Homesteading was a way of life for generations while the world developed industrialization and created cities of infrastructure. Over time, modern conveniences and the fast pace of business encouraged an increasing number of people to move into urban areas and/or reduce self-reliance in favor of easily accessible supermarkets and mail-order food. But in recent years, a resurgence of homesteading has shown that uncertain times have resulted in people returning to the basics of gardening, farming, food preservation and finding ways to be off-grid.
A recent data collection report by HomeAdvisor consolidated information from across Instagram to find out how many people are subscribing to a simpler way of life. Interestingly, the results show clusters of communities seemingly sharing common values in certain areas across the United States.
The information was gathered based on three commonly used hashtags (#homesteading, #tinyliving, and #offgridliving), and then geolocation data identified the hot spots. Each of these lifestyles focuses on some level of self-sufficiency and cost savings. Homesteading is mainly about self-sufficiency. You’ll find homesteaders growing their own food, generating their own power and making their own clothes. Tiny living is a lifestyle that leaves a smaller footprint on the world. Tiny houses and tiny living are about simplification, a lower cost of living and using fewer resources. Living off-grid is a broad category that includes tiny living and homesteading. It also means disappearing from staples of society like the electric grid, schooling and the internet.
The reasons for heading towards a more self-sufficient lifestyle are varied, ranging from a fear of pandemics, an increase in surveillance infringing on privacy and concern for the environment. Regardless of the exact reasons, freedom, lowering one’s carbon footprint and a sense of independence seem to be at the core of the movement.
While there are abundant hashtags for any of these lifestyles, the study targeted these three as the best sources of information on the topic. The data was then consolidated and prepared for visual consumption by converting it into interactive maps and infographics. The method of collection eliminated Instagram posts without a location and those outside the United States.
“To create these visualizations, we collected data by “scraping” it. Scraping is a technique that gathers large amounts of data from websites. In this case, we wrote a custom script in Python to get the data for each hashtag. The script collected information including the number of likes, number of comments, location, etc. for posts with each of the three lifestyle hashtags. The python script also collects data that human users can’t see, like specific location information about where the post was published from,” HomeAdvisor said on its website.
When it comes to the United States and off-grid living as a whole, the interactive map gives a snapshot of the trend with the larger circles showing clusters. Moving into more specific information, homesteading may not be as rural as one might expect. In fact, large numbers of homesteaders are balancing backyard beehives, chickens and crops with a daily commute. One might also think homesteading is associated with life on the west coast. While that’s partly true, there are communities up and down the east coast squashing the idea that high populace and running your own farm don’t go hand-in-hand. As seen on the Top 10 States for #Homesteading map, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York all have active homesteading communities. Austin, Texas and Livermore, Colorado are Insta-proud of their homesteads too. On the west coast, the Seattle area in Washington and larger cities such as L.A. and San Diego in California top the list in the number of homesteaders posting their fresh eggs and veggies.
For off-grid living, the map looks a little different. Here we find that numbers might be a bit skewed, considering off-grid technically means off social media, but the images are still there as a basis to understand the trends. By the Insta-numbers, Kimberly, Alabama comes in at the top of the off-grid areas, but since many of the posts are from the same Airbnb location, HomeAdvisor calculates that California takes the prize for the most off-gridders. This isn’t too surprising for a state that just mandated all new home constructions must include solar panels. The four corners of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico are all in the top 10 for off-grid living, in addition to New York, Florida, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska.
The tiny home movement might be a bit hard to track for the mobile types, but on the road or not, Instagram is full of #tinyliving examples. The resulting map shows all three west coast states (California, Oregon and Washington) taking part in the trend. Florida, North Carolina and New York are active on the east coast, and Utah, Colorado and Arizona house the tiny movement too. Texas rounds out the #tinyliving top 10 list.
In conclusion, an increasing number of #homesteading Americans are going back to their roots of growing crops and raising cattle. Meanwhile, the #tinyliving community looks for ways to minimize their impact on the land, and #offgridliving continues to be difficult to accurately track, at least through the likes of Instagram.
Images via HomeAdvisor