Co-opting the CoopWhat's the real cost of homesteading's new hipness?

The last several years have seen an explosion in urban homesteading. According to the American Community Gardening Association, there are currently more than 18,000 community gardens throughout the United States and Canada.

This figure alone speaks to the number of people interested in moving toward self-sufficiency via old-fashioned survival skills. It's a renewal, we're told: a renaissance of interest in craft and traditional homemaking skills. Whether it's the New York Times touting fine furniture craftsmanship in “The Revival of the Artisan” or the Wall Street Journal profiling restaurants that specialize in farm-fresh local produce in “Betting the Farm Menu,” the media focuses on middle- and upper-class craft revival stories without acknowledging those who have preserved these skills in the first place.

Homesteading, particularly urban homesteading, is for some folks an alternative to the dominant social paradigm—a different way of living in a country in prolonged economic flux. But it's a path to independence that doesn't mean giving up access to museums and movie theaters and ModCloth. Search for “homesteading” on Etsy or Pinterest, and the wealth of results—everything from art to downloadable instructions for how to can beans to images of daisy bouquets—is overwhelming.

But for large portions of the poor and immigrant classes, homesteading skills are still survival skills. Can you really have a rebirth of something that never actually died out in the first place?



In Pha Lo's 2011 Salon post, “When Eating Organic Was Totally Uncool,” the writer and nutrition educator recalls the subsistence farming her family practiced in a Hmong immigrant community in Sacramento, California. According to Lo, “[We] grew organic food and raised chickens in our backyards to survive. [And] we did it in secrecy.” Lo's essay is a view into practices that are still closely guarded secrets in many communities. “'Don't tell the Americans,' my mother would always say,” writes Lo, “and, eventually, as I grew into adolescence, I couldn't agree more. I was afraid of being judged.”

As an adult, Lo has not continued her family's practice of organic gardening. “The defiant child food-stamp user in me still needs the validation thatcomes from putting pen to paper and declaring, in writing, that I earned the right to take this food home.” Lo's account speaks to the divide separating the modern urban homesteading heralded in the media and the sustainment and survival practices of poor and immigrant populations—practices that seem to remain unacknowledged and, socially speaking, uncool.

Mainstream cultural emphasis on this “new” homesteading vs. the continuity of traditional skills fostered out of necessity erases the history of homesteading in America. When we talk about the mainstream resurgence of craftwork and Pin-able, packageable skills, we need to acknowledge the foundation of these practices as poor skills—survival skills and “alternate” techniques for accessing food, shelter, and power primarily practiced by those with marginal or nonexistent incomes.

The mainstream appropriation of poor skills might sell books, but it might also be detrimental to the people who do depend on these skills for survival. Simply put, the appropriation of poor skills by the mainstream can end up further marginalizing already marginalized populations who still rely on those skills.


Homesteading has always been motivated by issues of class. The 1862 Homestead Act granted certain applicants (including immigrants, single women, and former slaves) 160 acres of federal land on the west side of the Mississippi River. Those who qualified were required to live and farm on their land for five years. The law was an effort to democratize land ownership in the West; Republicans of the era wanted independent farmers, rather than slave owners, to have a chance at owning land. (Land still occupied by Native Americans, by the way.) But it wasn't motivated by altruism or concern for the landless poor. The Homestead Act was about cutting off another avenue of political power for wealthy Southerners.

And while Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series is a well-known (if romanticized) account of a homesteading family in the 1870s and '80s, there's a diverse and rich history of homesteading in the States. Huck patches, a common name for gardens kept by slaves, were common as a way for slaves to supplement meager rations, and saved many from slow starvation. At the end of World War II, 40 percent of the produce consumed in the United States was grown in “victory gardens”—urban and suburban gardens popularized specifically to address wartime food shortages.

The 1970s saw poor, urban communities pulling together in response to inflation, urban abandonment, and food (in)security. Strengthening social networks and neighborhood relationships rebuilt social infrastructure in stressed communities. These days, community gardens have become a cornerstone of inner-city and urban renewal programs begun by people of color; initiatives from the South Bronx to Detroit to Los Angeles emphasize the power of a garden to help revitalize the community around it.

