The term “homesteading” typically conjures up images of prairies, canning jars, tractors, cows, quaint houses on lots of land and off-grid living. However, after watching The Homestead Documentary, you will see a tapestry of people and homesteads, each so unique in their own ways.
Melissa K. Norris and Carrie Wilson created this miniseries to feature fresh faces and ways of living off your land alongside an enormously diverse group of pioneers. The cast of characters are similar in their desire to be more independent and self-sufficient. But each has found creative methods that individually suit them best.
Technically a “homestead” is defined as “the home and adjoining land occupied by a family.” Most people overcomplicate the definition with notions that a homestead needs to be in the country, on tons of acreage, remote and/or pretty out of touch with modern conveniences. The Homestead Documentary, however, showcases homestead families living on lots as small as .25 acres in the middle of cities. The miniseries also shows some on bigger plots of land the owners have worked hard to engineer.
“This documentary is not about people who are trying to turn back the clock and live like it’s the 1800s, but rather bringing those old-fashioned methods and principles into their daily routines to enjoy the benefits and rewards that homesteading has to offer,” explains Wilson.
“These people are homesteading using the conveniences of a modern world, using technology, appliances and resources that weren’t available 200 years ago!”
The documentary features beekeepers, animal breeders, farmers, chicken keepers, gardeners, builders, ranchers and many homesteading profiles sharing modern ways they make a profit and sustain their homesteads.
A Personal Story
When Wilson relocated her family from the U.K. to the U.S. two years ago, she was eager to grow her own food and be more self-sufficient. She began her homestead journey in 2002 in a quest to reclaim health through food following the death of her first husband to terminal illness.
She turned to the internet to learn techniques and skills she could bring to her home. She quickly learned homesteading isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario.
Carrie wanted to create a more approachable and connected way of learning from others. Thus, The Homestead Documentary was born out of a desire to show different aspects of homesteading in tangible ways from the homesteaders themselves. Today she is a wife, stay-at-home-mom and homesteader in the rural midwest. She is passionate about showing people how to bring a bounty to their own backyard on a budget, and this project propelled her voice in the homesteading community.
Getting Things Going
Finding participants was easy. “I initially announced the project in 2019 and my request for participants by putting a shoutout on Instagram. It was like the moment when you set a toy boat loose in a stream and then hold your breath to see if it will capsize or not,” says Wilson.
“I was blown away by the number of people who were excited about the idea. I quickly had a team of people ready to link arms and make it happen. It was amazing what close friendships we developed as a result of working on the project together.”
Finding a strategy for success was not as simple. After directing and producing Season 1 totally on her own, Wilson soon discovered Season 2 was turning into too big of a project for one person. Knowing she wanted to find a professional producer to partner with, she started a Kickstarter campaign.
Unfortunately the campaign did not meet its goal. Wilson was forced to find a new way to proceed.
This new path happened to include homestead guru Melissa K. Norris. Melissa is a fifth-generation homesteader helping hundreds of thousands of people each month to use simple modern homesteading for a healthier and self-sufficient life through her website, YouTube channel, popular Pioneering Today podcast, the Pioneering Today Academy, quarterly magazines and books.
Norris came across the documentary through an Instagram reel shared by Portage View Farm (featured in season 2). She reached out and invited Wilson on her podcast to talk about the project.
“At that moment in time, I was licking my wounds, following a failed Kickstarter campaign that I had launched to try and raise funds for the production of season 2,” explains Wilson. “After we recorded the podcast episode, I shared with Melissa privately that I was not sure how the project could move forward. I nearly fell off my chair when she asked me if I’d consider bringing her onboard as a business partner.
“She really gave the project wings and we haven’t looked back.”
As for the future, Wilson shares, “We would like to continue telling the story of small farms and homesteads, showcasing all the different ways people approach homesteading. We have seen and heard the impact those stories can have in spurring others on in their own journeys. I would love to tell you we are immediately planning season 3, but the reality of the world of media and film is that it takes large budgets and man hours to get a quality production.
“So, with just having launched season 2, we are going to wait and see how it does at the box office first,” Carrie laughs.
“But on a serious note, if we do start casting for season 3, we will do so through our mailing list. Anyone is welcome to join at www.homesteaddocumentary.com .”
If you have spent any time on YouTube or Instagram looking for Homesteaders, you have probably already met some of the families involved. Here is a look at Season 1 & 2 participants: