Jennifer: Today, we have a great, great guest. As you know when I have guests, I really like to read their bio, so I don’t miss anything. I get everything right, because usually, they’re wonderful guests, and I hate missing anything. Today, I have Jason Matyas. He is a husband, father of seven, homesteader, lifelong gardener, and local food advocate. He’s an 18-year Air Force veteran, a visionary, entrepreneur with a wide range in background. He is the founder of a family business with his children called Seeds for Generations, pretty cool business, that provides Heirloom gardening seeds, an inspiration for gardening as a family.
Jason is also the co-founder and executive producer of Beyond Off Grid, a documentary film and training media project that is devoted to inspiring and equipping you to reduce your dependence on the modern economy, and seek true freedom by returning to the old paths of productive households and local community interdependence. Welcome Jason.
Jason: Thanks for having me, Jennifer. It’s great to be here.
Jennifer: Let’s just get right into this. I’m so excited about your new film. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you became a producer, and what your background is?
Jason: Sure. I grew up in Southern California, and I basically grew up in the gardens. Since I was a baby, my parents had a big garden. Although it was suburban in Southern, California, there’s a nice long 10-month growing season, so we were always growing something. That’s in my blood. I went to college at Cornell up in New York, and went into Air Force ROTC, and then was commissioned and went to become a pilot. I moved around quite a bit, but basically once I got out of pilot training, every place I lived, I had at least a little flower bed garden or kitchen garden or something.
That has always been something that I’ve done, and as part, it’s always been with me. You’ll see a little later how that’s continued. I was Active duty for the Air Force. I left active duty because I wanted more time with my family, and more control over my schedule, which work time in military does not allow especially being a pilot and flying over the world all the time at very short notice, so I decided to become an entrepreneur so that I would have more control of the decisions of what kind of time commitments I have.
After one short stint in New Jersey, we moved to Virginia is where we live now. About 2004 or 2005 when we moved to upstate New York, where I was stationed for my last assignment we’re actually working with the army, the pace of life slowed down because the army is on a lot more predictable schedule than an air mobility pilot. It was during that time that we started having children, and my wife and I started this journey towards eating real food, and eating healthy, and reconnecting with the source of our food. We already have been gardening, but we started buying book grains and a lot of the other stuff that a lot of the folks initially are probably interested in or participate in.
That interest is what led me to start a community-based website called True Food Solutions. We’re just on hold now, but it was through connections I made with that project that I was introduced to the Beyond Off Grid film director, Sean Tounn, who had already started the film project, and had done a little bit of filming but needed some help. He asked me to be the executive producer for the film. I also had a few years where I was doing independent film distribution and marketing, so I had some experience with that.
Because of the congruence of the topics of the film, we’ll talk about in a minute, and the journey my own family was on, it was a perfect fit. I totally agreed with where … He had the concept for the film, and it developed a little bit more once I got involved, but basically, I never planned on producing movie or being a movie producer. I’ve done marketing, and so I understand the business side of selling film and media products, but producing a film is a different animal.
That’s how I came to this point. I’ll tell you a little later about why I’m actually in the film, because that wasn’t planned initially either, but it’s an interesting story how that came about.
Jennifer: I can really relate to the Air Force part, because my father was in for 20 years Air Force, and that was in the Air Force. Air Force runs really, really strong in my family, my brother, Air Force, my brother-in-law, Air Force. Go Air Force! You brought a clip with you about this film. Before we show that, could you explain a little bit about what it is? What is this about? What’s the mission for this film?
Jason: The only inspiration or probably primary inspiration and kind of the catalyst for Sean Tounn to want to make this film, he had been doing some commercial video projects before, but his interest in making this film in particular was inspired by a book written by Michael Bunker called Surviving Off Off-Grid. The book basically is about this idea that a lot of people realize that modern systems entrap us, and they want to become more free and independent, and a lot of people even since the ’70’s and ’80’s with like Mother Earth News and stuff have been trying to go back and be more independent and go off grid.
His family went a step beyond off grip, and that they’re not just off grid, but for the purposes of living and survival, they don’t utilize the grid system at all. They did participate in the economy, but largely, they developed all the means of survival and production themselves. The idea is off off-grid means that you’re not just becoming less dependent or independent of the grid electrical system, but you actually built the capability to replace the modern technology that you can’t produce yourself.
In other words, you can’t produce panels, so if they break and you can’t buy them, then your off-grid system is worthless. It takes it to the logical extent, and looking at all the different systems that we become dependent upon in modern life, most people don’t even realize the degree to which we’re dependent upon them. That is what really inspired Sean to want to make the film, and the mission of Beyond Off Grid both to the film, which is primarily a design to inspire people to look at these topics, and desire to take action, and the online training media that we’ve done, which is designed to equip people to actually know how to take action.
