Discord Channel viewers love watching “Alaska: The Last Frontier” for its seemingly realistic depiction of one family living in extreme conditions in Alaska, about 11 miles or 17,5kms away from the nearest, relatively modern town of Homer. However, the distance seems far greater on TV, making them look like they are in the middle of nowhere. The Discovery-produced show features the Kilchers, a large family whose history dates to the 1930s when Yule and Ruth claimed a 160-acre or 0,64km2 property to build their homestead. However, the show focuses on their sons, Otto and Atz, and their children, spouses, relatives and neighbors.

The family has chosen to live on the land and survive on what it provides, without modern heating, plumbing, and many amenities. Although some things have changed since the homestead was established, for example, getting electricity and water, many activities have remained a staple of their lifestyle, such as fishing, hunting, caring for livestock, and preparing for long Alaskan winters.

The Kilcher family has also received a monthly salary from Discovery Channel since 29 December 2011, when its first season aired, and will continue to do so thanks to the show’s popularity. Its latest season premiered in October 2022, and Discovery will almost undoubtedly renew it for the 12th. However, there are many misconceptions and frequent accusations of scripted behavior, exaggerated events, and inaccurate portrayal of the homestead’s distance from civilization, and their wealth. That prompted viewers to wonder how much the family earns and us to investigate their income streams.

The Kilcher family is worth millions

Although it is challenging to pinpoint how rich the Kilchers are, viewers have learned about their history over the last 12 years on TV. The family is proud of their origins, and have never hidden their influence in Alaska for over 80 years. Ruth and Yule started it all, and lived and worked for several decades before Otto and Atz took over. Their livestock, fishing and hunting equipment, vehicles such as tractors and snowmobiles, and countless buildings on the property, which grew from 160 to 640 acres or 2.6km2 by 2023, are worth at least a million US dollars.

On top of undisclosed individual and gross profits from Discovery for every episode, the family members are still charging rent for staying at the homestead, tickets to enter their museum, and an entry fee for their on-property workshops. Some family members have started YouTube channels and earned revenue from advertisements; others are creating homesteading lifestyle courses and could sell surplus items to fans or people nearby. Some websites estimate the family’s net worth at between $16 and $20 million, but that’s merely an informed guess.

The family wealth dates from 1936

The Kilcher family’s presence in Alaska starts with Yule F. Kilcher, a Swiss-born American homesteader born in Laufen in 1913, and his then-wife, Ruth Helen Weber, an American citizen. Yule worked as a logger and journalist before hearing about Alaska’s homesteading law, passed in 1862. Some conditions changed, but the law allowed anyone older than 21 to claim 160 acres of federally owned land for a mere $20 if they lived on and maintained the land. Yule was excited; he went to Alaska in 1936 to ‘found an idealistic community’, and returned to Switzerland three years later to persuade others to join him before he settled there in 1940 in a one-room cabin with, at that time, his wife and three daughters.

Yule was the one who first wanted to document their life; he produced two documentaries, the first of its kind, on 16 mm film, “The Last Frontier” and “A Pioneer Family in Alaska,” and promoted them in Europe in the late 1940s and mid-to-late 1950s. He was also an Alaskan senator for the Democratic Party, in which role Yule helped write the Constitution of Alaska, which was ratified in 1956 and took effect in 1959 when Alaska became a US state, and continued to work into the 1960s.

Ruth and their eight children worked at the homestead while he traveled, and she also wrote for the Anchorage Daily News magazine. After their 1969 divorce, Ruth relocated to Tennessee, where she worked as a translator, writer and journalist, and remarried in 1971. However, they both died at the homestead, surrounded by their loved ones; Ruth on 11 July 1997, then Yule on 8 December 1998.

All eight siblings own the homestead

As mentioned, the show follows some Kilcher Family Homestead residents and their life in Kachemak Bay, Kenai Peninsula. Two brothers, Otto and Atz, their wives, Charlotte and Bonnie Dupree, and their children, nephews, and nieces, are the main cast members. However, many viewers don’t realize that Otto’s and Atz’s six sisters, Mossy, Sunrise, Catkin, Wurtilla, Stellavera, and Fay, live on the homestead and frequently rent out lodging accommodations to visitors, and organize local events. However, they don’t appear in the show for reasons only known to the family.