These efforts are rooted in survival.


Urban homesteading has grown out of this diverse history. Its new incarnation sits at the intersection of city living and small-time subsistence farming, and it ranges from balcony container gardens to small-scale grain production. It includes modern techniques for graywater recycling and well-established food preservation methods like dehydration and canning. The philosophy of urban homesteading still preaches self-sufficiency. Many blogs on the subject speak to a renewed environmental consciousness and the satisfaction of producing one's own food in an uncertain economy.

But in contrast to the Ingalls family or even the community gardeners of the 1970s, today's homesteaders—urban homesteaders in particular—are less isolated and have more flexibility. The need for complete self-sufficiency has waned. Urban homesteading is often an individual effort, practiced by single people and single families.

The Dervaes family, the entrepreneurs behind the Urban Homestead project, is a good example of this. The family has spent 10 years turning an urban lot, a 15-minute drive from downtown Pasadena, into a sustainable farm. They call their family-run organization the Path to Freedom. At their website, you can follow their “10 Elements of Urban Homesteading” checklist or download their press kit. You'll also find instructions not to use the term “urban homesteading” unless referring specifically to them or their products. In 2011, cease-and-desist letters were sent to bloggers who used the term to encompass the general phenomenon of homesteading in the city. It's a far cry from no. 10 on their checklist, “Be a good neighbor.”

Their project is a form of capitalistic homesteading—the Dervaeses sell shirts, hats, seeds, and even a short film at their online store—but it's also about branding. The family provides consulting and workshops based on their own experiences. They have positioned themselves as the face of urban homesteading. That doesn't make them bad people, but it does erase the people who have been practicing these skills for much longer and with much more need.

And, while not quite as extreme, similar erasure is all too common. A proliferation of books and websites all promise to teach the newly interested an array of homesteading skills. New products, from compost bins to how-to instructions for folks wanting to start their own fertilizer business, are steadily introduced to help newly minted urban homesteaders on their adventure. It's not unlike the proliferation of the “not your mother's knitting” trend that took shape in the early 2000s. Books, blogs, classes, and boutiques sprung up, but the attention always seemed to be on needlework's modern hip factor, with little regard for its history. (To say nothing of those for whom the skill wasn't a cute diversion, but a necessity.)

Rising costs from the commodification of poor skills can also leave people who still rely on these skills further marginalized. Williams-Sonoma's “Chicken Coop Predator Kit” ($79.95 not including shipping) is basically a roll of chicken wire with hardware. The coops themselves range from $500 to $1,300. While there probably isn't anything wrong with the coops themselves (and they do look nice), the careful design speaks to a desire to make raising chickens an aesthetic endeavor. The small coops—and coordinating accessory chicken runs that are also available—are deliberately reminiscent of rustic construction. But instead of scrap materials or whatever is economically available, these coops are built from certified-sustainable wood. They are hand-finished with a low-voc acrylic latex paint. You can even order one made from reclaimed redwood to combine “modern green construction with the rustic appeal of an old barn.”

When a chicken coop has more architectural prestige than most houses, image seems to be just as important as the eggs—if not more. Especially when the Williams-Sonoma coops only house four to six hens—a good number for eggs, but not for subsistence.

Economics dictate that when there are more people willing to pay more for a product, the market adjusts up; prices increase across the board. This isn't just the case with coops. Newcomers to chicken raising often go for prestige chickens, fancy-crested breeds, or breeds with feathered feet or extra-long tails. But many sellers also market standard breeds as show breeds—and charge commensurate prices. This kind of price adjusting is good for the people selling chickens, but it can be disastrous for people raising chickens out of necessity. As the prices for livestock and supplies rise, the entry fee for homestead activities could quickly skyrocket beyond the reach of those who most need to practice these skills.

