Growing up on a Homestead in Alaska felt normal. Doesn’t everyone have their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins spread out evenly down an old homestead road? A childhood like mine was atypical in the 1980s and 90s in the Mat-Su Valley as homesteading and the tradition, self-reliance, and the hard work of maintaining a large plot of land fell out of trend, making way for planned neighborhoods, paved streets, and large stores providing convenience for Alaskan families.

Our family homestead began in 1951 when my grandfather, a World War II Veteran, with his wife and young family, along with a family friend embarked on the difficult task of building the long road to our homestead to carve out their American Dream right here in the Mat-Su.

Original Homestead, circa 1952.

Alaska has a rich history of homesteading, beginning with President William McKinley signing an 1898 bill to extend homestead laws to the then District of Alaska. By the time the last homestead claims were made in the 1980s, approximately 3,500 people had received land in Alaska, making my grandparents part of a small group of extremely hard-working homesteaders that fulfilled the following requirements for acquiring a homestead:

1. Live on the claimed land for most of five consecutive years.
2. Live in a habitable dwelling (a tent would not count).
3. Cultivate at least one-eighth of the land.

My Grandparents could have never predicted the legacy they forged through their perseverance in developing the land and living through decades with very little infrastructure and assistance outside of their robust network of fellow homestead families in the area. Fast forward to 2024 where four generations of their descendants now live and manage the old homestead all while the trend of homesteading as a lifestyle is making a comeback.

Look no further than YouTube influencers like Simple Living Alaska’s Eric and Ariel Illia with their nearly 1 million subscribers and hundreds of videos featuring a young couple and their pursuit of a self-sufficient dream in Southcentral Alaska. There’s also the Kilcher Family Homestead reality TV show, Alaska: The Last Frontier, with 11 seasons. Based out of the Homer area, the show documents the Kilcher family living off the land since the 1940s.

Since COVID hit, our nation has seen a dramatic trend back towards simplifying our busy lives, growing and preserving food, raising animals, and embracing the responsibility that comes with a life cultivated by hand.

In Alaska, the topic is so popular that Tandy Hogate, the owner of Common Ground Alaska, a farmstead in Big Lake, is putting on the very first Alaska Homestead Expo April 27 and 28, 2024 at the Big Lake Lions Club. With topics like off-grid living, gardening, livestock, food preservation and more, this expo can help expand your traditional skills. With an emphasis on Alaskan-only presenters, the gathering is perfect for friends and family in the Last Frontier. Kids are welcome and free (18 and under). There will be special classes for kids (ages 5-12) and youth (ages 12-18), as well as more than 30 workshops for adults. Tickets for adults are $65 and can be purchased here: Common Ground Tickets.

Homesteading Alaska: Historical necessity & modern enthusiasm

Lacey Libbey
Lacey is a Christian mother, lifelong Alaskan, freelance interior decorator, and avid gardener in training. In her own words, there is always more to learn, more to clean, more lists to make, and more to organize.


  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Thank you for sharing this information Lacey. At this time in our history with food scarcity looming on the horizon, the information this expo would bring is very timely. I really appreciate reading that tried and true Alaskans will be sharing their experiences and knowledge. Looking forward to it!

  • Daddio says:

    Alaska would do well to re-open a homesteading act in the state. Transfer more land from Federal to State and allow enterprising people a chance to stake their own claim of state land. I’m not talking about the ridiculous cabin staking program which is basically a farce, I’m talking about real homesteading property.

  • kirk sanderson says:

    I grew up the same on a homestead on the Burma Road.