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Ever Dreamed of Going Off the Grid?

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In an age of ever-expanding, boundary-pushing innovations in food, reliable information is more vital than ever. Keeping in mind the timeless wisdom of previous generations, we're exploring the exciting work by research scientists and entrepreneurs in the field, and have partnered with Organic Valley to bring you stories from the front lines of the food system.

Maybe you've fantasized about leaving your harried life behind and settling into a simpler pace of life in the country — raising chickens, canning summer stone fruit, living off the land around you. But what is it like to actually do it? The reality of homesteading is quite different from the fantasy (you might know to can tomato sauce, but do you know how to fix a tractor?) and can be accompanied by a steep and painful learning curve.

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Ain't no bounty like a home-grown bounty.
Ain't no bounty like a home-grown bounty. Photo by Rocky Luten

Fortunately for us daydreamers, a growing number of people have taken the plunge, and—through food blogs, Instagram accounts, and cookbooks—are willing to take us with them. One of the best known (and first!) homesteaders to document that journey online is Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, who launched her blog in 2006 after hitching her wagon to an Oklahoma cattle rancher. Today she has multiple cookbooks, a Food Network show, and her own line of housewares at Walmart.

But hers is not the only story. If you've ever thought of leaving it all behind, take a peek inside the homesteading life by getting to know these six inspiring bloggers. Some of them live completely off the grid; others have created rural oases in the middle of cities. What they have in common is a passionate commitment to living close to the land, and a drive to share what they have learned about farming and cooking with others.

Molly Yeh, My Name is Yeh, North Dakota

7 Questions with Blogger Molly Yeh

7 Questions with Blogger Molly Yeh by Catherine Lamb

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How to Build a Gingerbread Farm, Part 1

How to Build a Gingerbread Farm, Part 1 by molly yeh

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Molly Yeh is a Chicago-raised, New York City-schooled percussionist (she graduated from Julliard) turned farm-life enthusiast. A few years ago, she moved with her boyfriend, now husband, to the border of North Dakota and Minnesota to live on his family’s fifth-generation wheat and sugar beet farm. These days her daily life is arguably quieter than it was in the proverbial “city that never sleeps.” But Yeh, an unabashed food-lover and pastry decorating wizard, transformed her new lifestyle into a wildly successful blog and cookbook.

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On the blog, Yeh explores the foods of her own heritage (she is Chinese and Jewish) and expresses her newfound passion for deep Midwest cuisine (hotdish and cookie salad, anyone?). During the winter when the farm is quiet, she travels extensively, leading workshops, meeting readers, and documenting her journeys on her blog. But throughout the summer and the long harvest seasons, you are likely to find her in her kitchen, pickling rhubarb from the garden to put into short ribs, crafting inspired farm lunches, tending to their flock of laying hens, or baking an insanely beautiful cake (more often than not with tahini in it). Yeh’s homesteading approach is modern and connected, which makes it feel all the more accessible.

Shaye Elliot, The Elliott Homestead, Washington

Shaye Elliott with her son (and her beautiful stove).
Shaye Elliott with her son (and her beautiful stove). Photo by The Elliott Homestead

Shaye Elliott lives in North Central Washington with her husband and children, a dairy cow, a flock of hens, pigs, sheep, and turkeys. Next to the family’s cottage, an expansive organic garden flourishes, providing fresh vegetables in the summer and plenty left to can and preserve for the colder months. If it sounds like a lot to manage, it is—and for Elliott, who left behind an office job in Alabama, the learning curve was steep. “I didn’t grow up in a farming family; my husband and I learned everything firsthand,” she said in an interview with Civil Eats.

Elliott relied heavily on social media to crowdsource resources and info about how to survive and flourish on a farm. Now, she returns the favor, providing an ongoing stream of recipes and wisdom (everything from how to render duck fat or build a greenhouse, to the family’s transition to home schooling) on her blog, via Instagram and Facebook, and through her cookbooks. “When we started to gain some traction online I was overjoyed not just for the likes, but for the proof that there were others out there just like us—looking for a different life,” she said.

The Dervaes Family, The Urban Homestead, California

The Dervaes family in the splendor of their urban homestead.
The Dervaes family in the splendor of their urban homestead. Photo by The Urban Homestead

The Dervaes family are true pioneers of urban homesteading. They started their farming in suburban Pasadena, California on 1/10th of an acre in 1985—and today produce more than 7,000 pounds of produce each year. They feed themselves with the food they grow, and sell the excess to the community through CSAs and a farmstand based on their front porch. They also run their car on biodiesel, cultivate honey bees, and power their home with renewable energies.

