Homesteaders and the Next Great Depression

Earlier this week the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released their recent data showing that the United States GDP fell by 0.9% in the second quarter, after declining 1.6% in the first quarter. Generally, two consecutive quarters of a negative GDP growth means that we are officially in a recession, or very rapidly headed into one. But many Americans, especially those who practice sustainable living, are wondering—are we headed into the next Great Depression?

It’s a sobering thought to have. I think back to the talks and interviews I’ve had with our older generations of homesteaders, and it hits me to the core. The life they used to live could one day be the life that our current generations live, or that our children live. In fact, it’s one of the reasons my family tries hard to live more sustainably—so that our children are adapted and equipped to working long days, eating from our own produce, and preserving what we raise. Because one day, it will happen again.

I can recall a news episode I watched, years ago, that stated the mountain folk in the Blue Ridge and throughout Appalachia had no idea there was a “Great Depression” happening, because this was simply their life. They already grew their own food, raised their own livestock, preserved what they needed for the year, and more. Of course, some of it was also because of poverty, but I don’t believe for a second that every family lived in poverty.

People often see the photos of the Great Depression from the mid-west, which were very startling with starving children and farm families looking a mess. But the mid-west and west were also experiencing a major drought at the time called the “Dust Bowl”. This ecological set-back, combined with the Great Depression, put an even bigger stress on the mid-west and western parts of America. These are most of the photos you see from the media when it comes to the Great Depression, but this was not the picture of America as a whole. Albeit, financial stresses were major. For the record, the mid-west and western parts of America are once again experiencing severe drought.

Continuing on, it wasn’t until two years into the depression that homesteading families started feeling the depression in regard to livestock feed and other farm necessities. Supply chain disruptions were more of an issue than finances, because the homesteader wasn’t dependent on a city job. They were often just farmers and self-employed individuals. They provided for themselves from the farm, and they provided for others from the farm.

Even with supply chain disruptions, they adapted. Homesteaders are used to adapting. If homesteading has taught us nothing else, it’s that life is constantly changing. Many things in life go right, but many things also go wrong. And so, we continue forward because we have to—we naturally adapt.

Now, to put all of this into perspective for you, the GDP hit a 26.7% decline which set off the Great Depression. We are currently at a 2.5% decline here in America. It doesn’t take long, however, to get to a much steeper decline as we head into fall and winter. Businesses normally sell well in the spring and summer months, and then cut back their inventory a bit during the winter months (unless it’s winter specific items). The fact that businesses are already not reordering products in the second quarter of the year is concerning.

Within the time of the Great Depression, there was also a recession from 1937 to 1938. I have always found that interesting (since we were already in a depression), but it’s good to know your history and why it happened. At that time, Franklin D. Roosevelt was the president. He created a “new deal”, which he promised would do some balancing within the federal government (sound familiar?). By 1936, Roosevelt had increased the federal budget deficit by $13.7 billion dollars with his new deal. In 1936, our national deficit was $33.7 billion dollars.

In order to combat the national deficit, Americans were hit with a large tax increase. The federal government also cut spending. Both of which quickly led us into a recession in 1937. Why? Because people started losing their jobs. Those who wanted to work no longer had a place to work. And so, a recession began. This has already started happening. In 2021, self-employed entrepreneurs were hit hard because their tax credits were taken away. The government needs more money, so they start with the self-employed.

This is just basic economics, but here’s the kicker. Now, in 2022, the federal budget deficit isn’t $33.7 billion—it’s $2.8 trillion. We owe a lot of countries a lot of money from borrowing, and one day they’ll cash in on that, but I digress.

When we went into the “Great Recession” (yes, that’s what it was officially called) in 2009, the federal budget deficit was hovering under half-a-trillion dollars. I remember 2009 very vividly. It was the recession that prompted my husband and I to realize that the way we were living life wasn’t going to work if this recession happened again. The Lord provided for us, but we racked up a lot of credit card debt to make ends meet. My husband had lost his job because, even as a tradesman, people couldn’t afford to have things done. It was during that experience that we really knew we needed to get serious about sustaining our lives. With a brand new baby at the time (our first child), this just couldn’t happen again. We had to be prepared next time. We are now both self-employed and depend on no one for a job like we did in 2009. And while that seems scary to some, it has proven to be the best experience and moves in our life. It has enabled us to be prepared for “next time”.