All of this is to help people understand the degree of dependence they have, and make a conscious decision as to what areas they’re okay with accepting. Most people don’t even realize that they’ve accepted a lot of dependence, and so trying to help people realize what the reality of our modern systems are and how they entrap us, and then to make wise decisions about how to respond to that, and make an intentional lifestyle changes to be able to reduce dependence in the areas that they deem necessary for their family.
Jennifer: We have a clip that you brought. Can we roll that and get a taste of what this film looks like?
Jason: Yes, let me preface that real quick. This film covers a lot of ground, and so the trailer almost doesn’t do the film justice, because it’s a two-minute or a three-minute trailer. You can only fit in so much without doing a second image here or there, and then it wouldn’t make any sense. Please play the trailer, but we’ve also got available, and I’ll talk about this later, we have a sneak peek of the intro of the film. It’s a six-minute into, so it goes in a little bit more depth. People can watch that for free. We’ll have the link for that later.
Jennifer: That’s very thought-provoking stuff. I have to say that I have had the privilege of watching this film, and it goes into so much detail, and I was really impressed with the journey that you took people on. Let me just step back even before this, because it seems like you are just such the right person to do this. This is the way you’ve lived or tried to live. You even have a company that you have your whole family involved in called Seeds for Generation. Take us back to when that started and then tell us the things that you’re doing that are helping to live this lifestyle of being beyond off grid.
Jason: I’m actually going to be speaking this weekend at a preparedness expo up near Washington, D.C. When I speak at these events, one of the things that I tell people … My primary presentation is called Understanding the Modern Grid System. It’s an overview of some of the things we cover in the film. One of the things I tell people about, “Well, what do you about it? What should you be doing?” One of the things I say is it’s the old added bloom where you plant in. Take the things that you have and that you love in particular if you can, and turn those into some productive enterprise.
I see that as a preface because that’s what I’ve done with our family seed business. I made the decision to become an entrepreneur. Most of my work is internet marketing related, and some on the computer most of the time. My kids, my oldest daughter is 12, almost 13, she is nearing the point where she can start doing some things online, but for the most part, most of the kids are just too young to be involved in most of what I do, and so I’ve been looking for something that I could get the kids involved with.
As I said, I grew up gardening, and we’ve been doing the same with our kids. All of our kids have been in the garden since they were babies, and we’ve been saving seeds. About four or five years ago, I had this epiphany, which was we’re a gardening family. We love to garden. We’re saving seeds, and packaging and preparing seeds to sell and share with others is something that little kids can do. It started about four years ago, and we just have been growing solely ever since.
Today is actually, because we’re getting ready to go to this event, and when we do these events and have a vendor booth, we’re not just promoting Beyond Off Grid and the training we have in the film, but it’s a natural compliment to offer the seeds that we have as our family business. Typically, before we go to these events, we’re restocking and making sure we have enough inventory. My kids and my wife are actually upstairs right now packing seeds for the show that we’re going to.
It’s amazing because even my three-year-old son, he’s almost four, it just clicked with him this past week of the idea that if you focus on something, and put your effort towards it, that there is a reward. We pay our kids based on production, so if they move slow because they’re little, then they’re not going to be … We’re not paying them for time, but then I also, because sometimes, I give them treats especially if they have a good attitude.
I think my three year old is more interested in getting paid in chocolate than he is in getting paid in dollars, but I may actually allow him to trade me some of the dollars back for more chocolate, but just so we can understand the whole giving and receiving of value. That’s basically what we do. Then on our website, we try to do blog posts and particularly videos as we can to share what we do as a family with our garden, and share what we’ve learned over the decades particularly in my gardening experience with others to help them see that this is a normal thing that most families used to do, and it’s something that I think most families can back to if they just take the time to do it.
Jennifer: I love that. Chocolate is a great bartering thing. It’s a great currency, really it is. Tell me about Beyond Off Grid. You’re saying that this is the title of the movie, but this is also a website where you can go and learn some different things. Could you elaborate on that, and tell us is it just the movie? Is it more than the movie? If I go to BeyondOffGrid.com, what would I find?
Jason: If you go to BeyondOffGrid.com right now, because we just released our film about a month ago, most of the stuff we have on the front facing right now is about the film. That’s our primary promotion focus right now, but until the film was released, most of the folks that generally are following us or going to our website were aware that we are working on a film, but most of the reason that they came was because we’ve been doing online training in the form of webinars for about three-and-a-half years.
