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Epic Homesteading: How to Live Sustainably in Urban Spaces

How homesteading can transform urban spaces

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Kevin Espiritu’s homesteading journey began with a simple desire—to grow his own food and reclaim a connection to the land. Armed with determination and a willingness to learn, he transformed a modest urban lot in San Diego into a thriving oasis of sustainability.

It's a fact: mass food production has taken over traditional farming methods. Since World War II, we’ve gradually shifted from small-scale, homegrown farming toward large-scale, commercialized agriculture.

Monocropped fields that rely heavily on synthetic fertilizers and mechanized equipment have become the standard. Yet, this departure has left many yearning to return to simpler, more sustainable agricultural practices reminiscent of a bygone era.

“We’ve seen a gradual rise in commercial farming methods,” says Espiritu. “Huge monocropped commercial fields are planted and maintained using gas-powered machinery. As the monoculture strips the nutrients from the soil, they’re replaced through conventional nitrogen and other fertilizers.

“That’s a long way from the home-based victory gardens of the war era, where people grew their produce to help get by during times of food rationing and used compost or other homemade inputs,” he says.

With 80% of the US population living in urban areas, it begs the question … how can we live more sustainably when it comes to growing our own food? The answer may lie in our backyards.

In his new book, Epic Homesteading, Espiritu shares practical advice and insights gleaned from his personal experiences creating his backyard homestead. It’s a comprehensive guide for aspiring homesteaders, including insights on property selection and regenerative farming practices, to step-by-step instructions on building sustainable systems and creating biodiverse ecosystems.

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The shift from tradition to mass production

There has been growing awareness of industrialized agriculture's environmental and social impacts in recent years. Concerns over soil erosion, water pollution, and lack of biodiversity have prompted a long overdue reevaluation of our food production systems.

This disconnect from our agricultural roots has caused many of us to yearn for a more self-sufficient approach to food harvesting. As a result, more people are turning to alternative farming methods prioritizing sustainability, regenerative practices, and local food systems.

In turn, there has been a resurgence of interest in homesteading, small-scale farming, and less reliance on industrialized food systems.

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An inspiration for sustainable living

Espiritu's homestead is a testament to the power of regenerative farming and self-sufficiency, from solar panels and rainwater catchment systems to a greywater system that reclaims water for dishwashing and showering.

“This book and my entire homestead are my method of exploring how to get a little closer to how we used to sustain our families,” says Espiritu.

“I recognize that we live in a world where it will likely never return to what it once was. Still, we can reclaim elements of that—just with a modern framework and additional research and discoveries that pave the way to a new garden renaissance.”

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Your guide to self-sufficiency living

Espiritu recommends starting small and growing gradually. This approach resonates with readers and beginner homesteaders who may find building a homestead daunting.

“My book will help you take the first key steps in reducing your dependency on modern food, energy, water, and other infrastructures,” he says. “However, as it’s focused on a suburban setting, it's meant to reduce your dependency on local infrastructure and allow you to become more of a producer than a consumer."

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Eco-conscious living is the new path forward

A core tenet of Epic Homesteading is the concept of eco-conscious living, which Espiritu explains as becoming aware of your daily habits and identifying areas of wastefulness in your life.

Whether it's reducing food waste, conserving water, or lowering energy consumption, small changes in your daily behaviors can lead to a more sustainable lifestyle, benefiting your family and the environment.

“Awareness is the true first step. Think about where you feel you’re most wasteful in your life. Is it food waste? Are you wasting a lot of water? Is the energy bill a constant crisis? If so, you know what you should work on first and can tap into my guidance for more ideas on improving that one thing. Build from there gradually to develop a cohesive whole that provides a better future for you and the planet,” says Espiritu.

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The future of homesteading

Espiritu's message is clear: the path to sustainability begins with taking the first step. Whether you plant one seed, establish one rain barrel, or install one solar panel, every action you take toward homesteading can make a difference.

If we make a collective shift toward more eco-conscious living, we can create thriving, self-reliant communities resilient to the challenges of our modern world. And with Epic Homesteading as a guide, the possibilities for a greener, more sustainable future are endless.

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Maximize space with vertical gardening

Optimize the space on your urban homestead by utilizing vertical gardening techniques. Vertical gardens, such as trellises, wall-mounted planters, and hanging baskets, allow you to grow crops in small areas. This innovative approach can help add visual appeal to your homestead while increasing your yield of fresh produce.

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It’s easier than you think

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Make small changes in your own yard with DIY homesteading/regenerative agriculture practices

Incorporating DIY homesteading and regenerative agriculture practices into your yard is easier than you might think. Here are a few small things you can try to get started:

-          Compost kitchen scraps to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden beds.

-          Plant a small vegetable garden or fruit trees to produce your own fresh produce.

-          Install rain barrels to collect rainwater for irrigation, reducing your reliance on municipal water sources.

No matter how small the change, you can take meaningful steps toward self-sufficiency and sustainability right in your own backyard.

This article was originally published in the May-June 2024 issue of alive magazine (US edition).

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