The 10 Elements of Urban Homesteading

When we first used the term "Urban Homestead" back in 2001 to describe what we were doing, we had little idea that it would catch on as a lifestyle-movement.

Although this kind of life was common in the past and people have always grown food or raised chickens in their backyard, etc,  the description and the use of "urban homesteading" to apply to a modern 21st century city life wasn't used to describe the lifestyle.   Having been the first modern urban homestead, we've been asked so many times about what we feel defines an urban homestead. What EXACTLY, is it?  So, Jules Dervaes came up with these 10 KEY FACTORS that define an urban homestead in the 21st century. The principle that underlies all these factors is that urban homesteading is a way of life--a journey towards a sustainable and self sufficient life.

While these 10 factors make up the “ideal” urban homestead, it should be understood that individual circumstances vary greatly and that many of these factors take years to implement fully. Therefore, any urban homestead SHOULD be a work in progress (we’ve been digging away at it for 20 years).

"The current urban homesteading movement is a positive trend in American society. Within certain parameters, it has the potential to revitalize families and, thus, towns in our long tradition of self-sufficiency and independence. Homesteading in the city requires responsibility to one’s neighbors and fellow citizens. When it is undertaken with such a foundation, this way of life yields rich rewards of experiencing the rhythms of nature and the wonders of animal life." - Jules Dervaes


Grow your own FOOD on your city lot.

More than 50% of diet, organically, on an urban lot (approx. less than half an acre*) with visually appealing landscaping. *Depends on square footage of house, location, and climate zone.


Use alternative ENERGY sources.

E.g., solar, wind, in conjunction with energy efficiency and conservation measures to reduce usage.



E.g., bio-fuels and/or alternative methods of transportation (bicycle, walk, public).


Keep farm ANIMALS for manure and food.

Practice animal husbandry.



Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without, compost it, re-purpose it.


Reclaim GREYWATER and collect RAINWATER.

Practice water conservation and recovery.



…in the manner of past eras. Develop back-to-basics homemaking skills, including food preservation and preparation.


Do the work YOURSELF.

Learn to do home and vehicle maintenance, repairs and basic construction.


Work at HOME.

Earn a living from the land or hand work done at home. Develop a homebased economy.


Be a good NEIGHBOR.

Be conscious and considerate of your surroundings – ask yourself, “Would I want to live next to me?”  Offer a helping hand for free. Urban homesteading is a community-based way of life, not a business opportunity. Be a neighbor, not a business person.

10 Elements of an Urban Homestead Copyright Dervaes Institute.  Please do not reprint without permission or proper acknowledgement.

Revised February 2010