The Possibility Alliance: Ethan Hughes’ Educational Homestead

The Possibility Alliance is a place where children and adults from all walks of life can learn the joys of simplicity. Their story is sure to inspire.

  • Possibility Alliance
    Peace, simplicity, community, reflection and involvement — at the Possibility Alliance, these values and more weave together beautifully.

  • Possibility Alliance

The Hughes family lives by candlelight at night because their 80-acre homestead is electricity- and petroleum-free. They and the other inhabitants of the Possibility Alliance use an outhouse, grow their own food and choose to live well under the poverty line at less than $3,000 a year. Yet founder Ethan Hughes says he feels that they live like kings and queens. The Alliance hosts a diverse array of 1,200 annual visitors to the site. On any given day, you could meet a West Coast band, a Christian youth group, a crew of atheist activists or a middle-aged mom searching for inspiration. In a nutshell, the Possibility Alliance is an educational homestead practicing simplicity, self-reliance, service and gratitude. 

The Possibility Alliance is also the headquarters for the Superheroes, a network of over 500 members who dress up like superheroes, with nicknames such as “Love Ninja” and “Atomic Calm,” and bike across the country, stopping wherever possible to give service to anyone in need. The Superheroes have served in several states,  and they assisted during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. 

We spoke to Ethan Hughes, who — along with his wife, Sarah — founded the center roughly three years ago in La Plata, Mo. They live there with their 3-year-old daughter, Eda, and various interns and visitors. 

Did you encounter a turning point that led to giving up traditional living, or was the change gradual?  

A few events in my life were huge. One was, at age 13, losing my dad. A drunk driver hit him. At that moment, I started to question everything. As I did the research, I found out that the leading cause of death between ages 16 and 25 is automobiles. Then I found that some 30 million people to date have died from automobile accidents. I thought, “Wow, just for that reason — not even environmental — I’m going to start moving toward trains and bikes and light rail.” That was my first great wake-up to some of the costs we don’t think about with our fast lifestyle.  

The second one was a trip to Ecuador in college. I got involved in the indigenous movement for protecting the rainforests. At that time, an oil pipeline from Ecuador spilled twice the amount of oil from the Valdez spill. I was there in the rainforest and saw indigenous people getting paid a dollar an hour to put oil in trash bags and bury it in the riverbank. I saw thousands of animals killed and none of it was reported in the United States until years later when there was a lawsuit. I also went to a banana plantation in Ecuador and found out 10,000 people a year were dying from chemical exposure from banana plantations. That was the real turning point — seeing the costs firsthand. 

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Listen to a fantastic podcast with Ethan;

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