Meet the Kiwis ditching modern life and turning to the homesteading lifestyle

10:30 pm on 20 May 2024
Luke and Deborah Halford and their children.

Luke and Deborah Halford and five of their children. Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

Would you trade food deliveries and a reliable internet connection for rolling hills, chicken coops and a big vege garden?

A growing number of Kiwis are making the switch to the homesteading lifestyle - foregoing the conveniences of modern life with the aim to grow as much of their own food as possible.

Some go into it for health and lifestyle reasons, while others say they want to be as self reliant as possible in uncertain economic times.

On Luke and Deborah Halford's 10-acre homestead near Maungatapere there are flocks of animals, endless jars of preserved veges, and lots of kids - six to be exact.

Deborah Halford said wanting a healthy life for them was a big part of the decision to start their homestead, about 20km from Whangarei.

"Them knowing how to grow their own food, and where it comes from and all the health benefits - that is super important and I think a lot of kids don't necessarily grow up with that these days."

The couple said the Covid-19 pandemic had cemented the importance of being able to grow nearly everything they needed.

"Everyone else was sort of stressing out in their little townhouses and we were kind of living in luxury on our one month holiday kind of thing," Luke said.

Preserved veges at Luke and Deborah Halford's homestead.

Preserved veges at Luke and Deborah Halford's homestead. Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

"We came through it, a month no problem. There wasn't the stress of, 'What if we can't find it in the supermarket?' Because we pretty much had everything we needed," Deborah added.

During that time, the kids got a different kind of education, Deborah said.

"When our kids went back to school after the lockdown, they were asked what we had taught them in the meantime. Basically I told them we showed them how to raise and butcher chickens."

The kids were now home-schooled, except for the eldest who was trialling high school.

Pia Wittwer lives on a much smaller 1 hectare homestead just out of Warkworth.

During her career as a health professional, she saw how unhealthy modern life could be for some people.

Pia Whittwer by her vege garden on her homestead near Warkworth.

Pia Wittwer by her vege garden on her homestead near Warkworth. Photo: RNZ / Luka Forman

"That all links in, to a large extent, with the removal from being out in the open air, moving your body and being in nature. The city lifestyle seems to come with a lot more pressure and stress."

Part of her homestead was a food forest, focused on plants that were self sustainable.

"They should be growing themselves and they should establish a sort of network of plants that doesn't need looking after."

Rebecca Stewart started the Homesteading New Zealand Facebook page, which had more than 65,000 members.

More and more people were trying the self sufficient lifestyle, she said.

"It has been around for a very long time, there's just more people, I guess going back to this lifestyle with the current economic climate."

Suddenly trying to produce all your own food could be a big step, Stewart said, and people who were interested should try to learn as much as they could about about growing food before giving it a go.

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