In the 1970s there was a well-publicized “Back to the Land” movement. Hundreds of thousands of America’s young generation wanted the freedom of self-sufficiency. But most of them eventually returned to urban life. We can analyze their failures to avoid making the same mistakes. Happily, someone else has already done this for us! Eleanor Agnew’s book Back From the Land is a fairly detailed analysis of why the “Back to the Landers” went back to the big cities. Here is a summary of some of the conditions that led to their failures:
1. The realities of rural life were much harsher than those portrayed on television or in popular books or magazines.
2. Farming and raising livestock was not profitable, so they either lived in extreme poverty or had long commutes to jobs in town.
3. Local “town” jobs were low paying.
4. Poverty was not as genteel and romantic as portrayed in books and movies.
5. The harsh realities of rural life put undue stress on marriages, especially when the spouses were not in agreement about living self-sufficiently.
We moved to Idaho in 1992. I observed all of these conditions among our neighbors who moved to rural Idaho in preparation for Y2K in 1998 and 1999. (Yep, we experienced a couple of these ourselves, as much as I hate to admit it!)
In our part of rural Idaho, we observed that the vast majority of families that departed post Y2K left for economic reasons. Most of the local jobs available were minimum wage. The local economy was depressed. Start-up businesses that required the patronage of the local population failed.
Suggestion: Make sure that your income does not rely on the local economy and that you will have enough income to sustain a standard of living not too far below your urban standard. If the drop in your living standards are too drastic, your spouse and children are likely to rebel. Even though you may be preparing for a time in the future when the grid is down, and you’ll have to be totally self-sufficient, don’t insist that your spouse do without the modern conveniences in the meantime. (Okay, maybe the washer and dryer are going to be giant paper weights if the balloon goes up. But I don’t want to start washing clothes by hand one day sooner than I have too!) If you make life drudgery for your family, the contrast of how the rest of America lives will be so great that they may question your sanity!
Eleanor Agnew’s Back From the Land tells it like it really is. If you are contemplating a move back to the land, you should read this book!
Back From the Land by Eleanor Agnew, Published by Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 200. Hardback, 274 pages. Cover price: $27.50 ISBN 1-56663-580-2