’s look a bit closer at difference in focus of the two groups.
The Prepper Focus
It is true that many preppers focus much more on security, self-defense, and stockpiling gear and gadgets than many homesteaders do. Many preppers are more likely to have multiple guns and the ammunition to go with it. The preppers focus on security and their intense desire to protect their stockpile from those who didn’t prepare means many preppers aren’t outwardly visible. T
he serious prepper doesn’t talk about their prepping plans as a way of protecting it against those who might decide to take it. Preppers who do grow their own food focus on ways to do it that keep it hidden from those who might take it. They are focused on evading the threat they feel is coming.
The Homesteader Focus
Out of necessity, many homesteaders are much more focused on the day to day activities needed to maintain the homestead. They focus on growing their own food, animal husbandry, and crafting skills, as a way of getting back to the life their ancestors led.
They home can and preserve the food they’ve grown as a way of storing up for a lean winter and tend to gradually increase their self-sufficiency over years with an eye toward building a better future. They are focused on putting down roots and living off the land for sustainability and better health over time.
So, while preppers and homesteaders may have very different skill sets and a different focus, both group value self-sufficiency and freedom from the trappings of government, although members of these two groups may vary widely on how much or how little they are willing to rely on government or other sources.
In truth, members of each group can learn from each-other. Some homesteaders might benefit from a little more emphasis on security and self-defense and preparing to be mobile if it becomes necessary. Many preppers over focused on stockpiling gear and supplies could benefit from spending more time on sustainability and skills to produce what they need after a SHTF event.
There are lessons to be learned on both sides. So it’s not really a matter of which are better preppers or homesteaders, but instead recognizing there are huge benefits to both lifestyles that, if adopted, can ultimately bring both groups even closer to their end goal of self-sufficiency.