Primitive Off-Grid Community Discovered Thriving in Appalachia

Hidden in the mountains of North Carolina is a merry band of friends who’ve seceded from the hustle and bustle of modern life to reconnect with nature and each other.

Hidden deep in the forest of North Carolina’s Smokey Mountains is a group of friends who’ve given up their jobs and cell phones for a life closer to nature, and each other.

They make their “living” scavenging wild animals, gathering nuts and berries, forest gardening and drinking straight from the stream.

NBC recently caught wind of the Wildroots community and made their otherwise quite lives national news:

“I would find myself sitting at my desk wishing the day was over so I could go home,” says the community’s founder “Todd.”

“And then I would wish it was Friday … and then I would wish my next vacation was coming up. And then I realized I was very literally wishing my life away.”

Todd was a successful engineer until he quit and moved to the woods 11 years ago.

He, his girlfriend, her 8-year-old daughter and a handful of other unruly characters live in handmade mud huts on a 30-acre primitive homestead, where they host about a dozen other transient residents at a time, teaching them wilderness “thrival” skills.

Todd and his girlfriend

Wildroots has no electricity or running water, other than streams and springs throughout the property, from which they haul water to camp in jugs.

Wattle and daub hut

Its members make their own leather clothing, shoes, tools, baskets and earthen homes.

They’ve been cultivating a food forest on 5 acres of formerly logged and eroding hillside for the last seven years, planting chestnut, hickory, persimmon, apricot and cherry trees, and kiwi, currant, raspberry and pawpaw bushes.

“As modern people we’ve evolved to the extent that we’re not capable of feeding ourselves, clothing ourselves, providing our own water, or even getting rid of our own shit and piss,” Todd says.

Todd and student

“The food – it just grows,” says Whip, another refugee formerly employed in cyber-security. “Money doesn’t grow on trees, but I don’t need it if the chestnuts grow on trees.”

Whip tans a hide

“Seems like the more money I’ve had in life, the less freedom I’ve had,” Todd concurs.

“A graduate degree in engineering seems like a spec of shit compared to … just being down there drinking that water and being free … instead of sitting in an office, breathing recycled air, going clickety, clickety click on a computer.”

Todd drinks straight from the stream

A young woman named Sparrow says a lot of people to come to the community to learn survival skills in case “shit hits the fan.”


“I think that’s pretty cool,” she says, but “I’m also here because I love how it is here.”

Whenever Sparrow goes to town, she’s amazed by the number of people she sees staring at their phones. “I feel like people are becoming robots,” she says.

While Todd says he gave up on “hope for the mass of humanity” a long time ago, both he and Sparrow both acknowledge they are still somewhat dependent on the industrial society they were born into, dumpster diving to supplement their diets while their food forest matures.

They still purchase supplies they don’t know how to make, and sip an occasional latte while in town catching up on the news via the internet.

Food-forest preserves, plus dumpster-diving scores

“We’re not in this bubble pretending society doesn’t exist,” Sparrow says. “We’re like hyper aware that society exists. We reap the bounty we can from the scrap yards.”

“We have destroyed the ecosystems to such an extent that even if we did know how to live off them, there’s just not much left,” Todd adds.

“We’re basically wealthy white people living in an area that hasn’t been utterly demolished,” Todd says.

“Being on the fringes, you get away with a lot more. If my skin was darker, or if I wasn’t as well educated, or if I didn’t have all my teeth, I know I’d be looked at differently by the police. I’m going to try not to use it to anybody else’s disadvantage… except the police.”

But Todd doesn’t let his occasional glimpse into the outside world get him down.

“It’s been raining all morning and now the sun’s coming out,” he says. “There’s a lot of joy in that. It doesn’t matter what Trump’s doing. It can’t take that from me.”

Visit Wildroots’s website for more info on visiting, earth-skill training, donating and how to become a member.


64 responses to “Primitive Off-Grid Community Discovered Thriving in Appalachia”

  1. Terry Avatar

    That’s nice for a few, how yu goin do it for 6 million or more?

