“Homestead Rescue” – an aid to remote living

With the rising costs and stresses of city life, many people yearn to escape the urban rat race, live peacefully out in nature, and get off the (expensive) grid. It’s not as easy as it seems though, in fact it can be quite daunting, so the reality TV series, “Homestead Rescue” was designed to help those attempting to, or struggling to survive off the land. The series premiered on Discovery Channel on 17th June 2016 and is still going strongly in its 11th Season.

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Because of a lawsuit filed against the producers of “Homestead Rescue”, many people are assuming that the series is staged and completely fictitious. As with many other reality TV shows, the question has arisen as to how real the series actually is. Granted that it’s acceptable that a portion of every reality show is probably scripted, but the question remains: ‘how much is authentic and how much is fabricated?’ Here we will endeavour to unravel this particular query.

‘When homesteading dreams become nightmares, the Raneys are here to help’

This is the slogan for “Homestead Rescue” which has been viewed across many countries. Called “Wild Family Rescue” in South Africa, “Home Rescue” in Germany and “Vida Remota” in Brazil, it still showcases just how challenging it is to live a self-sustainable life in remote areas where, at times, one is beset by natural disasters, food shortages and confrontation with wild animals, snakes and predators such as bears and mountain lions. The Raneys step in to share their expertise in survival skills, building, and various aspects of farming with homesteaders, and assist them to develop a more resilient and robust self-reliant way of life.

So who are the Raneys?

The family is headed by Marty Raney, the host and producer of the show, and features his two offspring, Misty and Matt Raney. Marty was born in North Bend, Washington on 16th October 1957, left home when he was 16, moved to Alaska and married in 1974. He and his wife Mollee created, and to this day enjoy, a rugged lifestyle without modern conveniences. The couple currently live on a remote 40-acre homestead in Haines, and have been through thick and thin together. Marty has had a lifetime of adventurous experiences, having worked as a logger in the icy cold Alaskan woods in the 1970s. Misty is a farmer and Matt a hunter and fisherman. Misty married Maciah Bilodeau and they have one child. Maciah and Mollee decided not to take part in the show, as did Marty’s other two children, Miles and Melanee. Matt’s wife, Katie has appeared on the show, and the couple have a son called Indy and a daughter called Ruby.

Marty has featured and been involved in many Alaskan films and documentaries as a guide, sound man, musician and cameraman e.g. the National Geographic channel’s “Ultimate Survival Alaska 2013”, “Climb against the odds” and “An Idiot Abroad”. He was the first person ever to summit Denali with a guitar, which culminated in this prototype, capable of withstanding challenging conditions, being reproduced by the Martin guitar company. Denali, which he’s climbed many times, is the highest mountain peak in North America with a summit elevation of 20,310 feet and Marty, Mollee and their four children also achieved the accolade of being the only family to have successfully climbed the peak together. Marty also built a guitar in the shape of Alaska.

The versatile Marty, who in addition to all his achievements, has built his own home and many others with logs and stone, also produced a spin-off series entitled “Homestead Rescue: Raney Ranch,” which premiered in October 2020 on Discovery. Furthermore, he’s the author of “Homestead Survival: An Insider’s Guide to Your Great Escape”.

His slogan on his website boasts: ‘Some people have an adventure of a lifetime; in Alaska, I’ve had a lifetime of adventure.’

The lawsuit against “Homestead Rescue”

A couple named Kimberly and Josh Zabec featured in the second episode of Season 1 of “Homestead Rescue”, entitled “Under Siege”. The Raneys had flown to Virginia to aid the Zabecs because pigs had ruined a portion of their land. Later, the Zabecs claimed that the show depicted them as being unskilled, and appearing as though they didn’t know what they were doing on their farm. After receiving criticism and derogatory comments from the public, they took the production company to task by filing a lawsuit against them, stating that they were misrepresented and that the show isn’t even close to reality. They maintained that they’re running a successful homestead and that they were originally approached to be part of a show portraying accomplished homesteaders, not the way they were shown up as struggling. Granted the production company had told them that they wanted to add some drama, and Kim and Josh had approved that, but were mortified when they had taken it as far as they had. Let’s find out a little more about the Zabecs ….

About Kim and Josh Zabec

Kimberley and Josh have known each other since the age of six. The couple had seen an advert for a land sale in Kinsale, Virginia on Craigslist and, as the land was so much cheaper than in Maryland, jumped at the chance. They called their 20-acre homestead Revolutionary Roots Farm, as when they began in April 2014 knew nothing about farming. Initially the land was thickly forested, with no structures, and Josh and Kim would come on weekends and clear parts of the land using a chainsaw. They built a cabin hauling pallets through the woods and little by little their farm took shape. They went through some hard times, and often felt like giving up, but have acknowledged that they’ve learnt a lot. They have raised pigs, using them to clear tracts of land, as well as chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, geese, cows and goats.

In 2015 Kimberly won the contest “I am a Modern Farmer“, and declared that she considered herself as such as they make their own non-GMO animal feed.

