Back to the Land: Seeking Simplicity in an Age of Complexity

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to own a hobby farm or a homestead or live as part of a self-sustaining community? What is the allure of such a lifestyle? Would you be able to do it? Recent history is full of examples of individuals and communities that have returned “to the land” to seek the simplicity of life in harmony with the natural world. What does this lifestyle entail? How do these practices impact the local economies? More importantly, is it a life worth living?

The course will survey the back-to-the-land movement generally, with a focus on its rich history in the North Country of New York State. We will try to grasp, chronicle, and, in some ways, relive the pioneer spirit that has driven many to return to the land. We will contemplate the reasons for choosing a lifestyle close to nature and explore the multiple ways in which the ideals of the back-to-the-country movement can be put into practice. Through a series of field trips and guest lectures, we will meet individuals and explore regional communities that have embraced simple living and discuss their successes and struggles. We will also ponder the larger questions regarding the sustainability of their ideals in the face of a global consumer culture that gives little thought to its impact on the earth’s life-support systems.