These typically are free when they’re live, and then we’ll do a limited time recording access to the people who have registered for the webinar. Then the extended access to those for the first year or two, we reserved for our supporters. We basically have different supporter levels, and if they give it a higher level, they could basically get access to these training webinars or to the extended film interview footage. We did not only film interviews, but because we’re visiting homesteaders and farmers, we did tours of their different farms and homesteads.
It gives us an opportunity to share some of that content that we couldn’t pack into the film with people who are really interested. We made our supporter fundraising effort both something that would help equip people who were interested, and also provide a lot of value to them. It wasn’t just like, “Hey, support us, and we’ll give you a DVD and a t-shirt, and a poster, and frivolous stuff.” This was actually things that go along with what we’re trying to do with the film whose primary object is to inspire people, but the equipping part of it as you know really takes a lot more time and effort and attention. That’s what we’ve used our online training for.
Jennifer: You also have things that didn’t make it into the film over there as well that people can see and all of that. I looked at some of that stuff which is really great. I know you just can’t have a film that goes on forever, but some of the extensions of the interviews were just as good as the film. That’s awesome. We talked a little bit about your background, but can we talk a little bit more about when you were young, because I know just from reading about you and talking to you that your parents were really instrumental in getting you into the garden. Could you talk about that a little bit, and how they inspired you?
Jason: Yes. It’s interesting, because my family heritage is Hungarian. My mom was actually born there, and her family escaped during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 when she was five years old. My dad was born in the States, and they didn’t particularly garden growing up, because they were largely living in a suburban metropolitan area in Southern, California, but during the ‘s’s, about the time that I was born in the middle ‘s’s, my dad got an interest in gardening. He actually had an interest when he was a teenager and grew some stuff, but once he had his own home, they just started building a garden.
They started with basically rock. There really wasn’t much good soil, but they built it up over time, and amended it. With the long growing seasons there, we were constantly growing things. I remember hot summer nights when my mom would have the windows open with the box fan in the window to draw the heat out, because she was canning tomatoes, or making pickles or whatever. That lifestyle was a part of my upbringing, and it’s normal for me. A lot of people, that’s not normal, and so the leap to return to that, to return to the old paths so to speak to what was normal even 50 or 70 years ago like pre World War II was not as hard for me, because I grew up with it.
It’s harder for a lot of other people. That’s why it’s great that people like you really take an emphasis to take the time to teach people how to do these things, and to reclaim these lost skills. That was part of my upbringing. I only have one sister, but as the first born and my personality type is visionary and prototypical entrepreneur, the military rather wasn’t the best place for me to go because I was put in a box. I excelled there, but my gifts and my passions really flourished in an environment where there’s no limit.
There is like a blue ocean or a pioneer, where I’m going out and trying to find problems that need to be solved, and do it in a creative way that maybe nobody has done before. I’m not saying that what we’re doing is completely unique, because it’s not. However, the film, and one of the reasons I wanted to get involved with the film, was the fact that there’s films that talk about homesteading lifestyle and farming and that kind of stuff. There’s also films that talk about the sustainability of the economic system.
They might focus on the 2008 financial crisis or something like that, but there wasn’t really anything that put all the pieces together of, “What are all these different parts of modernity doing to us, and how should we respond?” Most people just get stuck in the flow of normal modern life, and they don’t think about, “Hey, is this the best thing for my family? Should I be doing this?” Often, it’s not until much later even after their kids are gone, and they see the effects of those decisions that they just accepted that were made for them.
They didn’t really challenge, and they have regret because they realized that they didn’t spend much time with their kids. They didn’t really give their kids any skills that they could use to help provide for their family. They relied on other people to do that. Of course, we homeschool like you do, and that’s also part of this whole journey. I wasn’t homeschooled. I wish I had been, but I think that if you’re going to become more self-reliant and you’re going to try to be a producer, not just a consumer, you have to look at every area of life, and how you’re going to play to those areas of life.
When it comes to raising children, I think homeschooling is the best way to do that, because you’re able to break down those barriers that have been put in place between parents and children, and teaching the next generation the things that will make them successful in all areas of life, and not just in academic pursuits.
Jennifer: I just couldn’t have said that better myself. I totally agree, and we see that. We’re seeing that as our boys are getting older. We’re seeing some of their friends and what their interests are and what their drive is compared to our boys. It’s striking some of the differences, and so we really feel good about that decision to homeschool.
Jason: An example of the beauty of seeking alternatives to what modern life gives us, and homeschooling specifically, my daughter who is 12, almost 13, she’s a first born, a lot like her father, a hard charger, “Go get ’em, and conquer the world,” that kind of thing. That plays into it. However, she’s attending this preparedness expo with me this weekend. This is the third show. She did two last year, in which she is one of the presenters. She’s actually teaching a seminar on how to get started raising chickens, because she’s been doing it since she was five.