The outcome of the lawsuit

Throughout the debacle and the legal proceedings, Kim had nothing but compliments about Marty, saying that he was a hard-working, ‘genuine guy’ with a passion to share his knowledge and help others live off the land. Marty stated that his experience with Kim was amazing, and was pleased that she hadn’t said anything derogatory about him, and likewise, he has nothing bad to say about the Zabecs.

No-one knows the verdict of the lawsuit, as it was kept under wraps and never publicized, although it was speculated that the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence. However, the Zabecs still bear the brunt of the backlash resulting from the show and continue to receive negative comments. They used to post regularly on their Facebook page, which has almost 2,000 followers, but the last post on 28th March 2021 states, ‘I stopped posting because of all the mean hate messages I would get. I truly miss sharing my life sometimes. But it was just getting out of control.’

Kim had created an impassioned video first posted on 25th June 2016, lamenting that she’d been crying all night, and stated, ‘My emotions are ranging from disgust to sadness to anger. I’m appalled at the way we are being attacked.’ She again pinned the video to the top of their Facebook page on 17th July 2016, saying that she could tell when their “episode” airs because she receives ignorant messages and ‘Hopefully, more people will take the time to see the real truth.’ Most people who commented voiced their support and appreciation of the Zabecs and Revolutionary Roots Farm.

In the video she attempted to make right the wrongs she felt they’d been dished out as a result of the “Homestead Rescue” screening. She stressed that the pigs on their property were not left to roam without shelter, but that they had huts dotted all over with automatic waterers close by, adding that their intention was for the pigs to ‘tear up the land’. She also made it clear that their animals are thriving, happy and healthy, and that only one pig had had one batch of stillborn piglets. Their chickens roam free and only go into the coops at night, so felt that the production company had overplayed the situation by far and that they had never before seen the dead chickens that were shown on TV, and that they certainly didn’t belong to them. She pleaded, ‘Please do your research before attacking someone online!’

Kim still updates her Instagram page which has over 25,500 followers, and it’s obvious that she’s passionate about animals with her handle there being ‘Mother of Cows’. She also has a private TikTok profile.

Is “Homestead Rescue” for real?

So the question of whether or not ‘Homestead Rescue’ is authentic has not actually been answered. The Zabecs’ lawsuit spurred others to come forward with their stories – another couple, Wren and Ini who appeared in Season 2 initially said that they’d never considered being on the show, but then they received a message on Instagram for a casting call and, after some research, decided to go for it. They’d been struggling with mold issues in their yurt, and their health was being affected. On the whole, they were happy about how their homestead was shown, but as they shared with the Ozark Country Times, certain things were exaggerated, e.g. the mold shown on screen was actually soot from the stove pipe. Also some things were left out, such as the fact that the new log cabin was not built by the Raneys, but by another company called Stick and Stones run by a pastor with the help of a community of homesteaders from his church.

Even though hundreds of hours of footage were filmed, and it did create a bit of stress having the film crews around, on the whole Wren and Ini were happy with the outcome, and only had good things to say about Marty and the Raneys. When watching the episode for the first time, they were relieved as they were worried that the producers had downplayed the couple’s competence after hearing about others having been poorly portrayed, but that didn’t happen in their case. They were delighted that the episode had left them with some good memories, some great drone shots, and the Raney’s had definitely helped improve their homestead and their lives.

Other families were generally happy with the result of their part in the series, such as the Rains from Laurel Country, Kentucky and the Kondash family from Klamath County, Oregon. The latter in fact praised the show highly – they’d found living off-the-grid far more difficult than anticipated, and had been saved from bankruptcy by the Raneys, which has led to their mill operating successfully to this day.

Other controversies surrounding “Homestead Rescue”

In the preview to Season 9 aired in May 2021, the Raney house was shown going up in flames. However, the first episode never showed anything of the sort, so the public were outraged and social media buzzed with criticism.

Secondly, for all the compliments Marty received for sharing his acumen and having his heart in the right place, someone just had to dig up some dirt. Marty had released an album called “Strum it from the Summit” in 1997. The debacle about a song entitled “Adam and Steve”, featured on the album, raised its ugly head as a result of Deadline publishing an article in 2020, and Marty was highly criticized because the track mocked homosexuality. Marty never responded, but Discovery Channel wrote a polite statement saying the song does not reflect the show nor their network’s values, and the song was removed from Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify and Google Play.

In conclusion

No matter what allegations were made against “Homestead Rescue” it still remains a popular show, with an 8/10 rating on IMDB and sports almost 170,000 followers on Facebook. The popularity of the show could be attributed to the fact that it’s spearheaded by the likeable, adventurous Marty Raney, who is high up on the popularity ratings with a large number of followers – on Instagram more than 38,000, and 115,000 on Facebook.

Whatever negative publicity was created by the lawsuit has not had an adverse effect on “Homestead Rescue”. It’s obvious that people contemplating the big step of living in the wild, and those who are already there, need guidance and help to create new lives so different from those that modern urban living provides. Or is it possible that the producers learnt from their mistakes early in the day, and have taken care not to misrepresent others? Either way, “Homestead Rescue” continues unhindered, and provides people with valuable insights to life off the grid. In the end, that’s what matters most.

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