Helen Nearing Interview

Helen Nearing, the mother of the "back to the land" movement, discusses the pioneering work she did with husband Scott as homesteaders in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and her present life maintaining a small oceanside property.

| June/July 1994

  • 144 helen nearing 1
    Helen Nearing inspects vines in her garden.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 144 helen nearing - with scott-1
    Helen with Scott in their Vermont days.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 144 helen nearing 3 stone garden wall
    Bird's-eye view of Nearing's native stone garden wall. Construction of the wall took 16 years.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 144 helen nearing - in her garden
    Inside the enclosed garden on the Maine Farm.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 144 helen nearing 5 with scott-2
    Scott and Helen in conversation.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 144 helen nearing 6 with scott-3
    Scott and Helen sawing wood.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 144 helen nearing 1
  • 144 helen nearing - with scott-1
  • 144 helen nearing 3 stone garden wall
  • 144 helen nearing - in her garden
  • 144 helen nearing 5 with scott-2
  • 144 helen nearing 6 with scott-3

In July of 197I, Helen Nearing, then 69, and her husband Scott, 88, honored MOTHER EARTH NEWS with one of our first "Plowboy" interviews. Free thinkers in an age that greeted outspokeness on women's rights, homesteading, subsistence farming, and vegetarianism with more than a little suspicion, Helen and Scott Nearing decided in 1932 to remove themselves from the overheated world of consumerism and "drop out" to a rocky mountain farm in the foothills of Vermont's Green Mountains. The book that detailed their struggle and success, Living the Good Life, sold over 250,000 copies and began the entire "back-to-the-land" revolution. Generations of homesteaders have learned to garden, build with native stone, and live with simple decency from their example. Helen and Scott endured, while the rest of us simply caught up.

After watching their pristine mountains give way to ski lodges and discount outlets, the couple began anew in 1952 on the rugged south coast of Maine, building a two-story house by hand while most others their age were settling into retirement.

In 1983, two months after celebrating his 100th birthday, Scott Nearing quietly died in the farmhouse he built, and Helen carried on their message alone. But far from grief stricken, she continued to welcome thousands of visitors to her home as well as write several books on natural cooking, home building, and the joy of aging.

I was fortunate to catch up with Helen one sunny afternoon just a few days after her 90th birthday, and while we walked (she barefoot) in her garden and ate the new tomatoes, she told me of her days on the farm and the quiet happiness of later life.




MEN: How has work on the farm been faring since Scott died?

HN: We had 140 acres when we arrived in Maine, and I have four left. That's just right. It's all I want; right on the ocean, a house, a garden site, and some woods. The four acres is perfect.






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard
Free Product Information Classifieds

}