Community-Building and Self-Reliance: Our 2013 Homesteaders of the Year

The 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year believe in learning by doing, and open their homes and farms to teach modern homesteading skills and promote community-building.

| August/September 2013

  • Deer Isle Hostel
    This off-grid timber frame house overlooks the garden at Deer Isle Hostel, an environmentally conscious hostel located on Deer Isle, Maine.
    Photo By Anneli Carter-Sundqvist
  • Private Hut
    Anneli Carter-Sundqvist and Dennis Carter prep the private hut guests can rent at Deer Isle Hostel.
    Photo By Anneli Carter-Sundqvist
  • Community Garden
    Deer Isle Hostel’s garden provides fresh produce for the guests’ communal dinners. Harvesting food and cooking meals together is one of the unique features of this low-impact hostel.
    Photo By Anneli Carter-Sundqvist
  • Teaching Homesteading to Preschoolers
    Amy Saunders shows a preschool tour group how to turn homegrown broomcorn into a homemade broom at her homestead in Lawrence, Kan.
    Photo Courtesy Saunders Family
  • Spreading Mulch
    Amy Saunders and her daughter spread mulch on soon-to-be-planted garden beds as part of the family’s efforts to conserve moisture and control weeds.
    Photo Courtesy Saunders Family
  • Freedman Family
    The Freedman family taking a rare break on the porch of their handbuilt home near Frederick, Md.
    Photo By Ilene Freedman
  • Handbuilt House In Maryland
    Phil Freedman built his family’s home by hand, adding on through the years.
    Photo By Ilene Freedman
  • Solar Dehydrator Filled With Pears
    In Reno, Nev., the Chandler-Isacksen family takes full advantage of the ample sun and heat to dry fruits, such as the pears pictured here, in a homemade solar dehydrator appropriately named “El Gigante.”
    Photo Courtesy Chandler-Isacksen Family
  • Chandler-Isacksen Family
    The Chandler-Isacksen family runs the urban Be the Change Homestead on a half-acre in Reno, Nev.
    Photo Courtesy Chandler-Isacksen Family
  • Farmhands Work In Front Of Hoop House
    A group of farmhands volunteers as part of a workday in front of the hoop house at the Freedman family’s House in the Woods Farm.
    Photo By Jeff Stevens
  • Varney Family
    The Varney family established the first organic dairy in Maine, and they have since expanded to include a cafe, bakery, fiber shop and farm store to sell their additional products and to offer community education.
    Photo Courtesy Varney Family
  • Combs Family
    Dawn and Carson Combs raise their two children, create herbal, edible medicines, and run a medicinal CSA out of Mockingbird Meadows homestead near Columbus, Ohio.
    Photo Courtesy Combs Family
  • Beehives and Grazing Sheep
    Honeybees and livestock are at home at Mockingbird Meadows, a United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary near Columbus, Ohio, run by the Combs family.
    Photo Courtesy Combs Family
  • Clay pot used to store food
    By layering damp sand between two clay pots, the Chandler-Isacksens are able to keep foods “refrigerated” and edible even though the family lives in hot, sunny Reno, Nev.
    Photo Courtesy Chandler-Isacksen Family
  • Saunders Family
    Amy, Dan and the Saunders family pose on their homestead property just outside of Lawrence, Kan.
    Photo Courtesy Saunders Family
  • Nezinscot Farm Store And Cafe
    The farm store and cafe are a focal point of Nezinscot Farm, which is an organic dairy and homestead run by the Varney family.
    Photo Courtesy Varney Family

  • Deer Isle Hostel
  • Private Hut
  • Community Garden
  • Teaching Homesteading to Preschoolers
  • Spreading Mulch
  • Freedman Family
  • Handbuilt House In Maryland
  • Solar Dehydrator Filled With Pears
  • Chandler-Isacksen Family
  • Farmhands Work In Front Of Hoop House
  • Varney Family
  • Combs Family
  • Beehives and Grazing Sheep
  • Clay pot used to store food
  • Saunders Family
  • Nezinscot Farm Store And Cafe

The MOTHER EARTH NEWS 2013 Homesteaders of the Year embody the learning-by-doing ethos by providing opportunities for others to adopt new self-reliance skills through hands-on experience. These six homesteading families are dedicated to community-building — they open their doors to share the fruits of their labors and the knowledge needed to complete those labors. Through workshares in community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs and on-farm workshops, these families inspire their neighbors by giving them an example of modern homesteading in action.

Our second annual call for nominations of modern homesteaders was met with a response nearly double the number from last year (Our 2012 Homesteaders of the Year: Living the Good Life Through Modern Homesteading, August/September 2012). To select our finalists, we eagerly paged through stories of plowing with draft animals, photos of solar panels soaking up rays, and lists of traits that make each nominee special. (Read more amazing nominations at Star Modern Homesteaders.) Now, we proudly present the stories of our 2013 winners!

International Homesteading Education Month

To encourage hands-on learning and skill-sharing, MOTHER EARTH NEWS and Grit magazines are again coordinating International Homesteading Education Month this September. Our goal is to foster “Neighbors helping neighbors — building more self-reliant communities.” Sign up as an event host or as a speaker, and peruse our event listing to find out the happenings in your area.

Hostel With a Positive Impact

Traveling is typically a big drain on environmental resources. But on Deer Isle, Maine, Anneli Carter-Sundqvist and Dennis Carter operate a homestead hostel that doesn’t just have a low environmental impact, but strives to have a positive impact on the property and the hostel’s guests.



Anneli and Dennis have chosen to minimize their outside spending in order to cut back the cash income they require. The couple supplements the income from the hostel by selling surplus homegrown garlic and shiitake mushrooms. They live on the homestead year-round and open Deer Isle Hostel to guests during summer. Anneli estimates that about 300 people stayed at the hostel last season.

Deer Isle Hostel practices a high level of self-sufficiency. Anneli and Dennis rely on a small-scale solar-electric system, which keeps them off-grid, to power a few devices and to charge guests’ cell phones. The couple grows food and preserves it without using a refrigerator or freezer, relying on cold frames, a root cellar, home canning and fermentation. They keep chickens, raise and butcher pigs, and trade for goat cheese. (Follow their adventures in Anneli’s blog posts on our website.)






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