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Radical homemakers reclaim the simple life

An inspirational, grassroots movement is afoot in the Bay Area (yes, another one), and it’s going to make the world a better place. No, really. Granted, this region has sprouted its fair share of grassroots movements; however, this particular crusade – dubbed radical homemaking by New York writer and pioneering radical homemaker Shannon Hayes – seems particularly well suited to our socially responsible, food-obsessed, eco-zealous neck of the woods.

In her recent book, “Radical Homemakers” (Left to Write Press; $23.95), Hayes, 36, makes a deeply personal and well-supported case – to be expected from someone who holds a doctorate in sustainable agriculture and community development from Cornell University – for shunning consumer culture in favor of a life of complete and utter domesticity.

Although she had eyes on a college professorship, Hayes jumped off the career track a decade ago, along with her husband, Bob, a former county planner. Aching to “honor their deepest dreams and values” (in the radical-homemaker vernacular, these virtues include family, community, social justice and the environment), the couple moved back to her family’s farm in upstate New York, where, she writes in her book, “subsistence farming, food preservation, barter and frugal living are a matter of course.”

A radical notion

While the idea of banishing all dependence on wealthy corporations to practice an Emersonian life of simplicity, authenticity and self-reliance resonates soundly with many Bay Area residents – these are tenets of the 1960s counterculture, after all – making such a progressive lifestyle change seems, in a word, drastic. But they’re not called radical homemakers for nothing.

“Our society has indoctrinated us with a lot of fear,” says Hayes, who writes books for a (modest) living – fortified, of course, by the money saved from the farm’s ready supply of grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork and poultry, and abundant fruits and vegetables. “Fear of living without a formal job title, the security of a regular paycheck, stepping outside of our educational infrastructure or even the corporate food system. Radical homemakers are pretty tired of all that fear.”

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Radical Homemakers is available in our bookstore.

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