There is a lot of video out there on homesteading topics. I have chosen a select few that have truly educated, inspired, and entertained me. I hope you enjoy them, and that they are helpful for you on your journey!
Alone in the Wilderness
IMDB hails this film as a modern-day “Walden.” A man with considerable carpentry skill builds a cabin in what is now Lake Clark National Park in the 1960s. One of many memorable moments is at the very beginning of the film.
Our protagonist, Dick Proenneke (pronounced PRE-nick-kee), arrives with just the heads of tools. His first task is to craft the handles. The film came out in 2004, but much of the footage was shot at the time by Proenneke himself. The actual carpentry is very beautiful; wood workers will love this film. (more info)
This film by Werner Herzog explores the village of Bakhtia. Three hundred people live in this very isolated village in Siberia. Gorgeous footage is interspersed with the people’s stories of life in this difficult land. The landscape infuses every aspect of the people’s lives.
Homesteading How Tos
Elliot Coleman’s Full Winter Harvest Presentation
I relied heavily on Elliot Coleman’s books to manage a year-round garden that fed several families in Southeast Alaska. This is an hour-long presentation given at a conference. Thankfully, Coleman is quite a humorous and charismatic speaker. Caution: you will want to immediately implement something new after watching.
Produced by Wyoming PBS. Episodes intersperse individual farmers’ stories with detailed explanations of their techniques. Both large and small farms are featured. Topics include beef ranching, berries, medicinal herbs, beekeeping, orchards, restoration farming, and many more.
Backyard aeroponics: Self-Sustaining Farm for Wisconsin Cold
This video details a highly vertical, highly intensive greenhouse that grows a lot of food in a small area. There are many tips and tricks that can be incorporated into anyone’s current system. The video also discusses adaptations to the greenhouse to make it energy efficient, especially cutting down on heating costs.
Global Food Security
Dirt! The Movie
I don’t need to tell you how important dirt is. For homesteaders, it’s everything! This movie explores how embattled dirt is in our contemporary world. Narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis.
This one hour documentary was filmed in 2008. It features interviews with small farmers in eleven countries. Local folk music and dance are woven into the farmers’ stories. The film also discusses global issues related to seeds, and how they affect these small farmers.
Food Not Lawns: Urban Gardens in Eugene (Oregon) Yards
Heather Flores founded Food Not Lawns to convert lawns into productive urban and suburban gardens. She describes how lawns are detrimental to the environment, and the potential for people to grow large amounts of food on their lots instead. In this short video, Flores tours a few of the perennial food plants and trees that she planted years earlier.
The Corporate Food Industry
In Defense of Food
Food writing celebrity Michael Pollan of the Omnivore’s Dilemma discusses the failures of the modern food industry. He also outlines solutions and a new vision for the future. This documentary was produced by PBS. It is currently available on Netflix.
Food and Politics with Marion Nestle
This is an hour long interview with famed nutritionist and activist Marion Nestle. Marion Nestle works tirelessly to educate the public and take on big industry. She explores how government policies support the corporate food industry at the expense of small growers. She has a deep knowledge of nutrition and health to back up her political claims.
This film tells two stories simultaneously. The father in the story explores GMOs in American agricultures. The little boy, meanwhile, innocently explores his fascination with seeds and seed collecting for its own sake.
This film alleviated some of my own personal confusion about GMOs. I knew GMOs themselves have not been shown to be dangerous to eat, but I did not understand the link between GMOs and pesticides until I watched this film. (Trailer)
Fast Food Nation
I worked at a high school full of jaded kids who loved fast food. Even they were moved by this film which explores the dark side of the fast food industry. Some of them still ate fast food anyway! However, this film entered into their consciousness and their conversations about food. (Trailer)
Super Size Me
This was a blockbuster hit in which Morgan Spurlock attempted to eat McDonald’s food every day. In the process, he examines the impact of fast food on American Nutrition. This movie is entertaining and sobering at the same time. (Trailer) Currently available on Netflix.
This film explores corporate control of the food industry in the United States. It includes stark realities about how this has affected Americans’ nutrition and the environment. It also discusses links between the modern day food industry and the obesity epidemic.
This film describes a radical process of design called “cradle to cradle.” It discusses designing landscapes and products for complete reuse and sustainability. It is too late to think about this at the end of a product’s life, when recycling is difficult and expensive.
