Anyone who winds up here is either completely lost or deeply determined.
June 22, 2024 11:31 PM   Subscribe

The vision is as ideological as it is practical. Prospective shareholders purchase a plot and commit to live a self-sufficient lifestyle — growing your own crops, pumping your own water, building your own house. Each resident has his own reason for joining. Some, Gleason says, are drawn for health reasons — they want to grow their own clean food. Others seek safety, “away from the craziness.” Gleason reasons that most people are drawn by some combination of the two. “They just want a safe place to raise family and food,” he said. The “craziness,” Gleason admits, was a major factor for his own move. “We seem to be undergoing a cultural revolution in the U.S.,” he said. “When we first came out here, we thought it might be too far away.” He shifted his truck into park, turning his face to meet my eyes. “Now, with everything that’s happening, we wonder if it’s far enough.” from Sick of politics? Move off the grid [The Deseret News] [CW: Mormons, homophobia, home-schooling]
posted by chavenet (29 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Without touching on their extremely dodgy politics, does it work if a bunch of people all start using water from one previously unused aquifer? Aren’t they going to run out of water before they run out of plots?
posted by The River Ivel at 12:53 AM on June 23 [21 favorites]


“...people that control their food are the ones that come out on top.”...
When Gallup began polling on trust in key institutions — like the government, the courts, or the military — in 2006, the U.S. ranked atop G7 countries. In 2023, for the first time, the U.S. ranked last.

“The U.S. continues to rank above the rest of the G7 in the proportion of its residents struggling to afford food.” [Gallup]
posted by HearHere at 12:59 AM on June 23 [8 favorites]


I'm not going into the ideology, just amazed because becoming self sufficient by farming is really, really, hard, so hard that in the decade following the First World War there was a ginormous diaspora of people who could not do it and chose to change professions to anything else they could get. The entire generation of people who grew up with an agricultural background got the hell out of the business, with vast relief and an eventual massive improvement in their standard of living. There is a reason that farming is done by large scale agribusinesses who have deep pockets and crop insurance.

It usually takes seven years before an experience farmer breaks even for the first time, and even experienced farmers have to deal with stretches of several years of crop failures after they have gotten securely established.

And these people have set up in a desert, which means they are almost certainly looking at it taking more than seven years to break even and fewer years when they succeed in covering expenses, all before they meet their commitment of self sufficiency. If they pour a lot of capital into their project, of course, they can make it look successful, but that's entirely unsustainable and the opposite of self sufficiency.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:01 AM on June 23 [50 favorites]


Their leader is 74 with two heart attacks in the last three years? I suspect he won't be able to farm his land for long enough to break even.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 2:09 AM on June 23 [5 favorites]


"There is no cell service, though most residents tap into satellite internet. (A decent number of residents work remotely.)"

Well, that's not "off the grid"... It's off *some* grids, but on another grid.
posted by palnatoke at 2:11 AM on June 23 [50 favorites]


Thank you for posting this, chavenet. Good topic to consider in a U.S. presidential election year, especially lately.
posted by cupcakeninja at 3:14 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


The first thing they noticed upon arriving from the Pacific Northwest was the lack of trees — there is not a single shade-producing tree in the whole community, and the Bennions hoped to change that. They brought along some 70 trees with them. A year later, only five are still alive.

These are not serious people who are actually going to successfully raise their own food. I'm assuming that they all have enough money from their remote jobs/inherited wealth to drive 60 miles every month to purchase the food that they actually eat.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:15 AM on June 23 [59 favorites]


stories like this consistently fascinate me. rudolph rocker, amongst others, once talked about the importance of "building the new world within the shell of the old" (in his case, referring to syndicalism) as a strategy and an alternative to complacency or violent overthrow; to begin to build the resources that a community would need to survive under the auspices of a new social contract.

it's an idea that i've thought a lot about, in particular because of the internal tensions that arise. this is well illustrated in this story. they grow their own food, but also pay property taxes and get building permits. they have a democratic arbitration committee to resolve conflicts, but in times of dire medical need (e.g. a child breaking their leg), a helicopter from the state needs to be flown in.