    1. Robert Avatar

      Those others have to break away on their own. Grow their own garden, sell their own places…You can’t do it for them only point the way.

      1. Bryan Avatar

        300 million people alone in the territory of the USA. Not sustainable on these methods. Who dies? Who chooses who dies?

        1. Caitlin Avatar

          Actually, the opposite is true. The CURRENT methods of mainstream society are what is unsustainable. If all 300 million started depending on themselves and not factory farms, there might be a tiny fraction of a chance of sustainability.

          1. BJ Snow Avatar
            BJ Snow

            Research Small Plot Intensive Farming and you will be amazed what you can harvest from the average urban yard.

          2. darja Avatar

            Even if everyone just started bartering their skills/talents that would be a great advantage to so many people. Everyone has something they can do better than anyone else. And, it would create a feeling of UNITY…..we sure need that, don’t we?

        2. menotu Avatar

          Shut the power off today and in 3 months 2/3 of the US population will be dead without outside assistance. It would then probably take another 2 years for the population decline to stop and then begin to rebuild. At that point we’d be well under 100 million. Look at it this way. Out of all the people you know, you work with and even pass on the street, all of them will die except maybe 2

        3. Junayd M France Avatar
          Junayd M France

          The way things are going,, it’ll be the ‘meek who inherit the Earth’s, as some say. Those who live the downtown lifestyle will some day realise just how bankrupt the are…. Skills,,, resources,,,, Life. <;~l

        4. Bibiana Avatar

          Nature choose.We have moved away of natural selection.

        5. HonestC Avatar

          WWII – People had Victory Gardens growing in almost every yard and plot of land as much of hte food was going to the troops in Europe and in Asia. You can grow a lot in a small space. It depends on planning.

        6. Ronnie Dixon Avatar
          Ronnie Dixon

          natural selection is what choses who lives and dies the strong survive and the week die. it is the way of nature and the way all the rest of the world survives. only in the US dose people think it is someone else’s responsibility to keep them alive. we all are responsible for our own destiny and on one else

    2. Robert Avatar

      Those others have to break away on their own. Grow their own garden, find their own places…You can’t do it for them only point the way.

    3. Liz Avatar

      I believe the Native Americans did it just well for Centuries!

      1. cjm Avatar

        US population is over 300 million. Native Americans never had a population even near that on this continent. If they did, America wouldn’t exist.

        1. Caitlin Avatar

          The only reason we have a population this large is due to unsustainable practices.

          1. Sam Avatar

            We went from (ball-park) one million population to 300+ million today and sustain that population very well. What do you mean by “unsustainable practices?”

          2. Jim Avatar

            Totally agree, Caitlin! Unsustainable practices and some religions having huge families in a hope to stomp out other religions. It’s time people see the world is only so big and with an ever growing population, we will eventually kill off ourselves!

        2. william Avatar

          Research it. Genocide and Denying It: Why We Are Not Taught that the Natives of the United States and Canada were Exterminated
          Death Toll: 95,000,000 to 114,000,000

          1. Sam Avatar

            Oh, I think we are taught that. It seems to be common knowledge today, although it’s politically correct and incomplete. American Indians consisted of a lot of different tribes, most of whom were in competition with one another. They fought against one another, killing, raping, enslaving, and driving out their enemies as they were able. Unfortunately for them, from the 1500s onward, they came up against a more technologically advanced enemy, Europeans. How the Europeans treated them, in many, many cases, was absolutely morally wrong. But the Europeans were not alone in those evil acts. The Indians themselves murdered White men, women, and children and had been murdering people of other tribes for probably thousands of years. One observation: 95M – 114M is incredibly inflated.

        3. Samuel medina Avatar

          There were 100M natives here.