In the process, they’ve developed a unique model for a sustainable, agriculturally based way of life in an urban setting. Living directly in between two freeways, just 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, they are hardly isolated from their neighbors or surrounding community. But they use their blog (which they started way ahead of the curve in 2001!) and podcast to connect with friends, fans, and like-minded food revolutionaries all over the world.

Victoria Pruett, A Modern Homestead, Texas

Victoria Pruett, a modern Texas homesteader, with her baby, a product of modern Texas homesteading.
Victoria Pruett, a modern Texas homesteader, with her baby, a product of modern Texas homesteading. Photo by A Modern Homestead

When Victoria Pruett’s husband lost his job in 2015, the family was left financially adrift. But as Pruett writes on her blog, the experience “turned into the biggest blessing we could ever imagine.” They sold their three-bedroom home in the city and moved to a small homestead in rural Texas. At first, the transition was overwhelming. “I was so scared that we were going to fail,” Pruett wrote. “In fact, the number of times we almost threw in the towel were too many to count in the first few months.”

But they held on, and today they live on their farm with their young son and blog about canning food, making homemade yogurt and bone broth, and meal planning to save money. Pruett is very vocal about how she transformed the blog into the family’s primary source of income. But more than the financial security it provides, she values the blog for connecting her with readers. Unlike many other homesteaders, Pruett grew up with what she calls, “strong roots in Southern, from-scratch cooking, real skills (like canning, soap making, and knitting), and frugal living.” Her blog helps her share those gifts, encouraging others with a dream to transition to the homestead life.

Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz, Ten Apple Farm, Maine

Margaret and Karl...and Joshua and Chansonetta.
Margaret and Karl...and Joshua and Chansonetta. Photo by Jose Azel

For years, Margaret Hathaway and Karl Schatz enjoyed a very urban existence, living and working in Brooklyn, New York. But nearly 15 years ago ago they packed up their apartment and took a year-long road trip in search of a quieter life. They settled just outside of Portland, Maine, and began setting up the farmhouse and 10-acre orchard and garden that would become a sustainable hub for themselves, their children, and their gaggle of dairy goats, chickens, ducks, and turkeys. In the process, they found a sweet spot between an urban and rural existence.

Karl, a photographer, is the director of an international stock photo company in Portland. And Margaret, a writer with a background in publishing, authored a book about their year-long journey, Year of the Goat, as well as several other books. Their kids, meanwhile, attend school in Portland. Still, they are fully committed to their farm life: rising early to collect eggs and milk their goats, making cheese, and preserving food to live, as they call it on their website, with “modest self-sufficiency.” They also have become community educators, opening their homestead to the public for goat hikes and homesteading workshops.

Teri Page, Homestead Honey, Missouri

Teri and Brian Page with their 2 children, 10 acres, and 350-square-foot house.
Teri and Brian Page with their 2 children, 10 acres, and 350-square-foot house. Photo by Homestead Honey

In 1999, Teri Page attended a homesteading workshop with her boyfriend (now husband) in Oregon. More than a decade later, they realized their long-held dream of setting up a radical homestead. Today they live completely off-the-grid in a veritable “tiny house” (350 square feet for their family of four!) in Missouri.

They homeschool their children, raise a crew of animals, keep honey bees, maintain a large organic garden, and exist off the fruits of their labors—a life that, as they put it, allows them to “live in harmony with nature, and most importantly, to live simply and without debt, so we can spend more time as a family, doing what we love.” The Pages’ path to self-sufficiency was not easy but, as they write on their website and blog, it can be done. For those ready to take the plunge, but in search of support, they have written several e-books and offer homestead coaching services.

Life on the farm (or the urban farm) may not be for everyone. But from cooking seasonally and frugally to canning and preserving, we can at least eat like it!

7 Offbeat Urban Farms Found Around the World
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7 Offbeat Urban Farms Found Around the World

Have you ever fantasized about homesteading? Share your homesteading dream in the comments!

In an age of ever-expanding, boundary-pushing innovations in food, reliable information is more vital than ever. Keeping in mind the timeless wisdom of previous generations, we're exploring the exciting work by research scientists and entrepreneurs in the field, and have partnered with Organic Valley to bring you stories from the front lines of the food system.

Tags: agriculture, homesteading, urban homesteading, bloggers