She has gifts and capabilities not everybody has. She has no fear in terms of getting up in front and talking to people. She’s more comfortable in front of adults that she is with her peers often. The point is is that if we didn’t homeschool her, we wouldn’t necessarily have the ability to help develop those capabilities, and I wouldn’t have the flexibility and schedule and things to just take her with me on event like this, and allow her to get plugged in and do something that she’s great at and she has experience, she can help other people with.
Modern system is trying to put us all into these boxes we have to progress through, and there is very little room for exploring what we’re uniquely gifted to do in life.
Jennifer: I totally agree. We had a similar experience. We had Joshua, our oldest, on couple weeks ago now, and he’s starting his own business. He’s doing it online, and yes, that stuff is just not taught in school. It’s not. Guys, if you have questions for Jason, please go ahead and put them in the comments, because he is there monitoring. I’m monitoring, and this is the time that you can talk directly to him, and ask him questions. Tell us a little bit more about the effort that went into this film? It wasn’t just you. There was more people involved than just you. Could you talk about that, and explain your role and the role of some of the other people that were involved in the film?
Jason: Sure. As I mentioned, Sean Toulon, he is the producer, director, started the project, and brought me into it as a partner to handle all the business and fundraising and marketing side. I ended up getting a lot more involved in the film production than we had planned. I’ll talk about that in a sec. Some of the other folks involved, Mike Bersins is one of the writers that helped Sean write the script, and also early on before I was involved in the filming, Mike accompanied Sean, and was the interviewer of whoever was being visited and interviewed.
Then Susie and Scott Romack were the photographer and production assistant, and a couple other people that have been involved like when I filmed my interviews, we did those here in Virginia, so my friend Jacob Dillinger who’s a videographer shot those. Overall, a very small team. One other person I’ll mention is that for a time until we basically ran out of the funding to be able to continue to pay him to do all the editing, a friend of mine named Dustin Leiden who is really involved in the Christian film industry did the editing for the early part of the film.
Largely speaking, it was really a handful of people, and pretty much everybody interestingly enough involved were homeschooling families, which is not surprising because if you’re interested in homesteading and self-reliance, there’s a high correlation to homeschooling with homesteaded. As far as the process, like I said, I didn’t go on a couple of the early filming tours primarily because they were in the central or western U.S. and I’m on the east coast. It just didn’t make sense for me to go all the way out to Texas where Sean was, and go up to Washington state to do that, but the last tour that we did in Alabama and Tennessee, I accompanied Sean and the rest of the crew on for filming.
That was great because I got to meet people like Franklin Sanders for the first time. He’s become a really good friend, as well as some of the other people that we interviewed, and to really see some of the homesteads like Noah Sanders have built from the ground up. It’s very inspiring to see what can be done even in the matter of less than 10 years starting with raw forest and basically putting in ponds, and houses, and barns, and all these kind of things. There is that aspect of it that was really inspiring to me and the rest of the team as well.
Jennifer: I have a question from Mandy. She is asking what you would recommend for somebody who lives in a suburb of a major city? What would be some of the steps that they could do to start living this kind of self-reliant off grid lifestyle even though obviously they are connected, because they live in a suburb? What would be the top three things you could recommend for somebody like that?
Jason: We actually cover this in terms of priorities in the film. The first half of the film is talking about what is this modern system that we’re dealing with and that we have to live in, and has it done to us? Then the second half is what could we do about it? The things that we focus on, a lot of people will focus on political activism and all these other things, but ultimately, the system, the economy that we have is a result of the population participating in it.
If you want to affect change in your economy, you have to make different decisions on how you spend your money, because that’s what feeds it. If you see the system is a beast, you got to stop feeding the beast. The easiest way is just to look at how you’re spending your money particularly on food. Are you just buying everything through the major grocery distribution allies? Are you buying everything at Walmart, Super Walmart, or are you looking at re-localizing your food supply, and trying to get reconnected where your food comes from?
If you can grow much of your own food, are you buying from local producers? Actually, one of the talks I’m giving at the show I’m going to this weekend is all about re-localizing your food supply, and building food security by knowing where your food comes from, and having a relationship with the producers rather than just trusting a government stamp or the typical means that people get food from. That’s probably one part is just to think about your spending habits, because that often is what feeds into the lifestyle implications.
