Since the Free State Project began working to move liberty-minded individuals to the small New England state of New Hampshire, the sheer volume of libertarians and libertarian-adjacent people in the state has ballooned. What was once a small group of dedicated liberty activists has grown to leave a massive mark on the politics and culture of the mostly-rural Granite state, but the goal of “Liberty in our Lifetime” stays the consistent focal point for what could be described as a homeland for liberty.
With more movers than ever before, the yearly liberty festival Porcfest has grown exponentially, with many people showing up simply to have a respite from endless lockdowns, mask mandates, and vaccine passport schemes that plague other states. For many of the newer attendees, Porcfest (short for “Porcupine Freedom Festival”) is a vacation to a libertarian society.
With demand for liberty higher than ever, the supply of liberty events and festivals seems to be increasing in the Granite State. In 2017, the first “Forkfest” was held, also at Rogers Campground in Lancaster. This year, “Grokfest” describes itself as, “A gathering of mostly-normal people who enjoy the outdoors, good conversations, and great food.” This was the first Grokfest, and is being hosted by Cynthia and Brian of the Garnet School of Self-Sufficiency. Events include a “UTV Fun Hunt” with water-guns, as well as a happy hour with a cash bar, firearm classes, and a cornhole tournament.
I attended the first ever Grokfest this year and spoke with Cynthia. I asked her what Grokfest is all about.
“First and foremost, it’s about community—the Liberty Community. I wanted to provide an alternative to Porcfest: something more centrally located, not as crowded, more of a focus on quality of life, learning, laughing, and creating your own fun. One difference is the people and activities are the entertainment, rather than being ‘entertained’ by a bunch of speakers—which doesn’t seem very social to me.”
I asked her about new movers to New Hampshire, and even though she feels Porcfest is crowded, she doesn’t seem to think that new movers are a problem. “I have personally gotten several families to move to New Hampshire in the past year. That’s a great feeling!” she said.
When speaking with free-staters, there’s a strange mix of excitement and occasional nostalgia. On one hand, the excitement of knowing that movers are arriving faster than ever, plans for freedom are more successful than ever, and that New Hampshire is more free than ever is omni-present, but sometimes there’s a twinge of sad nostalgia for the liberty community that once was. The same people are still here, but as humans we are limited by Dunbars number. Instead of a single, monolithic liberty community, we instead have many hundreds of liberty communities based on the associations and friendships of liberty lovers. These are often shaped by specific interests, whether in gardening, backpacking, bill review, shooting, crypto-currency, pantry-building, or even MMA-fighting, with the sheer number of liberty lovers in such a small place (at least 6,200 if you go by just movers that are tracked by the FSP itself), it seems only natural that people gravitate toward those they share the most in common with.
Self-sufficiency is on the minds of many liberty-lovers across the world, and when it comes to free-staters, they aren’t any different. That’s why the organizers of Grokfest started the Garnet School of Self Sufficiency. There, they host classes on topics such as making Jam, Jerky, Cider, and Maple Syrup. They also have classes on firearms safety, beekeeping, and first aid. At Grokfest, I attended their foraging class, which included a walk along a path and various stops to point out inedible and edible plants, as well as tasting the latter. I learned that birch-tree leaves actually make a very delicious tea, so since I live in an area with a plethora of birch I’ll likely store some of that for the winter in my pantry.
I asked Cynthia what inspired Grokfest. “I found out that Porcfest was out of sites, and I realized there was a void that the market had to fill,” she said. Cynthia explained how she is attending Porcfest this year, but is going to be sharing a site.
With Porcfest very much full, it is really wonderful to see that the liberty community is hosting other festivals to accommodate camping and socializing among other liberty people. Cynthia and Brian intend to host another Grokfest later this year, in the fall. They also intend to host Grokfest 2023, but slightly later in the spring to take advantage of warmer weather.
“The Fall one will have apple picking and cider pressing. It’s a lot of fun for kids and adults! And we’ll make ratatouille from the garden harvest as another project, we’ll have composting demos, and a living-room garden class, growing things in your living room over the winter. We are both very curious, creative and crafty, and like to teach.”
Creative and Crafty is how I’d describe the tent sites. Each tenting area has a name such as “Area 51,” “FEMA Camp,” and “Bohemian Grove.” Each also hosts an outhouse that matches the theme of the campsite. Signs, complete with flowerbeds, welcome you to each area. I chose to stay at Bohemian Grove, which granted me an excellent view in a quiet location.
The very first Grokfest was a swell time, a down-tempo and chill event that reminded me of Porcfests of years gone by. It didn’t have the crowds, it didn’t have the major libertarian names hosting talks, it didn’t have a bunch of vendor stalls where you could buy kratom-infused butter-coffee. Instead it had good fun for friends and family, an environment where you can let the kids run around and play on their own in the full knowledge that they’ll be safe. I certainly hope to attend the next one, and if you come up to New Hampshire, maybe I’ll see you there, too.