In higher numbers than previous generations, millennials are leaving desk jobs to live closer to the land. Whether it be homesteading, living off the grid or starting a farm, younger people are seeking a different way of life. The agriculture industry is changing rapidly, with many older farmers retiring and not enough young farmers to take their places. Many millennials who are part of the technology age are searching for a more purposeful, meaningful way of living.
Climate change and the importance of sustainability play a pivotal role in millennials’ movement back to the land. Unlike older generations, millennials are acutely aware of the impact of their lifestyle on the environment and want to find different ways to live to minimize it. They are also more likely to invest in sustainable and small businesses and care deeply about supporting companies that are eco-conscious and socially responsible.
It is not surprising then that many millennials are going into entrepreneurship. For most young people, the ability to pursue alternative careers is not about amassing significant financial wealth or security. Indeed, millennials make 20% less than their parents, on average. They are also less likely to own a car, buy a house or invest in costly material things. It reflects an abrupt change in lifestyle that makes living close to the land keenly attractive. Millennials moving back to the land seek careers that require hard, physical labor, and require more community involvement than sitting at a computer.
Millennials are arguably the most connected generation. They grew up in the internet age, with endless amounts of information at their fingertips. They have been able to make friends with individuals worldwide, and know the convenience of sending an email to someone living in a different country or time zone.
Despite all this networking, many millennials feel a sense of detachment from their career. Unlike the Baby Boomer generation, which accepted a job as a means to an end, many millennials want to work for something they believe in, and that makes the world a better place.
Whether it is building an off-grid tiny home or starting a small farm, living off the land provides a different type of connection. Living in a rural area puts you in tune with the seasons, the wildlife and the little intricacies of the natural world that often go unnoticed in suburban neighborhoods.
In addition to greater connection, millennials are looking to live more socially and environmentally consciously. Most millennials live in urban areas, and rent homes instead of buying. At the same time, they are more likely to buy fresh, locally grown produce than expensive packaged goods. Like the hippie generation before them, many millennials seeking life in the country are looking to live more consciously, and are acutely aware of their impact.
Whether it is using solar energy or growing a vegetable garden, millennials find living on the land provides a more conscious way of existing. Instead of blindly consuming and buying food without knowing where it came from, living on the land enables them to be intimately involved with the community around them.
Millennials aren’t merely idealists, and many young folks who are seeking a different way of life are incredibly purpose-driven. People who are discontent with their jobs often feel constrained sitting in a cubicle all day. Many of them value a more connected lifestyle where work is more tangible, instead of sending emails off into the abyss. In addition to being socially conscious, millennials also want to contribute to building a better world, and growing food is a great place to start.
Agriculture is changing, and the rural community is changing along with it. Millennials are part of a younger generation who share new attitudes about living with a closer connection to the earth, including farming. Some millennials chase a life away from the traditional 9-to-5 grind, moving to more rural landscapes to build off-grid tiny homes in the woods or start small organic farms. Whatever the reason, millennials pursuing this way of life are looking for a greater connection to their work, a more conscious lifestyle and a more purpose-driven existence.
Emily Folk is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.