Even if you’re in a suburban area if you have a yard of any kind, even if you don’t, if you have a patio that get some sun, you can grow something. You can start growing in containers, or do vertical gardening. There’s lots of different things. It’s never been easier to get ideas than now because of things like Pinterest that allow you to put on a search in vertical gardening, and just look, and you’re like, “Wow, I see it. I don’t have to read a bunch of articles to figure what the options are.”
Growing some of your own food, reconnecting with local food producers, and then being prepared for emergencies, having water, emergency food, having a place to go. Some emergencies are very localized. It might be like a chemical spill near your neighborhood, and you have to evacuate. What are you going to do? Have a place to go. Think through a lot of these things. Don’t just fall into the trap of the normalcy bias that just because we’ve never had a disaster where we live, doesn’t mean you’re not going to.
The last thing I’ll mention is just anecdotal. The place we’re currently living at is we’ve been here about four years, almost, and actually in the first two years we were here, we had five power outages. One of them was the big Jericho storm that came through from the Great Lakes and swept through the Midwest and into Virginia, North Carolina, and it knocked up power to some crazy number like 12 or 15 million people. That was a abnormal event. In fact, that hadn’t happened to that degree in at least 50 years. It was very quick moving, so it’s not like a hurricane where you have warning because it’s out in the ocean.
Figuring out how you’re going to deal with not having power, with not having running water and all these kind of things, the typical preparedness things, those are really important things to do first so that if you do have a disaster, you can respond, but then looking at how you can reduce your dependence through lifestyle change so that you have what I call lifestyle preparedness, which is I know really what you’re focus is. That is probably the biggest conceptual change that people can make.
Jennifer: I love that. Vote with your wallet. That was great. You said that you did not intend to be in the film, but you are. Tell us that story.
Jason: I think Sean’s original concept for the film was primarily to focus on alternatives to modern living. We could have made not just the documentary film but probably a whole documentary series just on that topic, because there’s a lot to cover, but we realized that to a certain extent if people aren’t interested in that, the film has limited reach and effectiveness because people don’t understand why they should be looking at alternatives. “I’m comfortable with all my modern conveniences. Why would I want to do something else?”
We looked at how we could try to provide enough of the why people should consider alternatives. In other words, get them properly concerned about how modern systems entrap us and make us dependent upon them in a lot of ways we don’t even think about until maybe a disaster happens, and we go, “Oh, I never thought about that before, but that really stinks to not have that, that I have to get from the store every week, or whatever.” It was extremely difficult to make this film, because we’re trying to pack about nine hours of stuff into 90 minutes.
What we had to do was we had to cover a lot of ground but touch on the main areas, and we couldn’t go super deep on a lot of them, so we tried to weave together a story in a picture of what these things look like in a way that was compelling and flowed. Once I got involved in the film, I ended up arranging some of the interviews that weren’t planned earlier, people like Franklin Sanders and Geoff Botkin who talked a little bit more about the systemic cultural, social things going on.
That originally weren’t going to be covered, but are important. After we got all the filming done, and looked at all the footage, we realized that there is some gaps, and the only way to bridge those gaps was two things, either one, we had to go out and either do additional interviews of the same people or find additional interviewees, which just takes time to do, or we were going to have to bridge it with narration, and it was going to be too much voice over narration with a lot of bee rule and stuff.
We made a decision that we would insert me into the film speaking on camera, to the camera, as a second narrator. I don’t know how you think it turned out, but I think it ended up working in terms of helping us to say what we needed to say without it being half the film is the narrator talking.
Jennifer: No, I think it worked out great. I think it helps that, because you’re the person who is promoting this, but you’re in the film, and so there’s a continuity there. I really love that. That is great. How did you go and seek out these experts? What were the criteria for finding these different people to interview?
Jason: I think the original criteria that Sean created his original list from, the first person he interviewed was Michael Bunker whose book inspired the film in Sean’s whole concept that he wanted to put on film. He did that interview first, and then he looked for other people that were in some way shape or form leaders in homesteading or alternative sustainable living, off grid living, those kind of things. One of the people in the film which actually has never been in another film is Cody known as Wranglerstar on YouTube. He’s got a book now, and he’s basically the biggest YouTube star in the homesteading space.
Because we are Christians and we were making a biblical worldview film, he decided to agree to allow us to interview him and talk about what they’re doing, because that’s important to them. He had lots of interview requests and film interview documentary type requests in the past, but he was always hesitant understandably that the filmmaker or the interviewer was going to take what they said, and twist it in a way that wasn’t really representative of his view. I think we did a good justice to Michael and Cody in particular their view and the importance of faith and all of that.
