Whether you’re coming to the end of your homestead’s first growing season or its fifteenth, it can always be a bit surprising when things come to a halt so suddenly. With that first frost comes some cleanup, and you’ll need to get your outbuildings and animals ready for the winter, but after that? Well, a long winter’s nap is a much-deserved rest after the hard work you did all year long.
Not so fast, though. Just because you’re ready to stay inside and recharge for a few months doesn’t mean that everyone is. Wintertime on the homestead is often an enticing season for thieves. When you’re not active on your property regularly, it’s the perfect opportunity for rural criminals to case your place and make off with your valuable equipment. They’re banking on the fact that you won’t notice until it’s too late.
Early winter is the perfect time to take advantage of the relative lull in your farming duties to secure your property. Try these tips for keeping your farm safe from would-be thieves this season.
Photo credit Unsplash
Join — or Start — a Local Farm Watch
It’s just not possible to keep a steady watch on all your acreage all the time. That’s why many homesteaders and farmers have banned together to combat crime in their regions by forming farm watch groups. These are like suburban neighborhood watch programs, in which members share concerns and information about local crime conditions.
You may even decide to take turns doing an evening patrol of each other’s farms to check for problems. The group can set out signs to warn would-be thieves that the area is under surveillance. Make sure to coordinate with your local law enforcement to avoid misunderstandings and to keep everyone on the same page. Many hands make light work, and sharing the burden of security checks can help everyone protect their properties.
Mark Your Animals and Equipment
If you don’t already tag or tattoo your animals, it’s a good idea to start. If thieves in your area are looking for a quick sale of stolen animals, they’ll struggle if you’ve tagged your animals because local buyers will recognize the brand. Once you’ve tagged your animals, consider putting up signs around your pasture alerting thieves about the tagging — they’re likely to move on to easier pickings.
You can also assign an owner applied number (OAN) to your tools and equipment. This program, set up by the FBI, allows for the quick return of stolen goods to their rightful owners. If local law enforcement recovers your equipment from thieves, they’ll check the number to a registry and return your property to you.
Photo credit Unsplash
Protect Valuable Farming Equipment
Thieves love to pick up out-of-use equipment during the dark winter months because they assume you won’t notice it’s gone right away. Heavy equipment — like your tractors, backhoes and specialized field equipment — is incredibly valuable, and thieves often take advantage of the lack of license plates or tagging to make a quick getaway.
In addition to using an OAN, keep good records of your equipment serial numbers and any other identifying features. Keep your fleet in a locked area if possible, and consider adding security cameras to deter thieves and help you identify the perpetrator. You can also add wheel locks, shut-off systems and more to protect individual pieces of equipment.
Secure the Perimeter
Though it may not be feasible to add a fence around the entire length of your homestead, you should definitely add high security fencing around animal paddocks and equipment barns for extra protection. Make sure these are high and not easily scalable to deter criminals from even trying to enter.
Additional security features such as floodlights operated by motion sensors and a good, old-fashioned watchdog or two will also help keep your animals and equipment safe. Most thieves are looking for an easy score, and they’ll walk on by if you have these obvious deterrents in plain sight.
Enjoying Winter on the Homestead
It’s easy to think that choosing a simpler lifestyle on the homestead means leaving behind crime, but rural theft on farms has surged in recent years. By following these tips and taking care of a few important security chores now, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your much-deserved winter break from the many of your homesteading activities. Take the time while you can — spring planting will be here again before you know it.
Megan Wild improves homes by focusing on increasing their sustainability and finding new ways to repurpose old materials. When she’s not holding a hammer, you can find her writing up her ideas and thoughts for her blog, Your Wild Home, and read all of Megan's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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