But it's not just about products, it's also about policy. My central Florida town recently implemented an urban-chicken pilot program due to a clamor of interest from young, middle-class community members. The program allows people to keep hens, but no roosters. Participants are allowed to raise chickens for eggs, but not for meat. This means urban homesteaders who want to raise eggs in fancy coops have won out—but anyone who needs to raise chickens for subsistence reasons suffers, and is subject to fines and seizure if they get caught.

Governmental limitation of the “wrong” kind of homesteading can be seen elsewhere. In 2011, Denise Morrison's garden was chopped down by Tulsa, Oklahoma, officials who claimed it violated city ordinances. Morrison grew more than 100 edible and medicinal plants in her yard. Subsistence gardens are more about function than design; they aren't always pretty, and Morrison wasn't raising organic fruit and vegetables in neat rows of raised beds. Despite a stay issued by local courts, officials removed every last one of her plants. Unemployed and without health insurance, Morrison had relied on her garden for food and medicine. “They basically took away my livelihood,” she told Tulsa's KOTV.

“Homesteading, by necessity, isn't sexy,” says Genny Charet, who blogs at “If it can't be packaged and spoon-fed to one identifiable demographic, it loses its platform. And how do you package and sell 'I don't have enough money for Advil when I have my period so I grow raspberry leaf instead?' It's not fair or right, but then, mainstream media is not an avenue that can be counted on to advance the interests of marginalized populations.” Cases like Morrison's are common; widespread media coverage of them is not.

While poor people of color, like Denise Morrison, steadily practice survival, the cool kids are lauded for their revolutionary interest in a gentrified version of subsistence farming. Morrison's only recourse is a lengthy—and likely expensive—court battle. Even if she wins her complaint, it isn't as if the city can replace her carefully cultivated garden.

Small-scale farmers in Michigan are feeling the squeeze as well. Earlier this year, Michigan's Invasive Species Order went into effect. While innocuous on the surface, the order mandates the destruction of any “feral” pig—including many heritage breeds that have been raised on small family farms for decades. In addition, the order also targets pigs that are raised outside, meaning only pigs raised within the confinement pens of major farms are considered legitimate. Heritage pig farmers in Michigan are already facing fines and orders to depopulate their pig farms.

More traditional homesteaders are also impacted when the mainstream looks at homesteading as an individual rather than a community effort. Andrea Chandler lives in rural Virginia. She and her husband and their dogs and cats (and goats and chickens) are homesteaders. Long before Chandler settled on her 2.5 acres of grass and trees, she learned about edible plants from her grandfather, who learned about them from his own parents during the Depression. Chandler is concerned about how much damage can be done by inexperienced foragers. “Native plants in a lot of areas are barely hanging on because of habitat destruction and invasive species. They don't need a bunch of assholes grazing them because they think it's fun.”

She continues, “[Newcomers to urban homesteading] are claiming these skills and playing at them like a game, making money off appropriating and selling knowledge that the people who actually need it often share for free.” When books by educated white folks are positioned as the primary repositories of knowledge about homesteading skills (take Canning & Preserving for Dummies, for instance), it further erases the poor people who have preserved these skills. It is not a matter of authenticity; rather, it is an ethicial question associated with cutting out populations that could actually benefit from this resurgence of interest in homesteading.

In the end, Chandler tells me, “I don't want people to get the impression that I don't want people to learn all these skills. They're valuable to have even if you're an urban hipster, because they can do things like teach you what we've sacrificed to get mass-produced agricultural products in to grocery stores. They can give people a sense of connection to their roots.”

There's no debating the sense of accomplishment many neo-homesteaders feel as they practice their newly learned skills. Blogs such as Hipster Homesteading provide direct insight into just how invested many people are in these skills. But when that sense of personal satisfaction comes with a price for already marginalized populations, we must examine our own practices. There seems to be little acknowledgment of the idea that poor and immigrant populations might be directly involved in the broader homesteading movement, to the benefit of everyone involved.


Pha Lo writes, “Before organic produce exploded into a $25 billion industry, before city gardening became cool, I grew up in a Hmong refugee community, living the urban organic lifestyle not because it was fashionable, but because we were poor. I couldn't wait to leave it behind.” The tension between the past and the future, for people with similar backgrounds, can be overwhelming.