Then we interview people like Paul Wheaton. He is a leading permaculture leader. We interviewed people like Franklin Sanders who I added because he is not only a financial commentator, he’s a gold and silver broker. His family business is they sell gold and silver, and he does a daily email commentary about the markets. If you follow him, you’ll get a good understanding of what’s going on in the financial and economic world from the perspective of somebody who understands that the system is not sustainable.
They’re not just spouting the same talking points as CNBC and all the rest, but he is also … He made his own journey back to the land. Back in about I think it was 1999, he moved from the Memphis area into middle Tennessee with his family. He’s also got seven children, and they started homesteading. They actually were doing all the off grid stuff with draft horses, and all that stuff. He’s lived the life, but he’s also an expert in the area of financial issues and stuff.
We tried to get people that in some way shape or form were all doing the lifestyle change, and had implemented lifestyle change consistent with the things that they’re talking about. They’re not just the financial expert, but they’re totally dependent like everybody else is. Franklin is a financial expert, but he’s taken all these steps to remove or to reduce his dependence on the system. That’s the criteria we use, and I think it ended up working out pretty well.
Jennifer: I do too, because I love hearing from them. Another thing that you talked about in the film is a very interesting concept to me, and that is building things naturally and from natural things that you can find locally including things like houses. The materials that are used are just found around where you’re building that structure. Could you talk about that a little bit, and how you got to that? I know it’s the whole sustainability thing, but you don’t see that a lot. How did that come up?
Jason: The general term is referred to as natural building. There’s a lot of different but natural building methods. We actually did a whole webinar on natural building methods and the different styles, and what goes into them and stuff with a guy named Alex Sumerall, who his website is This Cob House. The reason we did this is because people get interested, and they want to go back to land. They want a homestead, and then they go, “Holly molly, it’s expensive,” usually because they’re trying to find a piece of land that has infrastructure on it, particularly a house they can live in.
The reality is that in America at least, the modern standards for what is an acceptable dwelling are very, very high. Therefore, they drive at a very, very high cost of housing. I think the figure is something in the 1950’s, the average square foot of the American house was like 1,100 square feet, and it’s more than double that today. There’s a lot of big houses, and often, it’s not really well used space, so you’re paying a lot for not getting that much extra functionality.
You’re getting luxury, and you’re paying for it. A lot of times, the people go back to the land, they look at, “Okay, well maybe I can buy an old farmhouse, and fix it up,” or something like that. Often, people don’t think outside the box, which is instead of buying land and building a new house using the same instruction methods and the same high price because the house is going to cost $100,000 to $200,000 typically for what most people expect.
The alternative is actually build your own house. People go, “Well, how do I do that?” People don’t realize that in most modern construction, wood frame construction at least, about half the cost of building a house is labor, and of the remaining material cost, about half of that cost is lumber. The lumber cost, lumber as Joel Salatin says is the highest commodity markup in the world. It’s like 3000% markup from the log to the finished lumber product, and so if you’re looking to cut cost, there’s two primary ways that you can cut cost. One is to replace the labor you’re paying for with your own, and the second is to reduce your material cost.
If you’re buying land, if you buy land with woods on it, you can harvest the trees, and then hire a local bandsaw miller to mill the lumber for you at a fraction of the cost, and you cut out a huge amount of cost for the primary cost drivers in construction. Then some of the other examples of natural building are building with earth in various forms, whether it’s cob which is a mixture of sand and clay and some soil, and usually straw to act as a binder, and you basically put it together in some kind of a frame.
There is something called earth bag building, which is basically like sandbags filled with earth, and you basically build walls based with those. There’s also straw bale where you build a frame structure, and then the insulation part in the interior of the walls were actually straw bales, no kidding, and then it’s covered with an earth and plaster. There’s other things too, some newer technologies like compressed earth blocks where you basically, they use a press to press a specifically mixed soil together that basically is as hard as a brick, but because it’s earth, it has extremely beneficial insulated property. It has an oral value of something crazy.
It’s also a heat sync, so if it gets sun, it heats up. In the winter time, you can get passive solar heating essentially out of using some of these earth in structures. Those are just examples. We didn’t get to go into too much detail on the film, but the point is they’re trying to get people to think outside the box. I have this challenge I want to move to land, but I can’t afford it. How do I solve that challenge? Well, you have to cut cost. How can you cut cost? Natural building is a good solution to look at.
Jennifer: It is. It’s very interesting too to even study. Like I said, you don’t hear about it very often, so it’s just something very interesting to consider. Can you tell us a little bit about your faith, because you talked about this just a second ago a little bit? Could you go into more depth with that and how you felt God led you to this project?