it's a conflict between sustainability and self-reliance. you can't get to self-reliance if you cannot first become sustainable, and any community that seeks to develop into something sustainable must confront having to count on help from other communities as you develop resources for your own survival and happiness. and if you're unwilling to reach out to other communities to help develop those resources beyond a certain point, you'll have to make sacrifices ranging from a lack of luxuries and convenience to outright dangerous sacrifices like a lack of critical emergency care.

a small community becoming both sustainable and self-reliant is possible, but maddeningly difficult; more difficult than a lot of folks imagine, no matter their motives or intentions. a great deal of people who attempt this will resent having to rely on the entities they are trying to escape in order to make their community livable, and either abandon the project altogether or create an unsafe environment to live in. hopefully, communities that make this attempt reach a compromise point; doing their best to be as self-reliant as possible, while accepting that they will continuously require resources beyond their capabilities. building the new world within the shell of the old is noble, but you're going to rely on that shell for more, and for a lot longer, than you might initially imagine.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:14 AM on June 23 [22 favorites]


> does it work if a bunch of people all start using water from one previously unused aquifer? Aren’t they going to run out of water before they run out of plots?

If so, it isn't different to how most of our society's physical economy works. we extract and consume the non-renewable stocks (the higher-ERoEI exploitable reserves of oil, coal, natural gas. metals. the remaining limited feasible storage capacity for CO_2e in the atmosphere). we extract and consume many of the _renewable_ stocks faster than they get replenished (drink the aquifers, mine the nutrients out of the soil with agriculture, trawl the stocks of fish, harpoon the whales, ...). maybe it's just more obvious in articles like this where folks are trying to scrape a living.

i'd disagree with many of their views but can understand the desire to be more self-sufficient and less at the mercy of decisions by others you disagree with. what comes across pretty clear from the article is that they are not a bunch of individualist preppers who believe they can each be self-sufficient, there's a bunch of examples where neighbours are helping each other. i reckon building a local community of people who help each other is the key to making this kind of thing work.
posted by are-coral-made at 5:22 AM on June 23 [5 favorites]


when have us politics ever not involved some kind of vaguely idealized form of homesteading?
posted by AlbertCalavicci at 5:33 AM on June 23 [18 favorites]


Any community, not matter how local, of people who help each other is going to include some amount of being at the mercy of decisions by others you disagree with. No community could ever be so perfectly aligned that everyone agrees with everyone else about everything. Smaller communities sure look easier to align on some of the more basic stuff though, so it's easy to see the appeal. Friction might be less frequent, but so are the opportunities to practice how to somewhat productively deal with those frictions without everything crashing down around you. In that sense, smaller communities can be more fragile than larger ones.
posted by sohalt at 5:51 AM on June 23 [8 favorites]


This makes me think of the bumper sticker that reads “Wherever you go, there you are”
posted by niicholas at 6:49 AM on June 23 [7 favorites]


does it work if a bunch of people all start using water from one previously unused aquifer?

As someone with a bunch of recent experience with wells...it depends, and it's really complicated. In general groundwater is considered a renewable resource, and aquifers do recharge in a number of different ways. What matters is the rate of water consumption compared to the rate of recharge. Given where they are I'd be concerned, but it's not a certainty.
posted by true at 7:10 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]


To grow potatoes, they place suds in dirt atop bales of rotting hay.

Good luck with that!

“It’s kind of like being an artist on a blank pallet,”

A blank something, I reckon.

I think they should have included a group photo. Or maybe some quotes explaining the "craziness" they are trying to escape from. Are they running from racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia? Are they building a community where they are free to embrace the beautiful diversity of humanity away from the entrenched biases hatreds that are tearing apart contemporary America?

I would also like a photo essay on the dusty ruins of this venture in five years or whenever it is abandoned.
posted by snofoam at 7:33 AM on June 23 [13 favorites]


Considering one of them mentioned running from a gay vice principal in their kids' elementary school, it sure sounds like that particular person wants to build a place to be homophobic in.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:43 AM on June 23 [19 favorites]


I’m guessing they are still gonna depend on the guns of the state to defend their property rights.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:15 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]


Also, I note a very poor understanding not only of politics, schools, and media, but also Thoreau
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:24 AM on June 23 [12 favorites]


Homestead and self-sufficiency are modern dellusional inventions of an age of fossil fuelled abundance. No society or culture pre-1800s functioned by having individuals or small families operate independently. Thia nonsense can only happen in the pax interior of larger heirarchical violence states and by dint of indirect subsidy of nearly everything else in the larger society cooperating - not just on security and leaving them "alone" but on the artificially low time and development costs of all their tools, offsite materials, etc

This is a child making box mix pancakes and declaring they are robinson crusoe.
posted by No Climate - No Food, No Food - No Future. at 9:02 AM on June 23 [27 favorites]


> [...] “He’s learning from YouTube.”
> [next paragraph]
> Residents live off-grid...