Regardless, the brothers’ wealth is theirs, too, thanks to Yule. He witnessed nearby homesteads torn apart thanks to conflicts about inheritance and the family members’ decisions to split into smaller households. Instead of waiting to see if that would happen to his family, he created a conservation easement on the property, and named it the Kilcher Family Trust. All siblings are trustees bound by its rules not to destroy or split the homestead, but preserve or improve it for their children and grandchildren.

Discovery may be paying everyone at once

Kilcher Family Trust’s existence is instrumental to their wealth. Fans of the show suspect that the 1984 Swiss documentary, “Die schwierige Schule des einfachen Lebens,” or “The hard school of the simple life,” began the discussion about payments. All family members who participated received their cut, but it may not have been identical. After Yule established the family trust, Discovery Channel probably saw an excellent opportunity to keep everyone happy.

According to Business Insider, reality shows participants often receive $1,500 per episode on the low end. Those whose shows gain some popularity could earn between $7,000 and $10,000 per episode, and those at the top-end, such as “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” aired for 20 seasons until 2021, may get a $100 million deal for three years.

With that said, “Alaska: The Last Frontier” is one of the most popular Discovery Channel shows and could be earning a six to seven-figure yearly salary for the Kilchers. Dividing the paycheck equally would be unfair, even if the family members love each other dearly. Thus, Discovery Channel presumably treats the family as a business entity to avoid conflict and simplify the payouts. After being paid, the family members could dole out the money as needed for their daily lives and homestead projects – exactly how remains unknown.

Homestead is open to the public

Nearly all the Kilcher family’s earnings outside the TV show come from their homestead. They live off their land and probably sell a portion of what they produce to other homesteads or viewers who visit theirs. Besides allowing people to book a stay, the family monetizes their homestead in several ways. One of the oldest festivities is the Annual Homestead Games, which started in July 2006, and featured locals and entertainers that the family likes. They also organize competitions such as nail pounding, log-sawing, and the coal race.

Moreover, the family created a Kilcher Homestead Living Museum, allowing visitors to see the family memorabilia as they give a guided tour. Mossy offers birding tours, allowing visitors see rare birds such as the bald eagle. Fay organizes a jam-making workshop, and the entire family frequently makes enthralling but educational wild mushroom-hunting outings.

These activities let family members have fun yet contribute to the budget; that includes Bonnie, Atz’s wife, and her two children from a previous marriage to Doug Schwiesow, Karl and Hannah. His son, Atz Lee, has been married to Jane Kilcher since 2006 and has two children, Pieper and Etienne, who briefly appeared in the show but won’t be series regulars because their parents want to protect them from the negatives of a reality TV star’s life. Otto’s children from his marriage to Sharon Mckemie, son Eivin and his wife Eve, and their two children, Findlay and Sparrow, are also series regulars.

Visitors may also meet Otto’s son Levi and stepson Torrey. Shane, Otz’s son known for his humor, and his wife Kelli Ware Kilcher, whom he married in 1992, are also devoted to life on the homestead alongside their four children, Keena Tarik, Jareth, Jenna, and Reid. We will now get into individual family members’ passions that bring them money.

Atz is a singer and musician

Atz grew up doing what the rest of the family did; hunting, fishing, herding cattle, and farming. He inherited his mother’s musical talent, and started singing and playing the piano and guitar in his spare time. His hobby partially became a profession – after the show aired, he became known for his singing, songwriting, and yodeling skills and his love for the folk, western, and bluegrass genres. He has released several albums between 1978 and 2015, and his music is available on music streaming services such as Apple Music. Therefore, he earns royalties and may sell physical copies of his work.

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Jewel is a singer, poet, and author

Jewel Kilcher is a well-known singer and songwriter who’s released 13 studio albums and a few live, children’s music, and holiday albums between 1995 and 2023. She’s received critical acclaim for her work, and has sold over 18,5 million records in the US; however, many people did not know that Atz was her father. Although she moved from the homestead, she likely has the highest personal net worth that exceeds that of her father and uncle. Jewel earned even more money, respect, and recognition when she joined the show for the first time during the family reunion in the sixth season.