Jason: Sure. I’m a Christian. I was raised in a Christian home, and I grew up going to church. I don’t know at what point I was actually converted, but I don’t think it’s actually that important. The big picture is that I understand that I’m a fallen man and then I am a sinner in need of a savior, and Jesus Christ is the savior. Importantly, as far as this project goes, the question is how does faith play into this journey? If people are trying to go back to land, how does faith play into it? I think actually the best person that’s prominent a lot of people know about that talks about this is actually Joel Salatin.
He is America’s famous farmer, and he is the evangelist of sustainable agriculture. Although he primarily speaks to non-faith audiences like 80% or 90% are the crunchy back to land mother of news type of crowd, he doesn’t hide the fact that the reason that he does what he does is because he’s a believer, and he believes that one of his responsibilities as a Christian man is to properly steward the creation that God has put under his charge.
The idea of stewardship of God’s creation, it’s not confined to homesteading or going back to land or anything. Really, any proper understanding of our role in respect to God should be uniquely or intricately tied to our understanding that we are stewards. In other words, nothing we have actually belong to us. God gives us everything we have, and He could take it away any moment including our lives. We only draw our next breath because God gives it to us.
As far as it goes to how do we manage and steward the resources God has put under our care, because most people in modern life, it has to do with dollars and cents and material things, most people aren’t thinking about it in terms of stewardship of the earth. To a large extent, people are very removed from where food comes from, and the impacts on the creation of the industrial model of food production and of land stewardship. That’s what Joel largely speaking has become famous talking about is this very topic.
I think as it applies to how we’re trying to weed this into the film, and how it drives mind motivation, I understand that modern life at best is distracting, it makes difficult spiritual life, because there’s just so much noise and so many things mending our attention, and the consumerism and entertainment and everything else. Even if you don’t go back to land, as a person of faith, you really need to make an intentional effort to slow down and to be still.
I constantly struggle with this because I do my work online. I work from home so that I can work all the time, and often do work a lot of the time in between other activities, but slowing down and being still, and knowing God and listening to His voice, and Cody from Wrangler star talks about this in the film that one of the biggest benefits that they had to moving to the country is their relationship with God, because they didn’t have all the noise and distractions and other things that were going on in the city or suburban lifestyle environment to distract them, and allowed them to really focus more on the things that are important, being God and family, and being productive with the resources that He had given them.
Same thing for my family, one of the reasons we garden is because we want to be good stewards of what God has given us. Even though we don’t have a huge property, we try to steward the land that He’s given us, and make it productive, and grow out of it not just to provide for our own family but help provide for others as well. That’s a little bit of insight into the importance of faith in the film and the context of my family.
Jennifer: I love that. You did at the beginning, but for those people who are coming in the middle and all of that, could you go over again off off grid, and why that’s important, and why it is in the film, and it’s something that you want to talk about?
Jason: Sure. The term is actually coined by Michael Bunker. I mentioned his book, Surviving Off Off Grid was the primary catalyst or inspiration for the film projects to start and get going. He was the first person we interviewed. The concept is that modern systems entrap us and limit our freedom, and limit our freedom of action and decision, and things that we can do. Particularly, especially in the modern economy, it often revolves around death. People are indebted, and therefore, they have to keep working their job to pay the bills which often is debt payment and things.
Some of it is that, but really as people look to seek more freedom and self-reliance, the movement really flourished in the 1970’s with Mother News and the whole out of the hippie movement, came all these people who went back to the land and things. Off grid technology like solar power and wind power, a lot of things have developed out of that, but ultimately, if we don’t realize that if we replace the modern context of consumerist type technology and lifestyle with an off grid technology that we’re still dependent upon. In other words, we’ve replaced the grid electrical system with our own little micro grid solar system, but we’re now dependent upon that little system, and we still have all these thing that we do that are dependent upon electricity.
If for some reason we were to lose that electrical system, then we’re probably going to be hurting just like somebody who is in a modern context and loses their power would be as well. It doesn’t have to be something like an electromagnetic pulse that destroys all the electrical circuit boards and all that kind of stuff. It could be you got a tornado, and it wrecks your whole solar system, and you can’t afford to replace it. What happens if that happens? I think a lot of preparedness is not just thinking of the into the world scenarios, but thinking of other things that are less significant, but more likely, and things like a job loss can be a big one for people.
That’s one of the reasons that … I was watching Misty’s food storage webinar last night, and she mentioned that having a food storage helps prepare you for job loss. My friend, Kieran Foster, he used to be a food blogger and read a book called Real food Storage. She talks about the same thing. Her and her family lived off of food storage for almost an entire year not once but twice when her husband lost his job for an extended period of time.