I learned how to sew at my great-grandmother's feet, literally seated on the floor underneath her quilting frame. Now I work an office job, and I supplement what I buy at the organic farmers' market with what I grow in my own container garden. I am aware with every phone call back home that I can do them because of my family's working-poor background—but that I can do these things without shame because urban homesteading is cool again.

I'm not homesteading because I need it to survive. But these are my roots; these are the skills my family practiced for their own survival. And I think that there must be a way to practice these skills while being socially responsible, aware of how the new energy in the urban homesteading movement can negatively impact the people who will continue to use these skills out of necessity.

My conversations with my maternal grandparents, the people I turn to for everything from gardening tips to venison recipes, are not framed in pop culture terms. They garden and preserve food and freeze meat because these are the things they have always done; they grew up planting in the spring and fall. When my grandmother reminds me that you shouldn't make jelly on humid days (it might not set properly), it's advice born of lifelong experience. It's not a lifestyle choice; it's simply life.

This article was published in Habit{at} Issue #57 | Winter 2013
by Marianne Kirby
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Marianne Kirby lives, works, and gardens in Orlando, Florida. She is the coauthor of Lessons from the Fat-O-Sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body and is a regular contributor at, where she writes about nail polish, class war, and DIY from a personal perspective.

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26 Comments Have Been Posted

Wonderful article!

I am from upstate New York and now live in urban Seattle. Your essay resonates so well with my experiences, where gardens seem more of a status symbol despite being heralded as a marker of sustainability.

I wrote a response here:

Mostly I lament that you wrote a better article than I would have and did it first :)

Thank you!

These days, community gardens

These days, community gardens have become a cornerstone of inner-city and urban renewal programs begun by people of color; initiatives from the South Bronx to Detroit to Los Angeles emphasize the power of a garden to help revitalize the community around it. <a href="">Florist</a>

I really have to just do a

I really have to just do a facepalm at that Williams-Sonoma chicken coop. You want wood painted with low-voc paint? Hell, how about no-voc paint? Mix up some good old-fashioned milk paint, and paint it yourself! I'm one of the middle class white urban people you're talking about (or maybe you're not talking about me, if I go by that great-grandmother paragraph), but that's enough for *me* to want them off my (metaphorical) lawn! If you're gonna call yourself a homesteader, I'd think the willingness to make things with your hands would be a pre-requisite.

I'm not completely clear that "the need for complete self-sufficiency has waned," as you say. With the highly orchestrated "just in time" system in use for transport of goods across the country to your local grocery store, we're actually left quite vulnerable in case of a natural disaster. If the trucks can't get in to make the deliveries, the stores will run out relatively quickly. What's that stat about New York City? Only a 3 day supply of food?

I grew up in the suburbs with a food gardener for a mother. The next door neighbor also grew food in her back yard, and they made sure to teach us kids how to maintain a garden. So after a couple years in the city, I started missing being able to walk out to the back yard and pick a fresh tomato.

Something you didn't mention in the article but that I found when I started looking at being able to grow my own food again: allotments are either very expensive or have years-long waiting lists now that food gardening is popular. Good luck getting into a community garden here, and if you manage it, I doubt your yield will be worth more than the fee to rent the plot. I do have a food garden again now in a friend's back yard. Several of us have planted things in her back yard, and the agreement is basically sharecropping: she gets some of the yield.

I'm trying to figure out the contrast between the part at the beginning where it's something the poor traditionally do, but then at the end it's also in your roots because your grandparents did it, and... Maybe I'm just taking too long a view on this, but until the 20th century, basically, "the poor" was almost everybody.

I think most people around today, if they asked their grandparents about life during their youth (or had asked when they were alive), could learn many traditional skills from them, specifically because of how necessary they were during the Great Depression. I have no doubt that my grandmother's requirement that I be able to sew, embroider, crochet, and bake before going off to kindergarden were born of her early life experiences.

