Utopian back-to-the-land movements have spanned generations

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Generationally, young people have returned to the land to escape mainstream economics. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The impulse to go "back to the land" waxes and wanes over generations. The pandemic saw record numbers of people reassessing their lives. Margot Anne Kelley says millennials are the latest generation to embrace this attempt at utopian living.

Historically, economic cycles, like the Great Depression, spawned back-to-the-land movements. Kelley found that many of the most recent food utopians wanted to take a gap year to farm. Instead, they've stayed the course. And it's not just because the mainstream economy wasn't working for them.

What's the difference between a farmer and a back-to-the-lander? For Kelley, farmers work on large scale, industrial projects. Self-sufficiency and regenerative agricultural practices on a small scale distinguishes those who want to be free of societal constraints.

Kelley explores the history of back-to-land movements in her book, "Foodtopia: Communities in Pursuit of Peace, Love & Homegrown Food."

Mary Anne Kelley found that many millennials extended their farming gap year and chose to remain in this next wave of the back-to-the-landers. Photo by Sonia Targontsidis.

"Foodtopia: Communities in Pursuit of Peace, Love & Homegrown Food" revisits the back-to-land movement across generations. Photo courtesy of Godine.