Remembering the Homesteading Principles of the Nearings

Roger Doiron explores the continuing legacy and homesteading principles of the Nearings and their Forest Farm homestead. Learn about Helen and Scott Nearing's principles of simple living, The Good Life Center in Harborside, Maine, and how the Nearings have influenced generations of homesteaders, including the suburban variety.


| October/November 2008



The late Helen Nearing, socializing with visitors in her Forest Farm food gardens.

The late Helen Nearing, socializing with visitors in her Forest Farm food gardens.


Photo by Lynn Karlin

Learn about the homesteading principles of the Nearings, how they guided legendary homesteaders Helen and Scott Nearing and how their way of life still resonates today.

Remembering the Homesteading Principles of the Nearings

The phrase “the good life” conjures up different things for different people. For some, it’s about possessing sufficient material wealth to have and do what you want, whenever you want. For others, it’s about the spiritual riches that come with living in harmony with one’s values and natural surroundings. Others see it as a careful balancing act between the two.

My own search for the good life led me to The Good Life, the classic book by Helen and Scott Nearing that was first published in 1954 and expanded upon in 1979. I discovered the Nearings about a decade ago. I was in my early 30s and looking for a lifestyle that would allow me to live closer to the Earth and soil, literally. I was living in a sixth floor apartment in Brussels, Belgium, more than 3,000 miles from my Maine homeland.

The Good Life recounts how the Nearings escaped the urban jungle during the Great Depression to create a more meaningful, self-sufficient life in the country, initially in Vermont and ultimately at their Forest Farm homestead in Harborside, Maine. Reading about their life’s journey helped put me on a path of self-discovery that would take me back to Maine to establish a homestead of my own and ground me, literally and figuratively.

This year offers an opportunity for taking stock of the good life — the Nearings’ version of it and my own. It’s the 25th anniversary of Scott Nearing’s death and the 10th anniversary of the founding of The Good Life Center, the nonprofit formed to perpetuate the Nearings’ philosophies and life ways.

To understand the lasting nature of the Nearings’ work, it helps to travel to their Forest Farm yourself, as I did last August with my family. The pretext for my trip was a talk I was giving at the Center’s public Monday Night Meetings series, a community tradition started by the Nearings.

j joyce
4/20/2012 2:13:36 PM

Does the Good Life Center sympathize with Stalin and his purges too or is that part of the Nearing's life glossed over?


kathryn _1
8/6/2010 3:37:09 AM

loved the article, totally off topic, but if the author reads this by chance, my mothers maiden name is doiron, know of any relatives in texas ? :)






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