We have to stop assuming that everything that we have on a normal basis is always going to be there, and think about what are our contingencies. The final thing I’ll mention and how we took the off off grid concept and extended it is that we realized that a lot of people aren’t going to go to the extent that Michael Bunker’s family has, but if you understand the limitations of all this technology we have been dependent upon, and you make a decision as to which of those dependencies you accept, and which ones you try to correct through alternative means, at lest you’re making an informed decision.
What we don’t want is for people to continue like the mass of the population walking along on this path blindly completely oblivious to all the different ways that they’re vulnerable thinking at the system, whether that’s the government or the economy or whatever, is going to take care of them, because we see in large scale disasters that simply does not happen.
Jennifer: That’s well, well said, because that’s completely true. How can we see this film? Like I said, I have already seen it, and it is really worth your time. It is thought provoking. Can you buy a DVD, see it online? Tell us how to view this film.
Jason: Right now, the film is available online. It’s been online for about a month now. The DVD production process has been a little bit delayed, but we should have them to ship out next week, so we are taking preorders for DVDs. They’ll ship out as soon as we get them. We also have in addition to just getting the film and the DVD, and you can buy them together as well. As I mentioned, one of the primary we did fundraising was through asking people to support us.
Some people just bought online access to the film or the DVD, but we had different levels, and some of the levels include more content, and therefore more value, things like extended interviews with the folks we interviewed for the film, or access to the primary bunch of webinars. We have as over 25 webinars on preparedness and self-reliance and homesteading topics. People can go to the website, and if you click on good awards to support us or support the film, we haven’t closed it down yet. We’re going to be closing it down soon, but we still have our supporter award system up.
If you want to take a look at any of those resources, you may decide that you actually want to join as the supporter of one of those higher levels, and get access to additional content, or if you just want to watch the film, you can do that too as well. For people that prefer to watch it in another online streaming mediums and stuff, that would be coming, but typically with independently produced films the way the order of release is like on your own website or via DVD first, and then it goes to transactional video like Amazon Prime or something else.
The last one is subscription like Hulu or Netflix or something like that. Over the next six months to a year, you’ll see it start coming out on those other formats, but you can watch it right now online on our website. The link that I gave you Jennifer is it will take people to a welcome page for the people watching this show. On that page, it will have information about how they can watch the sneak peek to the film intro I mentioned earlier. It will also have right there on that page if they want to buy online a film access or DVD, they can.
It also has some information about our Beyond Off Grid summit online course that’s really focused on homesteading and self-reliance topics if they’re interested in learning more. Then at the bottom it also has some information about Seeds Generations, my family seed business, if they wanted to either buy seeds from us. Now, is garden planting season, so we’ve got a great garden planting calculator, and there’s a link to that if people want to use that calculator tool to help them plan their planting timeline for this year.
Jennifer: Yes, we’re going to put that link up in just one second, but first, where can people find you, connect with you, social media, your website? Tell us where the best place is to connect with you.
Jason: Our email list is the primary place you want to be. We do Facebook and Twitter, mostly Facebook but some Twitter. We’ve got stuff on Flicker. Not much on Instagram yet, but we’re going to be starting that, and also in YouTube though YouTube is limited at this point. We have so much content, where I’m working with my team to start taking clips of videos from different thing we’ve done, and put those out there. That’s part of the film rollout, but being on our email list is the best way to keep tabs on what we’re doing.
When we have a new webinar or an online training we’re going to do, we send it to our email list. As you know with Facebook, if you like our page, only 15% to 20% of the time you’re actually going to see any of the posts, so if you rely on that to keep tabs on what we’re doing, and you want to get access to the free training, that’s not really a reliable method. Getting on our email list is the best way. You can do that on the page that I linked for you.
Jennifer: Great. Wonderful, thank you so much for joining us, Jason.
Jason: Thanks for having me. It’s been great. I appreciate all your thoughtful questions. It has been a great interview. Thanks so much for your time and your help.
Jennifer: Thanks. If you are just coming in, you came in late, we have been talking to Jason Matyas of Beyond Off Grid, and we were talking about his new film that just came out by the same name, Beyond Off Grid. If you are interested in watching this film, which I highly recommend, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the entire film, and then I’ve also seen some of the outtakes. Everything is really, really worth your time. It’s thought provoking. You can go to beyondoffgrid.com/SRLshow. That would take you right there, and you can get all the information about how you can view this film. Like I said, I completely recommend it, and I’ve seen it, well worth of your time. Again, that link is beyondoffgrid.com/SRLshow. Remember, being self-reliant isn’t just about you. It’s about taking care of yourself so you can take care of the ones that you love. Take care, until we talk again.