6 Ways to Promote Self-Reliance In Your Community
Self-reliance isn’t just about being able to provide for yourself with your own two hands. Your own self-reliance is intrinsically tied to the community and larger world around you. Learn how to promote self-reliance in your community and, in turn, support your own security and self-sufficiency by making conscious choices about where and how you spend your time, money and resources.
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Ah, self-reliance. It’s so, well, self-centred. Not in a bad, narcissistic sort of way. But in the sense that it’s often depicted as living alone in a cabin in the woods, off-grid and far away from society, living completely off the land and producing, hunting or foraging for everything you need, enjoying the complete freedom and solitude that such a lifestyle affords.
We rarely equate self-reliance with dependency on other people. After all, the definition of self-reliance means to rely wholly on your own skills and resources without needing help from anyone else to provide for your own basic needs. And while that might be a nice thought, the reality is that self-reliance looks nothing like that for most people. In fact, I’d venture to say that complete self-reliance is a myth for just about everyone.
While I love fantasizing about living alone in the woods, far from civilization, the reality is that it’s tough if not impossible to be 100% self-reliant without depending on any outside sources for anything else. Even Ma Ingalls had to go to town for flour and sugar and coffee that she couldn’t grow herself!
And even if you do manage to produce 100% of what you need to live all by yourself from your own land using nothing but your bare hands, you’re still affected by the health of the environment and the community around you, as well as by the politics, laws and regulations in your area. No one exists in a bubble, whether we like it or not.
The good news is, you can actually support your own self-reliance by supporting self-reliance in your own community. Because while we can’t do and produce everything we need by ourselves, when we support our local communities, we reduce our overall dependency on goods and resources that have to be shipped in from far away via large, faceless corporations who put profits over the health and wellbeing of the people and communities they’re supposed to serve.
So today I want to touch on six different ways you can promote self-reliance in your own community and, in turn, support your own self-reliance.
Of course, there are more than six things you can do to get more involved in your own community. But these are good starting points. Still, I encourage you to add to the list in the comments section below so let me know what other suggestions you have!
Six ways to promote self-reliance in your community
1. Support your local farmers
This is something I’m really passionate about. Even though we grow a lot of our own food, we still don’t produce our own meat, eggs or dairy, and we certainly don’t grow everything we eat on our little homestead. Far from it.
Luckily where we live there are tons of small-scale organic farms, a widely-renowned year-round weekly farmers market and a community of like-minded people passionate about sustainability and food security in our area. And obviously as a homesteader, food security and sustainability are also very important values of mine (and I hope yours too!) So what we don’t grow ourselves, we try to source locally if possible.
Of course, this isn’t always possible with everything, and it’s not always the most affordable option. But I know firsthand that growing food (the sustainable, healthy way) is hard work, so I try to buy local as much as possible and give my money to our wonderful local farmers rather than to the Walmarts and Superstores in our area whenever I can.
I believe we vote with our dollars, and that we should (whenever possible) support small farms and farmers who have the same values and vested interest in our communities that we do, rather than a faceless corporation that makes it hard for local farmers to compete.
By purchasing from your local farmers, you’ll be helping keep them in business and also ensuring that your whole community (including you) has some level of food security (and is therefore self-reliant) should something ever happen where the grocery store shelves are bare and you have no access to outside food sources.
Where we live on Vancouver Island, this is a very real possibility that a major Earthquake or other large-scale disaster prevent the boats from running back and forth between here and the mainland. If that happened and we were on our own, we would need to rely only on what we were able to produce here on the island. So while you might grow your own food, your neighbour might not, and lest you want everyone banging on your door in the middle of a disaster, supporting local farmers in your area will help to ensure both your family AND the other members of your community have access to good, healthy food in both good times and bad.
You can support local farmers by:
- buying direct from them (a great way to stock your freezer is to place bulk meat orders directly from a local farmer in your area)
- shopping at your local farmers market
- purchasing local foods from the grocery store or asking for local, organic food (grocers will listen to customers when enough of them ask for something)
- investing in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in your area
2. Shop/buy local
While I think farmers deserve a mention of their own on this list due to the specific importance of food security, I also think it’s important to support all local artisans, services and businesses whenever possible for many of the same reasons as I listed above.
Maybe do your Christmas shopping at a local craft fair. If you don’t make your own soap or candles or clothes, consider purchasing from someone local instead of from the mall or Amazon. And even if the thing you’re after is a brand name item, you can still order it through a local store so that you’ll be supporting your local economy and keeping people employed in your town.
As an example, I got my daughter a Lego princess castle for Christmas this year (Shhh! Don’t tell!) But instead of ordering it on Amazon (the default method of shopping for many of us nowadays), I got it from our local toy store. And guess what… It was actually CHEAPER than the Amazon price!
Honestly, even if I did end up paying a few dollars more, it would be worth it just to know that my money was going to support a local business instead of becoming a drop in the bucket of Jeff Bezos’ multi-billion dollar fortune.
Remember, we vote with our dollars!
Plus, if you have your own local business or goods or services to trade or sell, this is also a great way to make connections in the local community and advertise through word of mouth (or even find people to trade with!). My husband and I have actually sold many of our local handmade items like candles and custom carpentry pieces in other people’s local stores because we originally went in to buy something ourselves and made a connection with the store owner. We’ve also traded goods many times at local craft fairs we’ve set up at.
