Living off-the-grid expert Matt Raney, gained a considerable amount of popularity due to his participation in the reality-television show called “Homestead Rescue.” His family had been helping new homesteaders create a better home in an off-grid situation, as not everyone had the right tools and experience to deal with the challenges of being away from the comforts of urban life. Sharing information and teaching people how to maintain a sustainable life in their own homestead has been part of his life.
Who is Matt Raney?
Matthew Lorel Raney was born in July 1982, in Anchorage, Alaska. His parents, Marty Raney and Mollee Roestel, raised him and his siblings in the Alaskan wilderness. He is the youngest in the family, with two sisters, Melanee and Misty, along with brother Miles. Having lived most of his life in the colder region, Matt was already taught at a very young age how to survive in a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Lacking continuous power and modern plumbing wasn’t new to him, as he was prepared by his parents on how to deal with it. However, it didn’t mean that his family lived in total isolation and that they weren’t aware of modern technology and construction innovations. Having grown up in a homestead would mean being highly dependent on renewable energy options, such as solar or wind power, raising livestock, and planting vegetables.
There was no information given about his educational background because despite his work as a TV personality, he kept mum about his personal life. This was to ensure that other members of his family who weren’t involved in reality TV continued to enjoy their private lives. However, it was public knowledge that he and his siblings were known to be master mountain climbers, which they learned from their father who had been a professional mountain guide. It was said that they all successfully conquered Mount Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley), which is the highest peak in North America, located in the Alaska Range.
Their father led around 17 expeditions to Denali’s peak before he became a star of his own TV show, but never went back again after the death one of the people in his last expedition.
Matt was known to have been great in hunting and fishing, which he learned mostly from his father. He spent many years learning animal husbandry and farming too, when he stayed with his uncle’s family. Since his family embraced a subsistence lifestyle, he shared, ‘Through all the years, our only objective has been to fill out a freezer full of Salmon, Halibut, Caribou, Doll Sheep, and Moose.’ He also said that the food supply wasn’t great all the time, as there were some years that were bad, but he still couldn’t distinctly remember the last time he had food from any fast food joint, or that they cooked meat bought from the supermarket. His experience in the wilderness had exposed him to the likes of scary predators, such as bears and wolves, but couldn’t forget those times he ran naked with a reindeer, or what they called in the north as Caribou.
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The youngest of the Raneys simply enjoyed being at one with nature and thrived in the homesteader lifestyle.
How did Matt’s reality-TV journey start?
Due to the overwhelming interest in Alaska and its Mount Denali by the TV and movie industry, Matt’s father’s skills as a mountain climber and survivalist were discovered. Initially, his father would be hired as a guide in the mountains and other parts of the Alaskan wilderness for filming purposes. When some of the TV crew members couldn’t deal with the cold climate and harsh conditions in the region, TV producers hired Marty to be the second cameraman and sound coordinator. Later on, the producers put him in front of the camera.
Marty said that his family had received offers even when Matt was still young, to be featured on TV since the Raneys had been living a subsistence lifestyle, but they never took any of those offers seriously. His father waited for all his four kids to grow up and decide for themselves if they wanted to give up their privacy.
When Discovery Channel created the TV show called “Ultimate Survival Alaska” in 2013, both Marty and Matt were included in the regular cast. They were part of an eight-man ten-leg journey that covered 3,000 miles of Alaska’s wildest terrain without any modern navigation gadgets to help them. The last leg of their journey required them to reach the peak of a snow-capped mountain in 72 hours. Father and son along with the other six explorers successfully climbed the mountain within the time given to them, but not without facing the danger of a life-threatening snowstorm that had them back down initially and in their base camp with just five hours remaining.
Matt realized that he needed to learn more about surviving Alaska in harsh conditions, that without his father, he couldn’t have lasted for those two months of traversing the Arctic Circle. He didn’t come back for the second season, but his father went on competing up to its third season for the chance to be called the ultimate Alaskan survivor.
Matt, the Hunter in “Homestead Rescue”
After the cancellation of “Ultimate Alaska Survivor” in 2015, Discovery Channel created another TV series, this time all about modern homesteading. Since Matt’s family had been doing this all their lives, they were the perfect people to cast in the show. However, it was only Matt, his older sister Misty, and his father, who agreed to join the TV series, “Homestead Rescue,” produced by Raw Productions.
The TV show was inspired by the growing number of people who left the city and its amenities in exchange for a simpler, homesteading life. Many people thought that living off the grid was an easy task and the only difficult part of the subsistence lifestyle was to fight the temptation of going back to their former lives. Without someone guiding them in the right system to utilize the natural resources around their property, most of them failed. This was the main reason that “Homestead Rescue” was created with the Raneys at the helm.
Marty was raised in a homestead by his parents, and passed the knowledge on to his children. They had the experience of providing help to several homesteads in various parts of the US. In the Raney family, Matt was known as the hunter who spent 12 years as a mountain and hunting guide before he joined the TV show; he believed that hunting was not only a necessity, but also a privilege. During summer in 2015, Matt contributed more than 1000 pounds of meat to the family storage room, which they consumed during the following long winter season.