You might have to go back to great-great grandparents for some other pre-industrial skills. My great-great grandmother (according to immigration records) was a spinster by occupation. She made yarn for a living. She didn't teach me, but I've learned the skill now. And I'm very sure they don't mean "spinster" as in "unmarried" because she's listed with her married name.

Seems judgement is universal.

Seems judgement is universal.

I'm not sure I agree with

I'm not sure I agree with several of the examples in your article - was Michigan's invasive species act, or Morrison's garden, or even the "chicken's for eggs" ordinance really examples of decisions CAUSED by the urban homesteader's movement, or are they examples of the movement not being strong enough? I can't imagine anyone interested in raising their own food applauding garden destruction, or lobbying to get rid of free range pigs. As for the chicken law, I suspect folks were just happy that a law letting them keep chickens was passed at all - a few years ago in Cambridge, people keeping chickens as pets (middle class students) were forced to get rid of them.

The examples of "damage" to poor people look a lot like the actions of people outside of the homesteading movement, and are nothing new. There have been city ordinances against "messy" gardens and raising and butchering your own meat for much longer than the urban homesteading movement has been cool.

two steps forward one step back

There has been a similar dynamic with midwifery licensure and homebirth....Getting a practice into the legal realms makes it visible and subject to regulation. The advances tend to be incremental and can leave portions of the movement/community even more vulnerable. Specifically with homebirth you might see the legalization of a homebirth nurse midwife with a BSN but a direct entry midwife who trains directly with midwives may go from being invisible to being 'illegal'

The point isn't that "urban

The point isn't that "urban homesteaders" are intentionally destroying marginalized people's lifestyles, for they are not. But rather they are blind to the destruction going on because the issue is portrayed as including only a certain type of person. Change has been made on policies regarding chickens (which is great!) through the work of homesteaders gaining acceptance. but it is the new homesteaders who are otherwise accepted in society who are being accepted for their "alternative" ways. Society is not accepting of the practices if they are held by marginalized people. And the homesteader activist is unaware that there are people who raise meat chickens to survive so is more or less content with the 4 hen law, for example. I believe the author is calling on those who identify with this movement to be more aware of what the history is to determine who the stakeholders are since everyone deserves access to delicious food.

I can see where you're coming

I can see where you're coming from here. But REALLY? Bitching about "urban homesteading" becoming a hipster thing and ruin it for the real homesteaders? It's better than than the twinkie lovin, hummer driving assholes of a few years ago. Eventually people will get it, and understand the true spirit of being self sufficient. Meanwhile, can we stop being butt-hurt about demand going up for space at community gardens? It's a sign of a good thing.

Exactly! People are so eager

Exactly! People are so eager to label something 'hipster.'

Homesteading not being

Homesteading not being accessible to everyone, and especially to poor people, is something that should concern anyone dedicated to the movement. If you truly want to build strong and healthy communities gentrification should concern you.


I'm a little confused at the idea that rich dilettantes force earnest subsistence level folk out of the game by raising the buy-in price. What's the logic there? There are plenty of chickens to buy, and the article claims that the hipster choice is usually a fancy chicken breed - that doesn't provide buying competition for subsistence folk. Hipsters take up the rentable/buyable/borrowable land, yes, but seed and tools and stock probably aren't affected by their participation unless it's to lessen the cost to all over time.

Where I do see hipsters and rich folks breaking the system is in the farmer's market area. I can see a half dozen vanity farms bought by people with money to spare. These farms are run by hired hands and are operated expecting a loss. The vegetables are healthy and green and great, yes, but they are dumped on the market at a less-than-reasonable cost because the owner doesn't actually care about paying his expenses. This breaks the system for the farmers who farm for a living and aren't funded by parents or investment banker spouse.


Participants are allowed to raise chickens for eggs, but not for meat. This means urban homesteaders who want to raise eggs in fancy coops have won out—but anyone who needs to raise chickens for subsistence reasons suffers, and is subject to fines and seizure if they get caught.

