Back to the Land With Mother Earth News in Hand



I’m a child of the 1960s and 70s. I remember well the upheaval our country was going through during those troubled times. The Viet Nam War, civil unrest, and possible nuclear attacks from Russia were worrisome.

It was common knowledge during the 1970s there was a sizeable back-to-the-land movement where young Americans gave up on their country’s troubles and went to the land for a rural lifestyle. Some lived in communes while others kept the move to immediate family members. Mother Earth News was instrumental in helping readers make that move. In 1970, the third issue of Mother Earth News, had a feature story about cheap land in West Virginia. Property for less than $50 per acre enticed eager city folk fed up with all the negative news and events. Plenty of young Americans flocked to the Mountain State.

West Virginia at that time was experiencing an outflow of its young adults looking for a steady work environment that cities tended to provide. With thousands of young adults fleeing West Virginia this left a vacuum for the young newcomers to fill. The newcomers were often met by friendly older locals willing to help the newbies learn how to survive the mountain environment. Between learning from the entrenched locals and reading Mother Earth News many of these city transplants learned farming, construction, plus arts and crafts skills that would allow them to live on their own land and prosper. Many went on to become successful furniture makers, potters, sculptors, quilters, photographers, and more.

Even to this day, it’s inspiring to hear the stories of those new homesteaders success in fleeing the rat race and building a peaceful and satisfying life in the woods. Fast forward to 2017, and it seems America is in similar turmoil. Regardless of one's politics, it’s easy to see people are getting fed up with the rat race and events. Perhaps it’s time to have another Back to the Land movement?

1/6/2018 3:27:24 PM

I came to the conclusion that Back to the Land was not an option for me without an income. Raised a family in semi-suburbia and am now retired. Now my energy is gone. However much I pine for 5 or 10 acres it just isn't happening. So, now I engage my available energy with a small coop of chickens, and am slowly exploring and converting to "food forest" options on a 1/4 acre lot. Since I live in the subtropical zones I am more interested in protecting plants from too much sun/water/heat/insect damage than in having a picture perfect garden. At least I find some satisfaction in seeing something grow. But the dream is alive, just modified to fit life as it happened.

12/27/2017 1:47:50 PM

Unfortunately, much of today's youth is ill-equipped to survive the homestead life. For too many, it IS the romantic notion... with little comprehension of what it takes to make it work. Hard physical work and frequent self-deprivation are daily expectations if that shed is going to be built, those animals fenced in, that garden dug over, that well primed etc etc. We host WWOOfers each summer and while we encounter many diligent workers, we also host some who have never really met hard work, and can't complete a task without their ears plugged into their I-phone. They know all the right words to say about "sustainable" living, homesteading and living off the land, but have no real idea of what that means. My father took his family from England to Tasmania in 1962 and was probably one of the early subscribers to Mother Earth News. He understood hard work and we lived frugally, but even then, a family could not survive without some kind of income. He went to work for the local forestry service and came home to milk the cow, split wood, plant the vegetable garden and restore the old property we had purchased. Our mother gardened, preserved, washed with a wringer and clothes line, and taught us all to cook on a wood stove. The climate was temperate and while the soil was not wonderful, he understood composting, and his only son now reaps the benefits of his 40 years of dedicated effort, continuing the legacy he started. We girls reaped the benefits of learning a simple, hard-working, healthy lifestyle without the luxuries of TV, telephone, vacations, internet, and all of today's modern distractions. I am now in rural Colorado, and have done my share of suburban life. I now hope we can provide exposure for our grandchildren to learn what I have always known is "the better life". Society today is not geared to help the homesteader succeed, so kudos to all who step out and choose the only truly rewarding lifestyle!

12/27/2017 8:22:22 AM

Great article! The only comment that I want to say, after living five years in Alaska is It is NOT for the faint of heart. Its rough living. A VERY high respect for LOTS of bears is necessary. Black and grizz both will EAT you if you're in the wrong place at their right time. Period. Moose are usually only dangerous during rutting and when they have calves. The freezing weather does not allow you often mistakes. Medical help can be hours away. Food and commodities are expensive. Northern areas have the 6 months of dark or dust. With this being said, it TRULY is the last American frontier. And the beauty is unbelievable. Northern Lights breath taking. You have little to no restrictions. And living is more like the 1950's. Friendly knowledgeable people are a lifeline. If possible, spend a winter in these areas that were mentioned before taking the deep plunge of buying/moving permanently. You won't regret doing this. Good luck.

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