Friends, when looking at the graphs and numbers, it’s time for another recession. Maybe even a depression. The beauty of it, however, is that I know many of you are absolutely prepared for it. Since starting Homesteaders of America (HOA) in 2016, we have helped hundreds-of-thousands of people gain the skills, mindset, and education in order to face troubled times like what may lie ahead. This brings me so much joy—the greater purpose.

In a recent HOA YouTube interview with Shawn and Beth Dougherty, and John Moody, Beth said to me “Amy, you must have had some intuition when you began HOA in 2016 that something was coming”. I’ll be honest, I didn’t. But I kept feeling the prompting of the Lord to begin this organization and event. I had one opposition after another. There have been times I wanted to quit, but really, I was just tired and learned to rest. But the one thing we have never lacked is the ability to have this event—be it financially or physically. I absolutely believe that we are here to help people learn how to live a sustainable life for more than just a trend or fun event. This is how HOA is different—not just “another” homesteading conference. And we welcome everyone. While most of our HOA team are believers, it doesn’t mean you have to be in order to come to our events. Just know, we have a greater purpose and reason for doing what we do. It drives us to keep going and producing.

All of this to say, whether you believe we are headed towards a spiraling recession, or the second Great Depression, now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to prepare not only yourself and your family, but your communities.

America used to be an agrarian society—a nation of small farmers and business owners. I believe that we should get back to that society. America was strong and financially sufficient. But more importantly, we were community based, not government dependent. In a society that now tells us we should be afraid of everything and only trust what “they” shove down our throats, be the community that goes off the beaten path and says “I am not afraid”. I’m not afraid of failing. I’m not afraid of providing. I’m not afraid of taking control of my family’s health. I’m not afraid of raw milk from my milk cow or my neighbors milk cow. I’m not afraid of a Great Depression—because we lean on each other, not any government entity or hand out. Be brave.

If you don’t know what this agrarian society looked like, let me paint a picture of it for you from the older generations I’ve talked to. You can also hear some of it yourself in an interview I did with Mason Hutcheson a few years back.

Farmers and homesteaders knew their neighbors. They had bells that they would ring if someone needed help—their neighbors would come running. They would help each other harvest their fields. They shared harvest calendars. They would share equipment. This community would barter for food and products. And after the days were done, many times they’d get together on their days off and fellowship. Women would help other women in the kitchen and with their children. Men would help other men in the field. Women helped alongside their men, and men helped alongside their women. Trucks from the city would come to some homesteads and collect honey, eggs, or milk for the city folk. Children helped around the farm, and then ran off to take a dip in the creek. Days were long, but they were productive. It was simple. It was real. This was their everyday life, that’s it.

It’s not just a fairytale sounding life. It was a hard life. But man, was it beautiful. What a beautiful life to have your food source so short and small. So close to you. How beautiful it was to know your entire community around you. How amazing it was to just be home. And to like being at home. So often in today’s society, people don’t even like being at home. They don’t even know what “home” means because they are so disconnected from real life.

Wherever you are on your homesteading journey, I hope you know how blessed you are to have even begun. If you haven’t started your homesteading journey, I hope you know that you can start even if you live in an apartment in the city. Start by shortening your food and health sources. Source from your local homesteader or farmer instead of the grocery store or the big box mail service. Learn how to treat common ailments at home instead of running off to the doctor. Grow a tomato plant on your patio, and preserve batches of “imperfect” produce that you can get cheap from the local orchards and farms. If you’re already homesteading—grow more, save more, preserve more, and get to know your community more. If you don’t have a community, be a community.

I cannot stress it enough—be the community. So often I hear people say that there isn’t a community of homesteaders near them. Well, of course not, we all like being homebodies! But, that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate one. The problem with most people is they like to talk a lot, and not actually take action. Be the go getter. Don’t be afraid to start up a local or regional homesteader’s group online and in-person. I promise, you will not regret it.

More than anything though, as we prepare for an unknown future, I hope that you’ll take time to take a deep breath and learn to be still. The world is crazy, and it pulls us in different directions. One of the things I’ve loved most about homesteading is that I have to actively choose this simple life in a world and society that is far from simple. Make sure that you are taking time each day to get away from the noise. Remember that homesteading isn’t just about growing a garden and raising livestock, but embracing the ability to be closer to the land, and the simplicity that comes with being a good steward.

At the very first HOA conference in 2017, Joel Salatin talked about what the word “homesteader” means. And the most important part of it is “home”. Everything always points back to home. Everything you do is because of “home”. It’s time to make America about the “home” again. Let’s just make sure we’re all prepared before we don’t have to choose this lifestyle any longer….it will be a necessity like never before.