3. Volunteer/Teach your skills
You can further support your community members and your community’s overall self-reliance by volunteering and/or teaching your skills to other people. I’m a firm believer that we’re all better together, and that when others are more self-reliant, we support our own self-reliance and security because there are other capable people who are able to support themselves and contribute to the community. Ya know, hence the old saying “give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”
You could volunteer at a local community garden or a school where you help others learn how to grow, cook and prepare their own food. Or you could host free or paid classes at your local community centre and teach cooking, crafting or homesteading skills or even things like home economics, natural health, preparedness and financial literacy to other members of your community. Any of the above things could help to increase the self-reliance of others in your community which benefits you as well (and could even be another source of income). Plus you’re likely to make valuable connections with other people and learn new skills yourself while you’re at it!
4. Get to know your neighbours
This one sort of sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s a little shocking how many people don’t know their neighbours nowadays. And even though us folks who live rurally tend to live farther away from each other (geographically), I can say from experience growing up in the city that it’s even more common not to know your next door neighbour (or the guy who lives in the apartment on top of you) when you live in an urban environment.
Nevertheless, no matter where you live, it would behoove you to get to know your neighbours and foster positive relationships with them.
Even if you’re a bit of an introvert (like me), try to push yourself out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself, invite your neighbours over for a drink or dinner, or simply chat in the lobby of your apartment building if that’s all you can do. Once again, doing this opens doors and allows you to make connections with others who you could trade goods, skills or simply create good friendships with.
Plus, if ever there is a disaster or emergency in your area, you and your neighbours may have to rely on each other, so getting to know each other AND if possible getting to know what skills and resources each person/household can contribute beforehand will help increase your overall preparedness and self-reliance and make responding to a crisis just that much easier if and when disaster strikes.
An example of this came up last night for us as we sat around the bonfire in our backyard with our neighbours who we invited over. As we chatted with them, we found out they have a rather extensive gun collection and buckets of food with a 25 year shelf life, just in case of anything. So we know what their level of self-reliance is, and we know that if the SHTF, they are well-armed and could help provide security for our neighbourhood.
These same neighbours also look after our animals whenever we go away and we bring them fresh produce, home-canned and homemade goods in return. Then there’s our neighbours out back who have chickens and who have traded their eggs with us for seedlings we’ve grown, and our other neighbours who brought us tomato jam that they made with tomatoes from seedlings we gave them, and then who lent us their smoker when we were processing the salmon we caught last week. In return, we gifted them a package of smoked salmon and some seeds from our garden. The bartering system is alive and well in our little neighbourhood!
I encourage you to get to know your neighbours and trade skills, goods and services with each other to increase your overall self-reliance and that of your neighbourhood too!
5. Join or create a community Facebook page
While I highly encourage you to actually get out in your community and get to know people face-to-face, in this age of social media, we also have the advantage of being able to connect with people online. And while it’s really cool that we can connect with people all over the planet over social media, it’s perhaps even cooler hat we can connect with likeminded members of our local community in much the same way, and then we can actually meet them face-to-face!
Many communities have local Facebook pages for different interest groups, for buying, selling and trading or even just for community news and neighbourhood watch programs for smaller communities, rural areas and suburbs. Here where we live, we have tons of local Facebook pages for every interest, including a local self-reliance group and a zero waste group through which I have already met several people in person and even managed to trade some goods with them!
Search on Facebook for keywords like “your area” + “community page,” “self-reliance,” “homesteading,” “sustainable” or “buy, sell and trade”” depending on what you’re looking for.
Can’t find a local Facebook page for your area/community/interest? Create one! Our local zero waste page was started by a member of our community a year or so ago and has now grown to hundreds of members who share knowledge and information, trade goods and even meet up in person for various activities. It’s also a fantastic way to connect with others in your community if you’re new to the area or struggling to find people you connect with or share interests with.
6. Vote/Be politically active and informed
While politics might not seem to have much to do with homesteading and self-reliance, the political decisions that impact your area can have a very real effect on your community’s overall self-reliance and many aspects of your everyday life, including things like what you (and other community members) are legally allowed to do on your land, whether you’re allowed to have livestock, grow food and herbal medicine, run a business, have a farmstand, build your own structures on your property and and even whether you’re allowed to collect rainwater or hang your laundry to dry (yup, for real. Homeowner’s Associations in many states have tried to make it illegal to hang your clothes to dry outside. Luckily, “Right To Dry” laws have been passed in a handful of states, which override any HOA laws in these areas. Read more about this here and find out whether your state is protected by a “Right To Dry” law.)
Political decisions also influence things like environmental regulations (which can either have a positive or negative affect on the health of the land, water, air and species on and around you, your community and your homestead), and of course politics also affects things like how much money we all pay in taxes and what sort of funding goes back into our local communities, as well as what our overall rights are as citizens.
But beyond just voting once in a while when an election rolls around, do your best to stay informed about local politics and decisions in and about your area and maybe even consider taking a more active role by attending town halls, campaigning or petitioning for a cause you’re passionate about, writing your local representatives or even running for office.
I’m super proud to say that our district representative is also an organic farmer in our area so I know she has a vested interest in things like protecting agricultural land and advocating for food security and a clean, healthy environment.
No one fit to advocate for community self-reliance in your area? Maybe there’s a seat in government with your name on it 😉
Of course there are so many more ways you can get involved and promote self-reliance in your community by investing your time, money and resources locally. But the above suggestions are a good place to start and may just spark some other ideas.
What about you? Do you support your community in any of the above mentioned ways? Got any other suggestions or ideas regarding how you can promote self-reliance in your local community? As always, I invite and encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments section below and keep the conversation going!
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it really means to be “self-reliant.” We talk a lot about self-reliance (or self-sufficiency) in the homesteading community, and outwardly it may seem as if the goal of “achieving” self-reliance is what ultimately...
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