      2. kay barrett Avatar
        kay barrett

        the natives did it much better before they were “civilized” also there was much more available before the civilized murdered most the Bison

    4. Charles Avatar

      You mean 6 Billion? Earth’s population (7, I guess)? … should all lifestyles be judged by the ability for everyone to live that way? It is far more impossible (and destructive and unsustainable) to get the whole world to live like a middle class American, but this doesn’t seem to bother middle class America. Why should it bother these folks, whose lifestyle is actually far more achievable for more people than middle class consumption. (Certainly easy for only 6 million.)

    5. Matt Avatar

      You can’t do that. Someone must stay to make all the ironworking and glassmaking which this “offgrid” community uses..

      1. Julie Avatar

        I have friends with forges in their yard to make knives, arrow heads, pots… You can do that off grid and you can do pottery off grid. Plus if you knew anything about history ancient Romans, Egyptians, etc made glass… Educate yourself

      2. grace Avatar

        It very clearly says that they go to town to buy the things they don’t know how to make themselves.

    6. Cole Avatar

      Looks like we will find out soon enough

    7. Nila Avatar

      I think we learn from them that we don’t all have to do the same… but listen to what our souls ask from us and to put our energy in what we really want/ need… who is yu in your question?

      1. Ann Avatar

        Exactly we are all different.

    8. Grae Avatar

      People can do a considerable amount where they currently live. Takes very little land < acre, to sustainably farm enough veg for a family. You can grow enough lettuce in a big flowerpot to have salad everyday. What is with everyone attacking this life choice because it doesn’t fit everyone??? Your shoes won’t fit everyone either but that doesn’t make them worthless.

  2. Richard L Mahan Avatar
    Richard L Mahan

    They want to get away from it all…and they have a website.

    1. butters Avatar

      did that surface contradiction explode your pointy little head?

    2. Charles Avatar

      You’re making a straw man. Where did they say they want absolutely no use whatsoever of electricity or digital communication? I didnt read that anywhere. It seems to me they just want to spend the majority of their day doing things they enjoy. There is nothing contradictory about that. Don’t you want to spend the majority of your days doing things you value? Are you contradicting yourself when you sometimes do things you don’t enjoy as much? No. It’s what we all do.

      1. Amy C Avatar
        Amy C

        Exactly. Seems some people just want to criticize those who are actually trying to make a change in the world…

        1. Gabz Avatar

          Their lifestyle will never change the world and I’m sure that’s not their intention!
          The point is – they are making a change for themselves and in doing so, their footprint on this planet will be sustainable compared to the consumerism and materialism that is driving our ‘civilisation’!

    3. Catty Avatar

      Did anyone catch the part, “taking reservations”. Now commercialization of living off the land.

      1. Gabz Avatar

        You people are seriously missing the point! They are trying to teach others that it is achievable to live sustainably! If they make a few bucks educating others how they can live off the grid and truly enjoy LIVING, then good on them!

  3. Timber Ton Avatar
    Timber Ton

    Who is sparrow though? She is beautiful….oh maw gaw

    1. Fuzzy D Avatar
      Fuzzy D

      Amen to that.

    2. Timber tom Avatar
      Timber tom

      But she looks line one of the Hanson brothers, no?

    3. Flamingo Avatar

      Her name is probably Karen or Debby. Drinking from the stream until they get Giardia. It’s just ditching responsibility for a few years and living rough.

  4. Sean Davis Avatar
    Sean Davis

    How do I join this .

  5. Fuzzy D Avatar
    Fuzzy D

    First-generation permaculture, such as wild roots, can hardly be expected not to be semi dependent on the industrial world. With a dwindling wilderness this is even more true. With time it should become more self sufficient, and hopefully establish a kind of trade with nearby towns (like they already do with hunters). I think more places like this should exist in America.

  6. Justin Avatar

    It’s nice to see a writer focus on a positive story with a fantastic subject, but please have a few writers preview your story before putting it out to the public. All the errors and word choices made a potentially fantastic story frustrating to read. Stay focused on this sort of positive story, though! It’s refreshing.

  7. Wabipenache Avatar

    I would like to give this lifestyle a try. Please send me an address so I can find you.

