One of the most critical aspects of picking a new property is understanding the local culture. This isn't something that I thought of before this property, but I’ve learned my lesson. To recap, last week, I laid out the situation of the area we moved to and our background that led to us calling Appalachia home. Hindsight always makes things clear, but when searching for land, I was focused on the climate, easy access, flat land to farm, cost, and was within 4 hours of my previous home. Well, those are good places to start, but life is so much more complicated than that.
To succeed, let alone thrive, one needs to have a clear idea of where their future home fits into their holistic life plan. Now that we are here and are building our homestead, I get to share all the mistakes that I made and how I have adapted to the challenges encountered in this part of the country.
Let’s dive into researching the local culture. This seems a bit obvious now, but looking back, I wish I would have checked out forums in the area to get a feel for what people are saying. Websites like City-Data will be invaluable in finding what the locals and transplants are saying about your prospective new home. I take the recommendations from locals who have lived in that area their whole lives with caution. My reasoning for this is if you have lived in the same microcosm your entire life, how can you give an unbiased opinion? Personally, experiences from outsiders provide a clearer picture for those of us looking to move to these places.
Know Your Region:
Appalachia is an interesting place to live. Industry was the main reason for this area's development. As most factories and mines have shut down, the small towns dependent on these businesses have been depopulating for decades. I foresee many towns in Appalachia going extinct as the stagnation of intellect, resources, and jobs erode any hope of restoration. The sheer remoteness appears at first glance to be an ideal place to retreat to, but keep in mind that if an area is remote in today's industrial society, these places will be even harder to inhabit as supplies run out. Having said that, I could see some strategically placed towns continuing into the de-industrialized world. I would assume resources and the inhabitants' grit will decide what villages live or die in the future.
Some towns are easier to assimilate into than others. That is why I believe it is essential to visit in person as much as possible and gauge what your instincts are telling you. No place will be the perfect utopia you want it to be. There will be problems and people you may not like. That is understandable. When you explore an area, ask yourself if you feel comfortable being around the locals. Do you feel safe? Can you see yourself here for the rest of your life living out your goals? Trust your gut. We all need to listen to our intuition, and this is an excellent opportunity to "exercise those muscles." We live in a massive country full of diverse people. If one place makes you feel uncomfortable, you're not being harsh or judgmental. Your feelings are valid. Accept it and look someplace else.
One of the primary goals for anyone aware of the fragile global supply lines is to grow as much of their own food as possible. By looking up farmers' markets, you can see which areas have a healthy local food culture or a poor one. This also helps to give you an idea of the local community's attitude toward food production. Some small towns I have looked up have a thriving 20+ vendor profile with a diversity of products. Other small towns have very few vendors or have a more commercial/wholesale-based system. I would stay away from the latter.
The Amish are an excellent example of commercial/wholesale agriculture. Contrary to common romantic views of Amish culture, they spray the heck out of their vegetables, which is not sustainable or healthy. I would go so far as to say that if you want to take a deep dive into the area's food culture, you could use Google Earth or Google Maps to zoom in to see if potential neighbors have vegetable gardens. Just a thought if you have some spare time. All other variables being equal, focusing on small towns or counties supportive of small farms, which provide a diversity of products, will undoubtedly help your chances of survival. In addition, being active at these local markets helps form friendships and makes you a valued member of your new community.
Many states have extension agencies with YouTube channels exploring their county's agricultural scenes. I realize their conventional agriculture recommendations are not helpful; still, the data they share on the health and diversity of county farmers is another tool in understanding what grows well in that particular area.
The future will be founded on agriculture, so that is why I place a lot of emphasis on communities that have the potential to produce sustainable quantities of food.
I believe being able to farm on any scale will be vital to the future of young folks.
You do not need 100 acres to make this happen. Many books, videos, and websites show how you can support yourself on 1 acre of suitable land. The smaller the property, the more creative you can be in designing systems of abundance. In this insightful video, Geoff Lawton of Zaytuna farm shows you how to begin designing a new property.
Lone Wolf Fallacy:
Furthermore, I would advise against moving to the sticks to avoid future unrest. Charles Hugh Smith wrote a wonderful article on the ridiculous "lone-wolf" ideology. Not only will remote areas see shortages first, as I previously mentioned, but crime may become a significant issue (which we explore in further detail in Finding Home Part 4: Human Environment). You are not an island; you need other people to rely on to build community.
Our society has neglected community cohesion which has lulled Americans into a false sense of independence. In a de-industrialized life, there are so many things to get done to survive that you will need to surround yourself with capable people with a diversity of skill sets.
Diversity That Matters:
A mix of rural communities within a reasonable drive to medium-sized population centers may be a better choice for finding like-minded people. A range of education levels and economic vocations provides greater community resilience. Joel Skousen points out:
"Predominately rural, agricultural areas have plenty of nice people, but very little in the way of intellectual stimulation or good thinkers. In short, it is very frustrating dealing with people who are relatively incapable of understanding difficult arguments and who haven’t the inclination to expand their thinking abilities to learn."
Skousen continues, "Unfortunately, in small towns with a much higher percentage of non-professionals, it is hard to change opinions and initiate action over issues that involve difficult arguments and complexity." The challenges engulfing us are indeed complex. It will be prudent to surround yourself with a mixture of people from various walks of life. Once again, City-data is a great source to explore education levels, household income, employment, and more. When using City-data's map, I compare counties I am interested in with the county I grew up in. Having spent two decades in my home county, I can then use that data and experience to see how other places stack up. If the other counties have better stats, that is an excellent sign to explore those areas further.
Religion is going to make a comeback as hardships increase for Americans. The saying "there is no atheist in the trenches" rings true. People will search for help and significance as their normalcy bias cracks under the pressures of a declining civilization.
If you identify as something other than heterosexual, you should research what towns or locations are more open to your viewpoints. Current mainstream culture mistakenly mandates that everyone else should cow-tow to our every thought. This is not only impossible but cultivates narcissism which is unhealthy. Instead, look for areas in which you would accept others and where they would be accepting of you. Life is complicated enough already, don't make it harder on yourself than it needs to be.
The Uselessness of Politics:
If the past election and current events are not obvious enough, the government is not listening to the people. To me, this makes them irrelevant. This is why I write about walking away from that broken system. I find political affiliation to be a lot less important as time goes on.
Currently, we all want to be around people who think exactly as we do. If this is a deal-breaker, that is your prerogative. Worrying about who you voted for will take a back seat to growing enough food for your family and friends. Reality will straighten our priorities out for us.
When I check out counties and towns that interest me, finding community development centers is a significant plus. These centers add tremendous value to local towns and communities. Examples of what I would call "community development centers" are Christian summer camps, pet adoption centers, spiritual learning organizations, community parks, involved public libraries, farm animal rescues, botanical gardens, historic preservation clubs, bed and breakfasts, wineries, honeybee clubs, community gardens, and more. All of these places contribute to a positive local cultural environment.
Research, Explore, Visit:
No one knows your needs better than you do, so it's a good idea to research what cultural factors are important to you. Through my research and personal experience, I believe it is imperative to explore the area you want to live in ahead of time to get a good look into the lives of the locals. As we saw in Finding Home Part 1, I am implementing all the above ideas to find the perfect place. It's a smart idea to search for places where you would fit in and feel safe. In addition, bringing skills, business, and community involvement will help build social cohesion between you and your new neighbors. I hope you found these ideas helpful in your search for a new home. Next week we will explore another critical topic that will help you find the right place.