So You Want to Live in a Tiny House and Be a Farmer? Our Obsession with Lifestyles Most of Us Will Never Commit To


A tiny house, a farm and the good life. But are you really willing to commit?

Back to the land. Off the grid. Minimalism. Tiny living. Intrigued by any of those words and phrases?

Of course you are. In our modern, fast-paced world of consumerism, we have come to crave respite from our everyday routines, and in the bright age of all-you-could-ever-want media, lifestyle magazines and blogs give it to us.

Who hasn’t flipped through an issue of a magazine on green living with tips on urban farming and thought to themselves, “I want to grow my own food”? Who hasn’t watched a short video about a tiny house and thought to themselves, “I want to live like that”? Who hasn’t read an article on consumerism and thought to themselves, “it’s really time that I minimized”?

We’ve all done it, and we’ll continue to do it. This type of media fuels our aspirations. We all want to be eat and live better, be healthier and wiser, choose a path of intention rather than mindless consumption, so we keep reading, clicking and watching, and for a few brief moments we feel better about ourselves. We feel powerful. We feel in control of our lives. Yes, I too can choose to get rid of most of my wardrobe and commit to only seven articles of clothing!

But the danger lies in the fact that consuming this kind of media is a noncommittal act; few of us take the inspiration and turn it into action.

We are living in a moment where we need change. Actually, we needed it a long time ago, which means that the change we face now is going to have to be radical. We are going to have to live with less. We are going to have to grow some of our own food. We are going to have to change our consumption patterns. Advocating for simplified lifestyles is therefore essential; a reminder that such living is in fact perfectly normal and achievable, not just a fringe activity for the leftist nut jobs.

But the execution is more about glitz and glam than it is reality. I was recently reading a New Yorker profile about the woman behind the magazine Modern Farmer. I  love Modern Farmer. As an urbanite with a ridiculous craving to jump ship and move back to the countryside, it speaks to me. Yes, I want to learn more about goats! But I’d like to think that I am self-aware enough to realize the privilege that I have to read a few articles while drinking my mug of single-origin French press while waiting for my organic chocolate kale cake to bake in the oven. I don’t have to go and put my hands into the dirt, I have a CSA farmer for that. Does this make me enlightened or just full blown bobo?

A farmer told the New Yorker reporter that Modern Farmer was less farm magazine and more of “a fashion magazine for farming.” In fact, Ann Marie Gardner, the founder and editor, herself has described the magazine as “the farming magazine for media professionals.”

Fashion magazines have clothes we’ll never buy, car magazines have cars we’ll never drive, and architecture magazines have homes we’ll never live in. They’re aspirational. But we continue to consume them like starving pigs at a trough.

It’s like when you walk into the cookbook section of a bookstore, all those books with the beautiful pictures of the healthiest food alive. I will eat better! I will make more food! I will learn how to bake bread! But then real life gets in the way, and despite the amount of cooking media – be it print or on television – the hard to swallow reality is that we’re eating worse than ever, and it’s going to take more than just a new cold pressed juice bar to change that.

At their core, aspirations are a good thing; they are what push us to take action. But in a world of easy-to-consume media, we never get to the action part. We click, we share and we move on. I liken it to a friend who once made a comment about people sharing inspirational quotes online. A quote is only inspirational if it actually inspires you to do something. Simply passing it along doesn’t count.

We want to minimize. We want to grow our own food. We want to choose a life of intention. But the risk is that this desire is only skin deep. These lifestyles aren’t glamorous. At times, they’re downright hard. Just ask a farmer. Or someone that actually sold all of their belongings to live out of their van.

Do we aspire to take action or does our action simply go as far as a collection of well shot cabin and tiny house porn on a Pinterest board? My idealistic self would like to believe it’s the former. Because ultimately, we have to believe in change in order to make change. Maybe one day we will in fact have gotten rid of all of the McMansions, and when that day comes, we can surely celebrate.

In the meantime, we have to acknowledge that we’re romanticizing lifestyles while doing nothing to make them a reality. We don’t need to put the blame on the media; we need to put the blame on ourselves. The over glorification is all our own doing.

Sustainability is dirty work; it isn’t just buying a pair of 100 percent hemp yoga pants and carrying around a reusable water bottle. Read a book called “Getting Green Done” if you don’t believe me. We have to take real action, and we should have taken it yesterday.

Let’s not just obsess over these lifestyles, let’s start living them. Not everyone needs to drop everything and become a farmer, but we would do ourselves and our communities a favor if we started acknowledging how essential farmers, and growing food, truly are to our livelihood. We could live without Madison Avenue; we couldn’t live without carrots. Let’s build tiny houses, but not as a second or third home, or as a guest house out the back; lets build them as our only homes. Let’s have a life of less fashion and more substance.

And let’s acknowledge the true impact of our everyday lifestyles – what we eat and what we buy – so that we can start making real change.

Every day we have the chance to do better. It’s time to make sure that we’re not just talking about it, but that we’re actually doing it.

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Image: Tammy Strobel

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.