March 3, 2020
White House on the Hill
DEFINITION: Kind, friendly, and patient
It started with chickens. Six of them.
And now there are emus, ducks, peacocks, pheasants, cats and lots and lots more chickens all over Jake and Becky’s farm, and their YouTube channel, as their White House on the Hill channel continues to achieve online storytelling greatness. Sharing this rural story with 441,000 viewers has become both a way of life and a part of the family’s overall business and mission, an adventure that is only yet beginning.
During the past three years, this St. Joseph-region couple and their three sons have become a household name (look for White House on the Hill) when it comes to homesteading. They’re posting a new video every three days on their YouTube channel, and some of their videos have reached YouTube stardom, like 7.5 million views and counting for the video “What comes out of an egg this big?”
Major advertisers now connected with White House on the Hill videos speak to how popular, real and timely their online presence has become. Fan letters and online questions come in from across the U.S. in the poultry sectors, urban farming, homesteading, and specialty industries like emu, duck and peacock. Their event calendar is dotted with podcasts, television interviews and agricultural/homesteading trade shows and speaking engagements. Merchandise with their own White House on the Hill brand and plenty of “I Love Chickens” continues to carry the message forward and inspire others who are living this lifestyle – and those who just enjoy living it vicariously.
The popularity of White House on the Hill may be its complete sense of farm realness. There’s new life to celebrate, including the hatching of many interesting eggs to the joy of their growing sons — and even the arrival of their youngest son. There’s the passing of life to honor, such as a carefully buried and beloved kitten. The videos are high-quality and easy to watch, pulling in even non-farm viewers to see how the family solves challenges with a combination of inventiveness and efficiency. Topics include homemaking, food growing, some woodworking, some modular home renovations (per the family’s recent move to their own farm), and some good old-fashioned tree-climbing. Since buying their own farm recently, the family plans to add different types of fencing to add livestock, and have already started plans for building their own aviary.
But the most “real” aspect of the White House on the Hill story is that the family is so down-to-earth (pun intended) about how their dream came to reality. Jake and Becky met as students at Missouri Western State University, and had lived in the city for most of their lives. They lived in Kansas City their first 10 years of married life, but found themselves tired of the pace of multiple work schedules and childcare. Seeking a simpler lifestyle, they sold their home and began renting a farm near St. Joseph, where they started with a few chickens from a local farm store.
Becky had some experience in how the dream might look. She had lived on a farm, and loved caring for animals. She also missed having a garden, and the couple had already been creating palette gardens, gardens in pots and raised bed gardens at their pre-farm home.
Jake had to learn everything from scratch. “Once we got our first chickens, he was hooked,” says Becky.
“We started small, and it took time,” says Becky. “Experiment with the space you have. Create garden spaces. Look into local ordinances for animals. Be willing to read, learn and explore. We watched a lot of homesteading videos online.”
As Jake notes in a Farmstead Talk video, it’s important to know what you really want. “Decide if you want to own land, and what that vision is. Be willing to learn what your specific skills are, and be open to different spaces and different avenues,” he says. “It’s OK to enjoy this lifestyle on a hobby or part-time level, too.”
Today, images and mini-vignettes of their life are all over Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. There’s plenty of fun and creativity, too, such as a recent video showing baby chicks dressed up in homemade Chiefs jerseys. There are peacock selfies; emus running; some bee catching; and chicken coop building.
White House on the Hill calls their life a journey, and invites viewers to participate alongside them. “Stay in touch with us on the video comments, we respond to everything!,” says Becky.
And somehow, through all the hecticness of raising animals, food, an online community and three little boys, there’s a measure of freedom that feels like more than enough to go around. Now that’s pretty uncommon.
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