The Best Homesteading Movies, Documentaries, and YouTube Channels

homesteading movies documentaries featured

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!

Remote Living

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)

Happy People

This film by Werner Herzog explores the village of Bakhtia. Three hundred people live in this extremely 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.

Charles Dowding’s “No Dig” Market Garden

Charles Dowding is Elliot Coleman’s British soulmate. In this video, Dowding shows viewers around his market garden in Somerset. He produces an intensive market garden on less than one acre. He does no tilling, and relies exclusively on mulch and compost for fertilization.

Seedsavers Channel

The seedsavers have a channel on YouTube. In addition to documentaries they share step-by-step how-tos from gardeners and farmers around the world. The focus is on saving your own seeds, tubers, bulbs, and cuttings for future harvest. Presenters share tips on harvesting, storing, and planting your own seeds.

Farm to Fork Wyoming

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.

The Mother Earth News and Friends Channel

This channel is dedicated to sustainability. This includes backyard livestock, farming, cooking, and sustainability technology. DIY projects including beauty products, cleaning products, and many others. General news in sustainability is also covered.

Tory Morton’s Suburban Permaculture Channel

Tory Morton takes viewers through his backyard permaculture forest. He discusses permaculture techniques that allow the land to take care of itself.

Beekeeping for Beginners

Want to give beekeeping a try? Tim Durham (aka Walls Bee Man), a long time bee farmer, has rich expertise to draw from for viewers. Although he is extremely knowledgeable, he is also extremely humble. Durham walks people through many different topics including pitfalls beginners may encounter.

The video production is not as slick as what many contemporary channels offer. I’d like to think it’s because he is spending more time with his bees than making movies! You can also tell how passionate Durham is about beekeeping. These videos definitely go in my “dream” category. I don’t keep bees but I watch the videos because I hope to someday. (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.

Cog Hill Farm & Homestead Channel

This channel is from a small homestead in Alabama. They produce livestock, honey, and vegetables. They have a variety of videos specifically related to raising chickens and pigs. This sets them apart from many other sites which focus more on growing plants.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage Channel

Dancing Rabbit is a cooperative, sustainable ecovillage in the midwest. Topics in their video stream include cooperative living, temperate climate permaculture, and lots of how-tos. One of their specialties is sustainable construction. This is a great starting point if you are looking to build cob or straw bale structures.

The Urban Homestead Channel

If you or someone you love is in an urban environment, this channel is filled with food-growing ideas. This channel is produced by a familiy that has been growing their food in an urban environment for over 30 years. Topics include growing food in small spaces, nutrition, DIY, renewable energy, and more.

Market Gardening on a Dime

This video tours viewers through a market garden. Much of this information will not be super new to experienced gardeners. However, the big emphasis of the film is on how to save money and time in the garden. There may be some money saving tips in there that are helpful for you. This may also be a good one to share with friends and family who are interested in getting into gardening at home.

Global Food Security

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

The Soviet Union sponsored fuel-intensive agriculture in Cuba for decades. When the Soviet Union fell, Cuba was suddenly left without the fuel and fertilizers to keep it running. This film explores how Cubans worked together in the crisis. Cubans learned to grow their own food without relying heavily on fuel.

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.

Our Seeds

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.

GMO OMG

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.

Food, Inc.

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.

Vandana Shiva- Future of Food: Dictatorship or Democracy

Vandana Shiva is a leading activist against GMOs in India and around the world. She discusses the development of the food industry and its historical context in post-colonial countries. Shiva makes connections between the control of agriculture and the control of humans.

Shiva’s Ted Talk is quite a bit shorter and more focused on solutions for the future:

Sustainability

Waste=Food

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.

Affluenza

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.

Jonathon Porritt at TedxExeter

World renowned sustainability expert Jonathon Porritt discusses how we can live in a sustainable world by 2050. He advocates that a genuinely sustainable way of life is still available to all of the billions of people on earth. This is an exciting topic because it focuses on all the world’s people rather than a few self-selected individuals. I unfortunately am too cynical to imagine a fully sustainable world for everyone by 2050. However, I do think it is inspiring to focus on solutions rather than problems in our world.

Inspiration

Chef’s Table: Jeong Kwan (S3E1)

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

The Village

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.

Old Times

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. Some recordings are available on YouTube:

Wild Harvest

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.

Little House on the Prairie

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

Burt’s Buzz

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.

The Martian

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.

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Allison Sayer
About Allison Sayer 2 Articles

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.

5 Comments

  1. This is a great reference. Is there a way to make this printable without the video space? I am not good at editing, obviously! Thank you so much

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