Furthermore, she wrote a memoir, “Chasing Down the Dream,” with her father’s permission, and released it in 2000. Besides her thoughts on life and the experience of being a music superstar, the work depicted her traumatic childhood, with an abusive father who struggled after returning from the Vietnam War, and her mother, Lenedra Carroll, who left the homestead when Jewel was seven and divorced her father in 1982. Jewel published a second memoir – “Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story” on 20 September 2016 – and a little-known book of poems, “A Night Without Armor” in 1998.

Lenedra is also the mother of Shane and Atz Lee and a singer and author like Jewel. She has released two albums, “Beyond Words” and “Daybreak Song,” and published a memoir, “The Architecture of All Abundance: Seven Foundations to Prosperity.” Although she left her at an early age, Lenedra reappeared in Jewel’s life when her daughter attained music industry success; she was even her manager until Jewel discovered Lenedra was stealing money from her.

Otto is the homestead’s mechanic and an author

Otto has been homesteading from a young age, however, he also had a distinct affinity for mechanics and has been the go-to person whenever a machine or tool broke, but many don’t knowthat  Otto does projects outside his homestead. According to his LinkedIn profile, he’s the owner and president of “Coastal Freight & Salvage, Inc.,” a company that he founded in 1993 to manage inland freight transport of water. Moreover, he was the director and chairman of the Fox River Cattleman’s Association, Inc., and a president of Apex Gear & Hydraulic, Inc.

Eve and Eivin’s cookbook

Eivin and Eve released a cookbook entitled “Homestead Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Our Hearth to Yours” on 25 October 2016. Not only are their recipes tasty and good-looking, but they are optimized to be sustainable, healthy, and have a small environmental footprint.

Some family members promote products

Atz Lee and Jewel are the Kilchers with arguably the most significant social media presence, thanks to their Instagram profiles, @atzlee and @jewel. Atz Lee seems disinterested in promoting anything but his lifestyle; hence, he created a YouTube channel to provide additional insight into his daily life, but the profile is hard to find. In contrast, Jewel uses her large following to sell branded hoodies and t-shirts. Jane, Shane and Otto also have active Instagram profiles, but share Atz’s mindset and don’t promote other brands. Eivin and Eve do the same, but sometimes promote their online course, The Homesteading Mindset. It costs $59 and promises to teach its students about homesteading through 22 video lessons.

Shane is a non-profit founder

Shane’s LinkedIn profile reveals that he founded a non-profit organization entitled Higher Ground for Humanity in 1998, with Jewel and Lenedra. His organization promoted spiritual development, research, alternative medicine, and art to improve the environment. Shane was also part of the Clean Water Project between 1997 and 2010. The project sought to help villages lacking access to clean water, and suffering from problems with self-sustainability, and was present in more than 18 countries. However, whether he made any money from his charity work is yet to be announced.

The Kilchers are all about family legacy

With the popularity of “Alaska: The Last Frontier”, would the cast members become a celebrity family like the Roloffs of “Little People, Big World” or the Duggars in “19 Kids and Counting.” However, they don’t seem interested; instead, the family maintains the Kilcher Family Homestead while they promote their family values, such as sticking together, increasing their generational wealth, and advertising their lifestyle.

Although some members ventured out, such as Jewel becoming a renowned musician, and August Kilcher, Otto’s and Charlotte’s son, who left the homestead to attend Oregon State University in 2016, most have returned to their roots or at least occasionally visit home. Viewers have yet to learn how much Discovery Channel pays them.

Based on industry insiders, the number possibly ranged between $5,000 and $50,000 per episode for each family member in the 11th season, making their joint income at least a few hundred thousand dollars annually. Combined with revenues from memoirs, cookbooks, lifestyle courses, and profits from events they organize at the homestead, the Kilchers have certainly earned several million dollars since 2011. That excludes the value of the land, livestock, equipment and buildings; hence, the total wealth could be as high as $20 million, as of 2023..

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