Many of the examples given in the film are beyond the scope of the individual homesteader. However, they show that it IS possible, and even profitable, for larger entities to be more sustainable. The film offers a glimpse of a possible future world.
This somewhat dated show explores the consumer culture that creates an imaginary malaise called “Affluenza.” It describes how consumerism has become deeply rooted in the modern psyche. It suggests that this consumer culture has created deep dissatisfaction and rootlessness in modern society.
Jeong Kwan is a Buddhist Nun who lives in a beautiful Korean monastery. She has become internationally famous for the exquisite yet simple food she creates. The relationship she exemplifies between spirituality and growing and serving food will ring true with many homesteaders. The full episode is available on Netflix.
The Homeless Garden Project
The Homeless Garden Project is dear to my heart because I volunteered there for several months. At the Homeless Garden Project, people including the homeless, disabled adults, students, and garden enthusiasts work together on a small organic farm. Harrison Ford narrates a documentary about this incredible place:
Homesteading Gone Wrong
This Hollywood film could be seen as a cautionary tale. It is a maudlin, exaggerated version of homesteading gone completely off the rails.
Peter and the Farm
This 2016 documentary explores the life of an older gentleman on a 187 acre farm in Vermont. Even in his old age, he is physically able to run a productive and successful farm. However, his mental health tells another story. He is extremely isolated, drinks heavily, and has extreme mood swings. He has no exit strategy into an old age without hard physical work, and suggests that his only way out is ending it all.
Sarah, Plain and Tall
The Award-winning fictional book was a favorite from my childhood. The TV movie adaptation stars Glenn Close and Christopher Walken.
It tells the story of a woman who comes to a midwestern homestead in 1910. She is a “mail order bride,” but the widower who “orders” her is not looking for romantic love; he needs a woman to help with his children.
Of course you can predict what happens between the two adults. However, along the way the story explores life, adversity, loneliness, and family in a tough environment.
This gem from 1947 stars Alan Ladd and Dorothy Lamour. It tells the story of two warring combine crews in wheat country. You won’t really learn anything about farming, but it is a great guilty pleasure. Many farmers cite this as their favorite farmed themed film. You can find this film on YouTube.
The Grapes of Wrath
The Classic story of the Joad family by John Steinbeck was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda in 1940. The Joad family is dispossessed in the Oklahoma dust bowl and forced to migrate to California. It is a tale of extreme poverty even in the land of milk and honey. The film is often considered one of the ten greatest of all time, on any topic.
This almost needs no introduction. The books and the TV show have been cherished by generations of children. The Ingalls family strives to make a living on the plains in the late 19th century. Although highly fictionalized, they have inspired many to seek a simple life with family at its center.
Miscellaneous and Mostly Fun
This is a documentary that focuses on the late Burt of Burt’s Bees. It tells the story of the rise of the company from a small cottage industry. It also talks about Burt’s eventual exodus from the company. It is up to the viewer to decide whether Burt was betrayed or whether he created his own problems.
Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers
This film features garlic enthusiasts in the 1970s. The story takes place in many locations. I have two favorite parts. One is a scene featuring extremely exuberant Spanish singing. The other is the plotline around Chez Panisse’s garlic feast. It gives an extremely intimate look into the Chez Panisse lifestyle in the 1970s.
Sure, it’s a Matt Damon, outer space, science fiction blockbuster. However, the way for the protagonist to survive is the same as it would be anywhere: growing food. He uses the only source of fertilizer available to him to make it happen:
Extreme Sheep Herding
The old practice of sheep herding gained modern day popularity with the BBC series “One Man and His Dog.” The show chronicles sheep herding trials in Wales. It is truly amazing to watch the extreme precision with which the shepherding dogs can work in the field. (episodes and more info)
Taken to the extreme, this sheepherding video went viral recently. Sheep herders dressed their sheep in LEDs to create a spectacular light show on a rural hillside.
I hope you are inspired, educated, and entertained by these videos. There is so much potential in our modern age to learn from others rather than reinventing the wheel. Perhaps you will make some of your expertise available to the world.
Allison Sayer lives in a schoolbus on an off-grid property in the Alaskan Copper Valley. She has been part of many amazing projects. These include cooking at a remote nature center, managing a multi-family hoop house, volunteering at a chicken sanctuary, and WWOOFing on a small farm. Through her deep friendships throughout the Alaskan wilderness, she has helped many friends develop their homes and dreams. Allison is currently building up her property with the goal of starting her own microgreen farm.