Sheltered: Underground and Off-the-Grid Farm (Full-Length Documentary)

Reader Contribution by Adam D. Bearup and Hybrid Homes

Man Interviewing For Documentary

Sheltered: Underground and Off the Grid is a full-length documentary that chronicles the building of the largest underground and off-the-grid farm on the planet. The rumors are true, I turned the job down four times and on the fifth request from the homeowner, I chose to build the project. The owner told me that if I took the project, it would change my life. It did.

Preparing to Film a Green Building Documentary

On the day that I chose to be the project leader on the Earth Shelter Project Michigan, I got an idea in my head to film the project. I immediately went to Best Buy and asked them how much credit I had on my Best Buy Card and they said $2,000. I spent $1,989 that day on video equipment, including a Sony HD video camera, a large sturdy tri-pod, extra batteries, a bag to hold everything and the extended warranty. My plan was to film every single day of the project without ever knowing that I would be on that project for just under three years.

After the project started, I set up the camera every day. Sometimes to film exact sequences and scenes and other times to just let the camera run for a few hours to capture what we were doing. This project started in 2009, which was still a bit before many other people were uploading videos online for viewing.

That is what I did. I chose Vimeo as the host site for my weekly to bi-weekly videos and had great viewership from all over the world. Those videos are still available on Vimeo.

Putting the Earth Sheltered Documentary Together

As I filmed the process of building the Earth Shelter Project Michigan, and made a weekly video of what I filmed, I started to think about making a documentary. Viewers of the online videos would tell me about being way ahead of the curve in building and that they had never seen anything like what we were building. I would read the comments each week to the crew and it seemed to be a motivator for them as I lead them through the most extreme weather conditions.

It was the ultimate honor for me that my video mentor, Ric Mixter, signed on to create the documentary. Ric has made many documentaries for major television networks and is a huge advocate for maritime history of the Great Lakes. Ric is known around the world for his video and documentary work. Ric had the daunting task of taking the almost three years of video that I shot (with a decent camera and no real training) and assembling it into a documentary that has toured the world with the U.S. Green Building Council’s traveling film festival. We sold countless copies of this documentary to people all over the country and have even had a version of it air on PBS!

Free to View for the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Readers

The other day, I was thinking about Mother Earth News and how wonderful of an opportunity it is for the publication to let me write about my adventures in sustainable building. That is when I had the thought to offer this documentary through Mother Earth News simply to let people watch this feat that many have called amazing.

I dedicate this documentary to anyone who wonders what is over the next hill, those people, like me, who thrive on a challenge. When you watch this documentary, I promise you that you will say wow at least once (if not more often). Remember while you are watching this documentary that it was filmed on one camera (except interviews and a few other scenes) back in 2009 to 2012 and we didn’t have the technology that we have today.

Adam D. Bearup is a designer, green builder and farmer, who learned about biodynamic and regenerative farming for a project he built in Northern Michigan, The Earth Shelter Project Michigan. Adam has degrees in marketing and management and a Masters of Science in Green Building. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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