Whether you’re a new homesteader or just dreaming about your own self-sufficient outpost, one of the best ways to learn what to do (and what not to do!) is by watching others. I’ve rounded up ten of the best homesteading shows available across different platforms so that you can educate yourself while also entertaining yourself.
1. The Biggest Little Farm
Even though it isn’t technically a show, this docu-film makes the top of my list because of its beautiful cinematography and compelling message. The Biggest Little Farm tells the story of John and Molly Chester, who ditched city life to homestead on 200 acres of overworked farmland. It shows the perils and pitfalls and stunning joys that the Chesters experienced as they transformed that land from the ground up (literally) into a thriving biodynamic farm based on permaculture principles.
The Biggest Little Farm is one the best films for a new or aspiring homesteader to watch, as it’s both realistic about the difficulties of the lifestyle while also strongly affirming its value.
You can watch The Biggest Little Farm on Hulu. Feel free to check out the trailer shown above.
2. Unplugged Nation
Unplugged Nation is a show that takes families with an interest in homesteading and transplants them to an off-grid location so they can live a taste of the homesteading life. Most of the candidates are city folks who are newbies at any kind of homesteading, so watching them overcome the challenges they face in their new environment is inspiring and encouraging!
3. Homestead Rescue
Okay, so Homestead Rescue is one of those shows that helps teach you what not to do on your homestead.
Marty Raney and his son Matt and daughter Misty are themselves experienced homesteaders, and in this show, they travel to different families whose homesteads are in crisis to help them survive and hopefully begin to thrive. Misty is the farming expert, while Matt (and his glorious beard) is the hunter and fisherman. Marty is a great teacher, both for the folks in the show and for us watching at home, and he is clearly an expert in the lifestyle. In an interview with Fox News, he aligns himself with the long American history of homesteading:
“What made America was the homesteader, the people who built their own homes. Those people built this country, hard workers, people not afraid to roll up their sleeves. That is a dying breed,” he continued. “I know because I’m one of them.”
You can find Homestead Rescue on Discovery Go.
4. Mountain Men
Watching this reality show feels a lot like watching pioneers in the 1800s carve out a life for themselves in America’s wilderness, aside from the occasional snowmobile and cell phone.
Mountain Men is a reality show that follows several different characters and families as they make their living in locations from Montana to Wyoming to the Ozarks. Some are trappers, some are hunters, some run cattle (or bison!) and some are homesteaders. This show showcases how difficult these kinds of lifestyles can be, but also how the grit and hard work of its subjects can overcome many of these obstacles.
5. Alaska the Last Frontier
One of many reality TV shows set in Alaska (Deadliest Catch, Alaskan Women Looking For Love), The Last Frontier is unique for focusing on a large extended family living off-grid on a 600-acre homestead that’s been in their family for four generations. The Kilchers live eleven miles from Homer, Alaska, but they never go to the grocery store, instead, they choose to trap, hunt, forage, and farm their own food.
This show focuses a lot on where and how the Kilchers get their resources (they have a lot of people to feed, after all), but also shows them repurposing materials for new projects, building new structures, surviving with no running water, and, recently, how they deal with the pandemic as an isolated community. It’s as a good primer as any on how homesteading is constant labor-intensive problem-solving.
6. Tiny House Nation
While not 100% about homesteading, tiny homes often go hand-in-hand as downsizing and becoming more self-sufficient are overlapping themes.
Tiny House Nation, a super-satisfying mashup of Extreme Home Makeover and small-scale sustainable living, follows John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin as they travel across the U.S. and build tiny dream homes for families ready for a downsize. Each tiny home can be no more than 500 square feet.
If you think that tiny homes are glorified RVs, think again. This TV show has a build for everyone, from the one that mimics a gothic castle, to the trendy ski-lodge type one, to the Florida beach bungalow. Weisbarth builds the houses, and Giffin helps families downsize—a major undertaking, considering that a tiny house is one-tenth the size of a typical American house. Viewers can learn a lot from both of them on just what kinds of planning and decisions go into making the chance from a “big” lifestyle to a tiny one.
You can find Tiny House Nation on Netflix and YouTube.
7. Tiny House Hunting
If you’re wondering whether there’s a real estate market for non-custom-built tiny homes—yes, yes there is. Tiny House Hunting follows people who are on the hunt for a tiny home to finally call their own. Each prospective owner gets shown three different homes from which they make their final choice.
Like Tiny House Nation, this show really demonstrates the different kinds of available living spaces that are not big old houses with big old mortgages. Tiny houses can be a step towards a more independent and sustainable lifestyle for many different people.
8. Building Off The Grid
Building Off The Grid takes you inside the “little bit of method, little bit of madness” that defines off-grid dwellers as they plan, prepare for, build, and maintain their self-sufficient setups. The show travels to diverse locations such as Alaska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and even a man-made floating island to show how (and why) these people do what they do.
You can watch Building Off The Grid on Hulu or Discovery+.
9. The Minimalists: A Documentary About the Important Things (2016)
“What if you removed one material possession from your life each day for a month?”The Minimalists
The Minimalists documentary doesn’t showcase homesteading life the way the others on this list do, but it’s still definitely worth a viewing.
Homesteading, at its core, is often powered by the desire to live life with more purpose and less fluff. Minimalism is similar, except you could say that it is the desire to live with more purpose and less stuff. A lot of the principles are the same, and getting rid of your excess stuff (or ceasing to acquire more stuff) can be as challenging and as rewarding as living off the land.
If you’re an aspiring homesteader who wants to take the first step away from consumerism, The Minimalists is the push you need to take that first step into intentional living.
10. David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
Last but not least, this documentary is the “witness statement” from ninety-three-year-old naturalist and filmmaker Sir David Attenborough. He, and the documentary, take a look at the past, the present, and the future of the “wilds” of our planet.
Disclaimer: it is a sad documentary—a lot of bad things have happened to the planet, and many of them were the consequences of human choices.
But, if you’d like to learn more about how a lifestyle change (even just one) will create a positive, cascading effect on the world, this film is a great start and eye-opener.
Honorable Mentions on YouTube
YouTube has a wealth of information on any topic and homesteading and off-grid living are no exceptions. The following YouTubers are currently living the life and documenting their experiences with their structures, livestock, and gardens, and generously sharing their expertise and learnings with us. Feel free to give them a watch and support their channels!
Here’s one of my favorite videos from Self-Sufficient Me: