Dervaes: urban homesteaders
USA Today was one of the first newspapers to spot the fast growth in off-grid living. Now it has identified a related trend which sparked a massive response on the paper’s web site.

Dubbed “21st century survivalism,” the story, filed in the “offbeat” section, is about a Michigan family that, under financial pressure, decided to give up credit cards, satellite television, high-tech toys and restaurant dining, and move from the city to live on a 40-acre farm and become more self-sufficient. They relearnt skills and live happily together and feed themselves.
People are asking, “Do I really want to be 100% vulnerable with no self-sufficiency skills if something happens to the economy?” says the story.

At the time of writing the story had attracted 450 comments from readers. One took exception to the story’s inclusion in the offbeat section of the paper.”Good Americans doing what it takes to survive,” says one. “However, this is not really an “offbeat” story. These are the REAL Americans. These are the types of common people that have made this country great. Enough of the “Wall Street” types. Those people are doing their best to destroy us.”

Some signs of the trend:

Stockpiling. When the stock market drops, orders surge for freeze-dried food, survival kits and emergency supplies, says Nitro-Pak president Harry Weyandt. One best seller: a $3,375 food reserve that feeds four people for three months.

Gardening. Sales of vegetable seeds and transplants are up 30% from 2008 at W. Atlee Burpee, the USA’s largest seed company. The National Gardening Association says 7 million more households will grow food this year than in 2008 — a 19% rise. A book on building root cellars is the top seller at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine, supervisor Joann Matuzas says.

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Canning. Jarden Corp. says sales of its Ball and Kerr canning and preserving products are up more than 30% from 2008. Sonya Staffan, owner of The Jam and Jelly Lady commercial cannery in Lebanon, Ohio, is offering twice as many classes this year.

Sewing. More people are learning to sew so they can mend clothes and make home décor, says Rachel Cohen, spokeswoman for SVP Worldwide, owner of sewing-products makers Singer and Husqvarna Viking.

Relocating. Steve Saltman, general manager of LandAndFarm.com, a national real estate company, says more customers want to “live simply in a less-expensive place.” Jonathan Rawles of SurvivalRealty.com says more people moving to rural areas “are specifically worried about economic and social instability.”

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