Slow, Cut Flowers and a Solar Home

This couple’s DIY drive led them to establish a cut-flower business and build a mortgage-free solar home.

  • The Leisses each grew up longing for a life that revolves around gardening and nature.
    Photo by Bethany Cubino/Chasing Skies Photography
  • So many neighbors helped the couple raise their home’s walls that there was sometimes one helper per stud.
    Photo by Megan and Jonathan Leiss
  • The tobacco barn (far left) and hoop house have been essential elements of the debt-free farm.
    Photo by Megan and Jonathan Leiss

Each year, we salute the resourcefulness, commitment, and gumption of remarkable homesteading families with our Homesteaders of the Year awards. Megan and Jonathan Leiss, one of three winning families for 2016, have set an inspiring example of the challenges and rewards of a self-reliant life. From 12 acres in Hurdle Mills, North Carolina, this couple sells cut flowers through their business, Spring Forth Farm. Megan and Jonathan have lived in a 7-by-11-foot remodeled camper since purchasing their property in 2013, which has allowed them to build their solar home slowly without a mortgage — a process that has been a source of experimentation, education, and community. They’ve worked to reclaim and rebuild soil that grew tobacco for at least a century, and their primary farm crop is flowers. In the following interview, the Leisses detail their DIY lifestyle.

How did you choose cut flowers as your market crop?

Our area is saturated in vegetable production, but we found an opening in the local-flower movement. Now, we grow cut flowers for florists, weddings, and weekly subscribers. Appreciation of local products has moved beyond food, and on a per-square-foot basis, flowers are a profitable crop compared with most vegetables.

What inspired you to start down the homesteading road?

We both grew up in North Carolina and longed for a life that revolved around gardening and that embraced the beauty of the natural world. Megan grew up in the woods, where she was home-schooled and learned to garden. Before we met, we were each working to save money to buy land. Megan worked in Alaska in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and on a salmon gillnetter. Jonathan worked for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, living on a train and teaching the circus families’ children.

You’ve been living in a 77-square-foot camper and you still get along?



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


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

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, 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 Newsletters