The series premiered in 2016 with the episode entitled “Abandoned and Alone”, in which the Raneys provided help to Mike and Beth Ettinger, a couple who lived in an abandoned town somewhere in Montana. Many homesteaders tried living there, but weren’t successful and left, making it practically a ghost town. The Ettingers were determined to change their homesteading trajectory and succeed, but made several mistakes along the way. It didn’t help that a mountain lion was said to be stalking the property.It was an exciting episode, and from then on, the TV series attracted a huge following of loyal viewers that led Discovery Channel to order more episodes.
Aside from helping in rebuilding the homes the proper way, as well as providing assistance in other tasks every episode, Matt taught the budding homesteaders how to hunt for food efficiently, and handle it the right way so that their food supply would last during the winter season. He also made sure to teach them how to defend themselves from predators, by giving step-by-step instruction in building traps and other techniques in order to avoid becoming victims.
Filming of “Homestead Rescue” and how real is real?
When Marty discussed the TV offer with Matt and Misty, they all agreed that it had to be as authentic as possible. Most reality-TV viewers already knew there’s a very thin line between entertainment and reality, that TV producers tried to skate around over the years; viewers could now easily spot TV series that were scripted. Discovery Channel and Raw Productions were said to have become more excited when the Raney family insisted in ensuring the show was real, and produce it with minimal scripting.
Matt said that everything was done organically and that the initial meeting they had with all the people they helped was when they first entered the driveway of their homes. The Raney family would stay with the chosen homesteader for 10 days, to fix whatever problems they had to the best of their abilities. It would be unbelievable to resolve all possible predicaments those homesteaders had, as Matt’s father said, ‘So we tackle projects that will actually help them the rest of their lives.’ They knew that building the homesteaders a new house was out of the equation, as it would take more than 10 days to do that.
Filming each episode was grueling, and it took the production 100 straight filming days just to finish the whole season. Matt couldn’t complain, as his family was the one who insisted on making it as real as possible. Even the post-production was quite taxing for them, since they only had a few weeks to finish it with the airing date so close. For instance, they finish filming the TV show in March, and it was scheduled to be on air in mid-June.
The Raney family was proud that they never resorted to yelling when educating the homesteaders, like the behaviour often seen in restaurant makeovers. Matt said that his father told them from the get-go that other people would find homesteading a difficult lifestyle reality, and they should be kinder to them. So, just like his father and sister, Matt never raised his voice or berated the homesteaders just because they made a mistake. Viewers loved the Raneys as they didn’t become condescending at any point in the series, towards those who had taken the risk of changing their lives, even if half of them didn’t have any idea how to do things properly as a homesteader.
Complaints against the show by a homesteader
Homesteader couple, Josh and Kim Zebec, who featured in one of the earlier seasons of the TV series, announced that they planned to file a legal complaint against the producers of “Homestead Rescue.” Apparently, they received criticism in social media, and were livid not only by that, but also because of what they experienced in the show that led to such criticism.
The Zebec couple claimed that the premise given to them was that successful homesteaders would be featured in the show, so they agreed to be a part of it. However, they never thought that the episode was edited in such a way that they were presented as homesteaders who didn’t have any clue as to what they were doing as farmers. They said the show wasn’t authentic, and that all they presented were contrived problems that they didn’t have in their home. Kim also pointed out that the TV crew only showed the bad parts in their homestead, and never featured the good parts.
When the complaint reached Matt’s father, he said that he knew that Kim was active in social media, but at that time Marty avoided reading posts from any platform, to avoid being stressed by its general negativity. While Kim was unhappy about the whole thing, Marty, on the other hand, only remembered that he had a great time with the Zebecs. The good thing was that the Discovery Channel crew informed him that Kim never said anything bad about the Raneys.
No one knew what happened to the case filed, but since the TV series hadn’t been canceled, and just aired the latest episodes of the eighth season in July 2021, they probably either resolved the issue, or the Zebec couple already dropped the case.
“Homestead Rescue: Raney Ranch,” a spin-off series
When most of the filming of television shows and movies were halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a spin-off series was launched by Discovery Channel in 2020, entitled “Homestead Rescue: Raney Ranch.” This time, Matt, Misty and Marty focused on taking care of the family’s 40-acre property in Haines Borough, Alaska. The census-designated Raney property can be found near the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, just in the northern part of the Alaska Panhandle. It has such a stunning view of the Alaskan wilderness that Matt’s father told his children that it was time to build his dream log cabin on the cliff.
There are only three days left until the return of #HomesteadRescue: Raney Ranch. Tune in Thursday at 8p ET.
The new TV series primarily featured the construction of the cabin, as they showed how the materials needed were transported to the area by helicopter and heavy equipment. Basically, they created a path going to their chosen spot on their huge property, which was previously inaccessible to people. Matt said to expect more seasons, as their family would add more facilities such as a farm, greenhouse, workshop, and more cabins for all the members of their family to enjoy. His father called it a ‘multi-generational paradise’, and was doubly excited that he would have more access to the natural resources that were previously restricted. Matt, on the other hand, had a lot of work to do, since his father spotted tracks left by a couple of wolves just behind the cabin. He knew that there was a huge possibility that more wild animals were lurking around the area, and so needed to provide a safer environment around the cabin so that even the newest generation of the Raney family could visit.