How is this? Do you mean meat birds = subsistance? I think this is a useless article. I'm an urban homesteader and I'm proud. I grew up canning home grown food and I raise chickens and soon ducks. Not sure why you must naysay folks trying new things even if they are traditional. W-S and the Dervaes' are not representative of the movement and the efforts of individuals.

If you're not a vegetarian

If you're not a vegetarian and you raise chickens or ducks or rabbits for subsistence the chances are very high that you will want to eat some of them. I have a friend who grew up raising chickens and keeping chickens as pets, and in her household chickens who were destructive (chickens who ate their own or other chickens' eggs; chickens who were violent and bullied other chickens) were the ones who ended up in a pot.

What else do you do with them? Chickens are individuals and in a group of well-treated free-range chickens you can still get a chicken sociopath. That chicken is an investment, and in a city you can't just turn it loose either. Your only choices are to bury it or to eat it!

Devaes are responsible for having the movement in the first plac

Much is owed the Dervaes for bringing free info for many years about Urban Homesteading through their website. To clarify about the trademarks read

Things I thought of when

Things I thought of when reading this article: red herrings and straw men. As the commenter above put it, the cause and effect between people like DeVries family, the increasingly incomplete 'hipster' label have little to do with the complex and dynamic reorientation of space that is occurring around the country. There are institutions with much larger budgets, more far fetched and pro-development agendas (governments and non-profits esp) that perhaps should also be questioned with just as much digging, judgement, and tenacity as the author does here. We that are growing food in cities as one part of many other areas of life (energy, water, transportation) that need to change or the species--human is gone. We can do this more effectively where communities are meeting more of their own needs, and that process is not going to be static.

Boring Critiques

Great article... and the criticisms on it so far are boring as hell. I'd rather people eat on their Twinkies in their suburbans, at least they are more in touch with their discriminatory behaviors. And... seriously, by creating niche markets for a privileged class of people, is creating a better society? We're creating something better by feeding the system our subversive thoughts and feelings, really? For who? Self-sufficient my ass. Communities which bridge the gap, not isolated individualism, are much more interesting to me. And yes, hunty, you're going to get called out for your hipster crap, because the way you practice these new ideas reeks when you're not invested in the community around you. Glad you can afford a good legal team to keep your brand name and house, while I am one of those Oklahomans whose gardens were ripped up out of the soil because we used recycled materials to build with.

Calm down, accept that you are being called out, and do the research. Yes you have freedom of speech but that doesn't mean you're rooted in any kind of reality. Keep paying your taxes and eating your organic (C) produce without knowing where on earth the word organic came from...

Grow some vegetables

I have to say the new movement of middle class white people wanting to buy chickens at factory farm hatcheries via the mail only to keep them as pets until they stop laying then eat their bodies and burn incense freaks me out.

The only pretense people (such as the Hmong communities cited in this story) have for wanting to live in close proximity to chickens (or rabbits, goats, etc) in the city, then kill them and eat them is that they have "always done it."

For the urban hipster set there is no precedent. Don't give me the line that you "grew up on a farm" and now you live in a city and kill chickens. Anyone with an advanced degree who gentrifies the ghetto only to turn around and make their newly gentrified West Oakland lawn "rural" again is living in a romantic pastoral delusion.

Leave the animals out of it. Grow some vegetables and stop pretending you are an activist when what you really want is to raise property values and kill animals for pleasure.

Thank you for this article

Thank you for this article, it's a great start to a critical look at urban homesteading. I'm off now to share the shit out of it....

Creating needless division

While the view that 'hipster homesteading' can be gentrifying is an important one to consider, this article only serves to do exactly what the author purports to condemn: it privileges certain types of knowledge over others, dividing homesteaders into those who are good and worthy, and those who are wrong and undeserving, in a damaging and unnecessary way.

Conveniently yet inexplicably, the author positions herself in the former group, since her skills were learned from her grandmother, thus somehow considered more valid than those who don't have the privilege of accessing family-based knowledge.

As a previous commenter pointed out, learning skills from your grandparents that you practice as an economically comfortable urban adult does not exclude you from your own accusation of participating in the gentrification of these practices. It places you right in the middle of it.