You know, off-grid - no running water, no electrical service, just you and the hemp overalls your helpmeet wove for you, and YouTube.
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:11 AM on June 23 [19 favorites]


To be fair, this could be a direct revelation situation. Perhaps “YouTube” is one of the lesser-known names of God. Or a god, anyway.
posted by cupcakeninja at 9:55 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]




I noped out of this article when I read. "Educators, in turn, have flooded universities with moral activism instead of inquiry."

I'm not the audience for being sold the fantasy of self-sufficiency and escape from the dread specter of woke-ism. You guys have fun out there playing pioneers.
posted by signsofrain at 11:40 AM on June 23 [6 favorites]


My friend moved far away from society in the desert in AZ with her partner and family. They've beeng doing well I surmise the past few years, but last night she made a weird post requesting help, but wasn't clear what the issue was. I pinged and asked.

Her keyfob for the vehicle died. Apparently she lives hours from any sort of modern civilization, and can't get a garage or triple-A or locksmiths to assist, so her ex drove 4 hours to help out.

I admit I had to wonder: If you're goal is to live so far from society, shouldn't you get a vehicle that doesn't use an electric fob? Seems like one of the first things you'd wanna do. LOL. Like an old 76 chevy you can fuck with the carburetor on from parts scavenged from a junk yard.

That said, I highly question most of these people, especially as it pertains to "no politics". But that's a whole other discussion I'm not awake enough for, but to say "there is no such thing" and I wish people would get their heads out of the sands. On the other hand, maybe it's good these people are trying to stay out of MY political sphere as well (at least - I hope they aren't voting, because dollars to donuts they're voting anti-vax pro-gun weird ass shit just, based on pure guesstimation).
posted by symbioid at 12:14 PM on June 23 [8 favorites]


These folks may not consider themselves “political,” “doomsday preppers,” “grid users,” or “reliant on society,” but they sure look like all those things to me.

I say this as someone with the misfortune of being related to a lot of other people who are CERTAIN they’ll be king of the last hill of rubble after the “mud (sic) hits the fan.” Who just KNOW everything is “better” someplace hours away from big bad progressive civilization.

The (Mormon Church-owned) Deseret News is kidding itself just as hard in its attempt at a flattering portrayal of them.

I feel bad for their kids.
posted by armeowda at 12:47 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


get a vehicle that doesn't use an electric fob... Like an old 76 chevy

It wouldn't even be that hard. I have a 2016 truck in my driveway that has one keyfob style key and one regular stick-it-in-the-door style key, so if the fob got bricked we'd still be just fine. You just have to look for them. (Although that's not why we bought this vehicle!)
posted by joannemerriam at 12:54 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


Even without a fob, the vast majority of modern cars - from the past 15 years - have an immobilizer system that relies on a chip in the key itself. Well, unless you are Kia or Hyundai.
posted by jordantwodelta at 5:27 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


Does anyone recognize what Gleason is growing in his greenhouse? It doesn’t look like anything edible or otherwise useful to me. At least not in the condition it is in.
posted by TedW at 8:28 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I highly question most of these people, especially as it pertains to "no politics".

No politics...that they don't like. FTFY.

Are they building a community where they are free to embrace the beautiful diversity of humanity away from the entrenched biases hatreds that are tearing apart contemporary America?

Hahahahaha...oh, stop...you're killing me.
posted by kjs3 at 10:51 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Homestead and self-sufficiency are modern dellusional inventions of an age of fossil fuelled abundance. No society or culture pre-1800s functioned by having individuals or small families operate independently.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose sure had some ripple effects.
posted by bq at 12:59 PM on June 24 [4 favorites]


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