Family Matters

A Manifesto on the Home Economy from a Techie-Turned-Farmer

There is no shortage of folks who are worried about the state of the family today. And rightly so, considering declining marriage and fertility rates throughout the western world, along with the basic antipathy towards familism and the thoroughgoing celebration of individual autonomy. But rather than curse the darkness, Rory Groves is lighting a candle. Tired of city-living and the non-stop grind of IT work, Rory and his family moved several years ago to a large piece of property with an old farmhouse in order to forge a deeper connection to family-living and to the land. In doing so, they have discovered something new and recovered something old. And they are sharing their story, which is inspiring other families to reclaim a sense of home-centered living, with all its economic and familial benefits. Yes, it is hard work, but for the Groves, it is about forging faithful families and the lifestyles that have stood the test of time.

The Groves family runs a multifaceted farm, which they consider a “Learning Farm,” where they produce real goods for family use and market sale while also sharing what they are learning about “traditional skills, raising animals, caring for God’s creation and stewarding the land” through events, workshops, summer day camps, internships, and a quarterly newsletter.[1] In 2020 they published their first book, Durable Trades, which explores historical family-centered vocations. Rory and his wife Becca have become sought-after speakers on these topics, and each year they also host a conference for those interested in developing family-centered living patterns. Their conferences now draw families from across the country.

The Home Economy

Rory describes his family’s home economy as something that is “always changing and growing depending on the ages and stages of the family.” Currently, it consists of “farming, writing, and teaching.” Their farming is primarily “to provide for our own needs as much as possible and thereby reduce our need for an income.” The IT-guy-turned-farmer explains how “writing and teaching flowed out of this foundation, as we turned our farm into an event venue of sorts and began hosting workshops on homesteading and family-themed topics throughout the year.” All these different activities and income streams entail very hard work from the whole family, but Rory notes that “we accept, gladly, that we are foregoing a larger salary because of the ‘compensation package’ of being together at home.”

When I asked him what steps anyone can take to make their home economy more fruitful and intentional, he started first with family devotions:

Worshipping together is an indispensable component to a healthy and productive home economy. This is an activity that every family can do, and I think the best place to start. No special equipment or training is needed: parents are inherently their children’s best mentors. Traditionally, the home was viewed as ‘a little church’ wherein fathers led their families in daily worship. The modern church, modeled after modern education, has replaced families with ‘professionals’ and fathers with youth pastors. But this can all be reversed through the simple act of cracking your Bibles and worshipping together at home.

He also is quick to point out that developing a home economy is not performative homesteading or farmer cosplay; nor is it a nostalgic call to go back in time. Instead, it’s hard work, done one step at a time, forging stronger relationships and increased agency in your life. “I encourage families to start with what they have: do not wait for a ‘dream farm’ to come along before starting to build your family economy. Find ways to join efforts in any productive task wherever you are, with whatever you have,” Rory suggests. “The goal, at first, is not wealth accumulation or income replacement, it is learning to work together.” Rory and Becca are excited about the number of families who are rebalancing their lives and the level of interest they are seeing in living in accord with these timeless principles. They see it as the beginnings of a movement:

Industrialism has failed us in our deepest human need for relationship, and people are looking for another way forward. They don’t want to spend the majority of their waking lives separated from their families, reliant on ever-expanding bureaucracies and vast corporations to provide for their basic needs. Parents are tired of watching their kids grow up and abandon the faith and values they hold so dear. The self-sufficiency movement is part of this. So is the homeschooling movement. At the heart of these movements is a desire for connection and rootedness that modernity has ripped apart. The family economy embraces and extends these movements. We are reclaiming traditional functions at home because it brings the family back together and restores sovereignty and security that for generations defined the traditional household—the oikonomia.[2]

The Greek word Groves references here means household management (oikos = “family/household” and nomos = “law/rule”). Economy—the word we associate today with interest rates, money supply, GDP and global banking—originally referred to the household—a place of productivity, creativity, and fruitfulness. In the ancient world, the home was the place of economic and familial activity for mothers, fathers, and children. Groves explains in Durable Trades that “the family economy encompasses more than business and entrepreneurship, though that is an essential part of it. It also integrates education, discipleship, worship, and recreation. It is the melding of individual aspirations into a common purpose. More importantly, it has been the context by which parents pass their faith, culture, and values on to their children for most of human history” (271).

A “Generational Pivot”

To help families grasp what has changed historically in how we think about the family and to help families consider practical steps they might take to build a stronger family economy, whether they live in the country, the city, or in between, Groves has written a new book entitled The Family Economy: Discovering the Family as it was Designed to Work. It’s a short manifesto of sorts that clearly explains the shift from the family being the center of productivity and economic life to the individual being the primary economic unit. Groves writes, “rather than producers, as households have traditionally been understood, we are now consumers, and increasingly dependent on external economies, distant manufacturers, and long—and fragile—supply chains to provide for our basic needs. Whereas the home, itself, had once been the principal ‘factory’ of society, it stands now as a mere shell of its former function and authority” (7).

Groves goes on to explain just how significant this shift was for family life. Once the place of productivity became the factory, not the home, family fragmentation accelerated. He argues that “the greatest consequence of complexity and our consumerist mindset is not the loss of self-sufficiency or even sacred liberty, but time together. Our homes are cooler, but increasingly idle—and empty. Our transport is faster, but carries us away from the very people who matter most” (24).

He also notes how schooling has run parallel with industrialization in fragmenting the family. Groves explains that “the average American child today will spend sixteen thousand hours in public K-12 education. It is challenging, to say the least, to construct a family-centered economy when the majority of your family is absent for the first third of their lives. More challenging still is when ‘substitute parents’ teach doctrines contrary to ones you are instilling at home” (41).

Part 1 of the book includes this type of overview of the major factors that have brought us to where we are today. Then in Part 2, Groves lays out a series of questions and family activities that you can do to take steps in forging a stronger family economy. The positive vision Groves lays out in his books and in his life is an encouragement for families who want to rebalance their lives in accord with higher and lasting goods. As he puts it: “Rebuilding the family economy represents a ‘generational pivot’ away from the flood of dissipation toward a unified whole: the family as it was designed to work. Regardless of the family you came from, whether broken or whole, we all have it in our power to chart a new course with our own families….What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (44).

Further Reading


[1] More information can be found here: and in Rory Groves’s Durable Trades: Family-Centered Economies That Have Stood the Test of Time (OR: Front Porch Republic Books, 2020).

[2] Rory Groves, personal communication, Sept 25, 2023.

is a classical educator, furniture-maker, and vicar at All Saints Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Charlotte, North Carolina. He also taught high school history for thirteen years and studied at Messiah College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Winthrop University. In addition to Salvo, Josh has written for Areo, FORMA, Front Porch Republic, Mere Orthodoxy, Public Discourse, Quillette, The Imaginative Conservative, Touchstone, and is a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. Radio Show/Podcast.

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