My ancestors did it, and yours may have too. They jumped aboard steamships with no more possessions than they could carry, motivated by a belief that the good life they sought was at least an ocean away. The trip was full of adventure, the final destination was largely unknown, and in the end, those with pluck, perseverance, grit and perhaps a bit of luck found their way to a life full of possibilities. Those early homesteaders traded huge amounts of labor for long-term security — and their spirit lives on in the 21st century.
Long gone are the land grabs and tree claims, but the modern homesteader, fueled by a belief in the new American Dream, continues to search for that elusive good life. These 21st-century pioneers span the generations and are led by a passionately enthusiastic group of young folks who have eschewed mainstream models of consumerism that would hitch them to a very conventional dray. Yes, you can still carve out a wonderful life without the seeming security of two incomes and mortgages to match. Yes, it is possible to feed yourself from gardens and poultry raised in town. Yes, it is entirely possible to turn the home back into a place of production — even energy production.
Because we have been so inspired by homesteaders across the generations, we decided to celebrate their legacy in 2012 by seeking nominations for GRIT’s Homesteader of the Year award. Your collective response was so overwhelming that we couldn’t limit ourselves to naming just two — or even three. Read the article Homesteading Leads Individuals Closer to Self-Sufficiency, and you will find homesteaders reclaiming an old building in a Chicago neighborhood — and growing much of what they consume. You will also see that it is possible to live comfortably in a very civilized, owner-built, off-the-grid home. You will find folks who’ve lived on the land for years, and those who are just getting started. You will also see that the homesteading spirit leads to a life that cannot be bought — it can only be lived — and inspiring it is. My hat’s off to you all!
Whether you live in town or on 1,000 acres, we’d love to know what you are up to this season. And if you have any fun homesteading tales to tell, be sure to look for our 2013 Homesteader of the Year callout early next year. Send us a short letter (firstname.lastname@example.org) — and a photo or two if you can — and we just might publish it in the magazine or here on our website.
See you in January,
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.