In addition, the article provides absolutely zero recommendations for how those interested in urban homesteading can "practice these skills while being socially responsible."

So other than attempting to create division in a movement that I see as generally positive, I don't see what this article offers.

Class and Race

I appreciated the article, not because I agree with all or most of the cited examples. I just think that in my community of Durham, NC, like many communities around the country, urban homesteading, diy entrprenueurs, green anything, goes hand in hand with gentrification, cut-throat capitalism, deeper power dynamics in the communities that are the unwilling recipients of these hipsters. They come from up north down south to make their dollar go further, they go from suburbs to inner-city areas because they want to not have to drive as much and be more green, they make food trucks for immigrant labor hip, they make poor man's salad patch a flag of urban renewal. Many of these hipsters, don't acknowledge their race or class, and so have to answer to no one who is beneath them, they are fighting the good fight and need a big pat on th back for the innovation that they create in the face of poverty. Hipsters are just hippies, and in 15 years they will be yupsters... Question is what happens to the void that is left from the culture that they have consumed, or the generational equity that it afforded?

A little more than status quo

I think you can only call it needless division, if you have the privilege to sit back and turn it into an academic dissertation or some shit. "Now, which perspective should we look at it from" That's bullshit, maybe you should do your own damn research and present some practical solutions to the problem of hipster gentrification, and Green urban renewal. I can't believe this is actually even a discussion. Poverty vs. locally brewed beers. If hipsters and green geeks want to do something. Create business and turn them into worker owned-cooperatives, try doing admin, secretary, or some lower level position in a low-income people of color led organization and not get paid shit, because you actually have a trust fund to fall back on. Try renting a house and getting to know the politics in a community before you plop your ass down in a place that you know nothing about and could unknowingly shift power. I could write a book, and I will offer a title for this open source tool-kit. How hipsters can build relationships outside of capitalism, tool kit for urban cooperation. I will help you write it...

Thank you!!!!

This resonates with my experience so much. I was raised in a working class and rural mostly white community but am now a privileged DC food justice organizer. This is really helpful in thinking about the appropriation happening in our urban community, and how we can organize in a way that doesn't reinforce it.

One of the silliest articles

One of the silliest articles I've ever wasted my time reading. I can find nothing negative about people becoming more self sufficient. I don't care where they came from or what their motivations.


First of all, most of the urban homesteaders are women. Urban homesteading is part of an overall effort to find ways to be more sustainable and connect with the earth. It's not particularly cool. It's slow, contemplative, and long-term in nature. It's not an isolated activity. Most are connected with local groups in sharing cuttings, plants and techniques. I think it's only for the wealthy when you're talking about a really large city, like NY. Most people don't live in cities that big. Most urban homesteads are in the suburbs, where I live, the least cool place of all. Most adults are raising children and using the urban homestead to teach their children about science and nature. Most students have been cut off from these things, since the schools started focusing on math and reading testing only. The taste of eggs is so much better than from a CAFO. Many people who raise chickens have serious problems with confined animal feeding operations. Learning to grow organic fruit and vegetables is a very frugal way to get high quality healthy produce, which all Americans need to get more of. Cuba is a huge inspiration to most of us urban homesteaders, and hardly anyone in Cuba is rich and white. Almost all people in Cuba basically grow some of their food. The idea that urban homesteaders are somehow negatively affecting poorer people in their ability to grow food is absurd. Most urban homesteaders have some connection to their family culture, but are trying to recover other parts. The work that urban homesteaders is part of a necessary wave to change our way of producing food in a way that doesn't destroy the environment. This movement must occur for us to have a healthy environment in this country. I think this article applies to maybe 1% of all urban homesteaders. The author is certainly negative, but it's not particularly clear why.
John S


I too come from a poor background where these "homesteading" skills are a means of survival. From that background comes a wealth of knowledge to tap into. There was a point where I thought I was too cool for these activities, but now I'm working an office job and striving to quit and return to living off the land. I hope to work in my community to connect millennial's with the wisdom of past generations in order to preserve land, culture and heritage.

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