Back to the Land With Mother Earth News in Hand

Reader Contribution by Kurt Jacobson
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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?

If so, then Mother Earth News is essential to the plan. Every issue helps those seeking a rural existence – information like how to brew your own beer, turning a profit farming, build your own solar system, raise heritage livestock, and most of the skills needed to live a good life in the country.

Living in the online age can further aid in selling home-based food as well as craft products on the web. In her excellent book Hippie Homesteaders, Carter Taylor Seaton tells of successful city escapees making a move to West Virginia and succeeding in a variety of home-based occupations back in the 1960s and 70s. Those back-to-the-landers didn’t have the internet to sell their wares, and yet many of them succeeded. If you choose a rural home where you have internet; all the better for success in selling home-based products. Farmers markets give you another source of a ready and willing group of customers seeking all kinds of homemade goods from small producers. It’s a fine time to make a move back to the land if you seek a rural lifestyle.

Some of the places that might appeal for a move to the country nowadays are West Virginia and Alaska. Land is reasonably inexpensive, and a variety of homes on a few acres are available to fit what many are looking for. Near the charming town of Capon Bridge, West Virginia a one bedroom cabin on seven treed acres was listed recently for a mere $70,000. The cabin already has electricity, well, and septic in place. A listing of five acres without home on it is only $11,500 and includes access to the community’s lakes for swimming and fishing. It’s no surprise West Virginia is experiencing a new wave of back-to-the-land folk.

North to Alaska

Want to go much farther away from the madness? Up in Sterling Alaska, a 1.17 acre treed lot with utilities close by is for sale at $8,500. The lot would need a short road built to it, but the location is just 20 minutes from Soldotna – a town of 4,000 plus. Further north in Nikiski a 4.09-acre lot is out where the moose and ravens live and cost $20,000. These two options would allow for a peaceful country existence and are close enough to offer possible work in fisheries, tourism, or jobs in the cities of Kenai or Soldotna. And after living in Alaska for over a year, you would probably be able to collect Permanent Fund Dividend payments to each member of your household. These payments run from $878 to as high as $2,072 over the last 10 years.

Living rural is a romantic notion for some and a burning desire for others. For many of us, it’s not hard to imagine the satisfaction of getting away from negative TV news, hectic cities, and crowded highways in search of a quiet existence. It’s not so much running away from the city than running to a life well-lived that waits for those making the move.

The possibilities for a rural life are there. Ask yourself if the desire there? It’s not rocket science to live a simple life in the woods. Many have, and many more will make the move. With Mother Earth News and other resources, you’ll find rural living subjects are explained to help you succeed. Hey, if the move doesn’t work out you can always come back to the rat race, but who would want that after a taste of the good life. 

Kurt Jacobson writes about travel, food, wine, organic gardening, and most anything else from his varied professional life. His articles appear in Alaska Magazine, Fish Alaska Magazine, Metropolis Japan Magazine, Edible Delmarva Magazine, North West Travel and Life Magazine, and Mother Earth News.

Kurt’s articles also appear on several websites,,,, and several others. Kurt is a regular contributor to writing about Alaska, Colorado, New Zealand, Japan, and the Mid-Atlantic areas.

Kurt lives in the Baltimore, MD area with his wife, dog and cats.

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