Why millennials are giving up city life to start homesteading

Why millennials are giving up city life to start homesteading
  • Homesteading, or living self-sufficiently off the land, has grown in popularity since early 2020.

  • Young families are increasingly choosing to raise chickens, grow crops, and live off-grid.

  • Some homesteaders said they like controlling more parts of their lives, including what they eat.

A visit to homesteading TikTok shows clips of young moms in billowy dresses making jam, picture-perfect gardens recorded at golden hour, and enviable stocks of home-jarred vegetables and sauces. It's a lifestyle that looks idyllic and is often sold as such.

But behind the videos is something deeper: a skepticism of the companies and systems we rely on to sustain us.

Homesteading — or living self-sufficiently by doing things like growing and raising food and maybe even living off the electric grid or sewer system — has grown more popular since early 2020, according to the Homesteaders of America, an organization that advocates leading an independent, agrarian lifestyle.

A poll of nearly 4,000 member homesteaders published in January 2023 found that over a quarter of respondents had been homesteading for three or fewer years. Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, have taken a shine to homesteading: Nearly half of the Homesteaders of America poll respondents were 39 or younger. Those generations are increasingly ditching city life not just for suburbs but for exurbs and rural areas, Business Insider reported earlier this month.

The high cost of living in traditional areas doesn't help, but people who homestead have told BI in recent interviews that it represents an opportunity to build something with their own hands, as well as raise their children how they want to. Why would young people embrace such a back-to-basics approach? COVID-19. Contested elections. Companies selling contaminated baby food. It might be easier, people may reason, to just control what they can from start to finish.

"A lot of young people are interested in starting homesteads because I think people are waking up to the food system," Christina Heinritz, a millennial raising her two children on a homestead in California, told BI in September. "There's a lot of stuff that everyone thinks is healthy and it's not."

The fix, the then-33-year-old argued, is knowing where your food comes from.

"People have no other way to figure it out than to raise it," said Heinritz, who with her family raises chickens, alpacas, and donkeys, and focuses on creating nutritious, home-cooked meals with her kids, opting for care over "convenience."

a scene from Christina Heinritz's homestead in California, where she lives with her family, showing a young girl sitting in a bucket with her back to the camera, eyeing some small horses or donkeys
A pastoral scene from Christina Heinritz's homestead.Christina Figone Heinritz

Homesteaders of all ages cite various reasons for their turn toward self-sufficiency, from distrusting how and with what chemicals food is made to wanting to rely only on themselves — should something in the wider world go wrong.

Homesteaders reject the status quo

Some homesteaders live on remote farms or ranches and raise livestock. Others live in more urban areas and maintain small container gardens. Many homeschool their children. They often opt for solar panels to avoid dependence on the conventional energy grid.

Other homesteaders choose an even more extreme detachment from modern society. While Homesteaders of America found that most survey respondents were employed full or part-time, drawing a salary, some off-the-grid communities — like Riverbed Ranch in the high desert of western Utah — employ a barter system where residents can trade for their needs.

No matter where homesteaders lie on the spectrum from casual farmers to off-the-grid preppers, the movement is, at its core, a rejection of the status quo.

It was a lifelong dream for Chuck Anderson, 61, to return to the lifestyle he experienced growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. His wife Brooke, 52, was quick to get on board with leaving their home in Raleigh, North Carolina, behind because the move "was something that brought me a lot of pleasure and peace," she told BI in November.

In 2021, the Andersons purchased 285 unadulterated acres in rural Virginia, with nothing around for miles, where they're building their remote homestead.

They report their kids are loving it so far: Their daughter, a high schooler on the youngest end of Gen Z, is even learning to ride horses, bow hunt, and cut cows, rodeo-style.

But she still enjoys some classic teenage touchstones, the Andersons admitted. They still have to schlep her to and from the mall, that ultimate bastion of youth culture and connectivity, an hour-and-a-half drive each way from their slice of heaven.

They said the hassle — including not being able to just, as Brooke Anderson put it, "run to the store real quick" — is worth it.

"For us, homesteading is being in a position where we can survive independently without outside resources if necessary," Chuck Anderson said. "We can hike for an hour or two and not run into another single person. This place becomes part of our DNA. We just want to be here, and it's so peaceful."

A top priority for John and Tara Newby — who left the UK to homestead in northern Portugal with their two sons, Crusoe and Sawyer — was living a life that doesn't excessively strain the planet.

Living off-grid, as they do, allows the Newbys to exert control over their environmental footprint in a way they couldn't in the UK.

Tara, then 35, told BI in August, "We were looking at a lifestyle that would mean we could get out of the UK, spend more time outside, have a better climate, and space for our children to grow a bit more wild and free."

Read the original article on Business Insider