It takes five years to homestead in Alaska like the Kilchers. Within those five years, one must live on a plot of land, develop it for agriculture, and construct a house. If those stipulations are met, the parcel of land is given to them free of charge.
Homesteading in Alaska is possible thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862. This act encouraged settlers to move west and develop land by offering 160-acre plots of land for free. The act was not extended to Alaska until 1898, and homesteading was slow to catch on because of the undesirable terrains, poor weather and often dangerous wildlife. It became more popular after the Vietnam War, and the most recent land award occurred in 1988.
The Kilcher family is the subject of the Discovery Channel's series "Alaska: The Last Frontier," which chronicles their life as they live off the land. The family originally left Switzerland and homesteaded in Alaska in 1940, where they were granted their 160-acre plot of land by Kachemack Bay. Yule Kilcher, the head of the household, served as a delegate and helped write Alaska's state charter. The family raised eight children, two of whom are the subject of "Alaska: The Last Frontier."