  8. Mary Avatar

    Living of the grid is great. I had the opportunity to experience that while working in the Amazon, going back to basics is a dream of mine.

  9. Cheryl Rowan Avatar
    Cheryl Rowan

    Two points:

    1/ who owns the land?

    2/ Disconnected, and yet have a very specific opinion of Trump?

  10. Irene Brown Avatar
    Irene Brown

    I have lived both city and rural. Not every one can live free as you do. BUT, One can do some things for freedom. Even just a backyard garden helps. It is not a black and white logic, but shades of grey. I am now 79 and dependent on medical and government, but I wish I could be as you are

  11. Wade Avatar

    If they’re willing to die young from lack of health care. Or will I have to pay for that?

    1. Jec Avatar

      ? And if they lived in a city they would have no access to healthcare and be living a more unhealthy lifestyle. So if they are not accessing heathcare no one is paying for it…. if they do access healthcare it’s the same as millions of other Americans that can’t afford insurance.

  12. Harold Yoder Avatar
    Harold Yoder

    Would like to be on your mailing list

  13. Kim Avatar

    I would like to receive emails.
    Thank you!

  14. Aaron Avatar

    Take my love
    Take my land
    But you can’t the sky from me

    1. Felicia Avatar

      Oh but they have- Solar Radiation Mgmt/Stratospheric Aerosol Injection/Geoengineering… Doc. Dave. Keith.. HahvahdU-

  15. Cuthbert Jolly Avatar
    Cuthbert Jolly

    A much more fulfilling life than being a banker.

  16. Ralloh Avatar

    Looks like a filthy medieval village to me. Fine for camping, but, don’t really want to live that way. I live on 21 wooded acres with no neighbors, but, I do have all the modern conveniences. And I can take a shower every day. Geesh.

  17. Alfred Avatar

    This is a good thing,corresponding with nature just like the natives..I come from Africa a lot of people,especially most whites travel to the forest and spend time there and its heathy, spiritualy and mentally.give it a try..spend some time in the Forest

  18. Danny Luker Avatar
    Danny Luker

    Well thanks to CBS they won’t be living there much longer, So all you haters can stop yer bitchen,, And oh btw, it’s not for 300 million, it’s every man for his self, so you don’t need to worry about what someone else is doing, besides you’ed never make anyway.

  19. Barbara H. Avatar
    Barbara H.

    Bet they’ve got a fallback for health problems. If not—a dealbreaker.

  20. Helene Avatar

    I think its a good idea as to what thier trying to do. Going back to nature and more natural practices. Some of you ought to give them credit where credit is due. At least they are trying to make some changes in their lives, and be able to live a little bit free-er from the hustle, bustle, chaotic concrete jungle type lifestyles. I always wanted to do a ‘100 acre kid farm’.. (Haha my way of joking about the name of it..) Actually, it was a self sufficient community of people helping people. I’ve been wanting to do something like that for the past 30 years, but , for whatever reason hasn’t been able to, and I have spoken to others about it over the years. So, seeing stuff like this also bring hope for future generations because if and when shtf a lot of people dependent on the concrete jungle won’t survive without the knowledge or tools they would need for survival, as well as, other reasons. Going off grid, or even semi-off grid gives you a lot of advantages to living city or main stream lifestyles. You can be more of a free spirit, so, let you spirit soar..

  21. Chris (Thomas) Wakefield Avatar

    Thank you Sara, right down my alley! I’ll be using this in my facebook group by the same name as my website.

    1. Gary Dunne Avatar
      Gary Dunne

      Hey Chris… Good seeing ya here!!! I have this bookmarked as well, since the release. I just noticed your post today lol.. Very interesting and not that far from me. I go to Appalachia frequently in the Tenn. Area. Love to visit these people. Seems very cool.

  22. Robyn Combs Avatar
    Robyn Combs

    Very interesting. In hopes that you guys don’t endure harsh winter. This is a great deal to digest. I’ll stay in touch. These mountains are in my blood and forever in my heart.

  23. javhd Avatar

    Great posting friend. Will be back to read more.