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How The Alaskan Bush People Really Make Their Money

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It's a charming idea, reminiscent of pioneer families who lived off the land in the 1800s — a family of nine hunting, fishing, building houses, shooting at bears, and trying their best to survive on the Alaskan frontier and live the wild life they want to live. Alaskan Bush People is so charming, in fact, it's garnered thousands of viewers and nine seasons (and counting).

But while many viewers legitimately enjoy watching Ami try to get medical care and Bear jump from the treetops and Bam micromanage his siblings, others are skeptical. The Discovery Channel often portrays the Brown family as down on their luck — so much so, in fact, they have to barter fish just to get dental care. As a result, many viewers have questions. How can the Browns afford Ami's medical care for cancer in California if they couldn't afford the dentist in Alaska? Can they really feed seven hungry kids for six months with the one deer they shot last season? And what about before the cameras arrived — how did the Browns make money then?

You've got questions, we've got answers. Here are the seven ways the Alaskan Bush People really make their money.

Discovery Channel salary

Although we may never know exactly how the Browns managed to subsist off the land for so many years pre-television, the show is definitely their primary source of income now. According to Blasting News, "It seems each of the Brown kids have a net worth of $40,000 to $60,000 and Billy is listed at about $500,000." Considering the Brown kids' ages — youngest daughter Rain was just 12 in 2014 when the show began — that's not too shabby. After all, it's not every day that your average middle schooler is offered a reality TV show and a five-figure salary. Whatever other odd jobs the Brown family might pick up pale in comparison to the figure the Discovery Channel is paying them. All we have to say is, six figures to camp out in front of some cameras? Sign us up.

Hauling business

During season three, the Brown boys started a hauling business to earn a little extra cash. The idea was simple: Using the boat they'd fixed up, they'd haul anything anyone needed to move. The last episode of season three, titled "Never Give Up," showed the family's first real hauling job.

"On this first trip they have the following things to haul: a few small goats, some wrestling mats, and a desk made of an old, rusty car," said Anchorage Daily News. The trip didn't go entirely as planned — the desk drawers wouldn't stay closed, making it a struggle to lift the desk onto the boat — and the family struggled to catch the tide and get to their destination on time. But eventually the job was completed.

At the time they started it, the Browns' hauling business was a viable way to earn some money. But since the family no longer lives in Alaska as of early 2019, we're guessing they no longer have a market to continue this particular business venture. (And with the money from the TV show, why would they want to?)

Whatever odd jobs they can pick up

When patriarch Billy Brown was young, his parents and sister died in a plane crash, leaving Billy to fend for himself. He spent some time wandering around looking for odd jobs before marrying Ami and settling down. In fact, Billy was working in Ami's mother's home doing a plumbing job when he first met his future wife. This mismatched, whatever-you-can-find way to make a living was passed down to his children as well.

In addition to their hauling job, Alaskan Bush People has shown the Brown boys completing other odd jobs here and there when visiting town. When mother Ami visited the dentist in Juneau, for instance, the boys went out to see what work they could drum up there. While taking on odd jobs isn't the most consistent way to make a living, it still provides a little extra cash — and especially in Alaska, it seems like there's always something that needs to be done. Maybe an odd job will even lead to romance for one of the Brown children, just like it did for Billy and Ami.

Billy Brown is an author

Here's a little-known fact about Billy Brown: He's an author who has written dozens of books. Billy's career as a writer began early in his marriage with Ami. After moving to Haines, Alaska with young sons Matt and Josh (known as "Bam" to the show's viewers), the family's house burned down. At a loss as far as where to go next, Billy started writing children's books for the Brown kids. One thing led to another and soon he'd become a bona fide published author.

"In 2001, he and the rest of the Browns moved to Juneau, Alaska, and began selling his stories on CDs," said the Inquisitr. The average salary for a self-published writer, unfortunately, isn't usually very high. But at some point, it appears that Billy Brown the author started doing fairly well.

These days, not all of his books are available for purchase. A quick Amazon search produces only two titles — a fantasy story titled Teacher of the Old Code and a nonfiction book called One Wave at a Time. The second title is Billy's memoir and is of interest to fans of the show.

Fraud and theft

Alaska residents can apply to receive a Permanent Dividend check, which is typically in the range of $1,000 to $2,000 per year, from the state. In 2015, Billy and Joshua (Bam) Brown were sentenced to jail time for lying on their applications to get those checks. Essentially, Billy said the family lived in Alaska during a time when they didn't — and although initially the family received the money, they were later found out (the digital applications were traced to computers in Texas, California, and Arkansas) and convicted.

At first, both Billy and Ami, plus four of their kids, were charged with 60 counts of first-degree unsworn falsification and first- and second-degree theft. But those extra charges were dropped when Billy and Bam pleaded guilty.

"Billy Brown must return $7,956 in improperly obtained dividends and pay a $10,000 fine. Joshua Brown must pay back $1,174 in dividends and pay a $2,000 fine," said Anchorage Daily News. So although the Browns did get money from the dividend check, they couldn't keep it in the end. Hopefully they've learned from this experience.

Kindhearted fans

Whether or not it's deliberate, Alaskan Bush People often portrays a family who appears to be struggling economically. The show has amassed quite a fanbase over its eight seasons, and many of these loyal fans just can't stand watching the Brown family barter for dental care with fish — so much so that these fans are writing checks to the Browns and mailing them off.

"There are reports that loyal Alaskan Bush People [fans] keep trying to send the Brown family money," said the Inquisitr. "You have kindhearted, everyday people who watch this show. Not only do they believe it's 100 percent factual, but they are also moved to help the Browns... It's never advisable to send money to strangers without knowing all the facts. The Browns have not explicitly asked for money."

If you're one of these aforementioned kindhearted fans, thank you for your concern. But remember: Billy Brown has a net worth of six figures. The Brown family is doing just fine.

Time to grow up

As of early 2019, many of the kids have spent time away from the wolfpack beginning their own lives. Noah is married, and although Bam returned to the family for season nine, he spent some time living in another city with his girlfriend Allison Kagan, one of the show's producers. Matt is also away from the family as of early 2019, back in rehab for alcohol abuse. The kids all have plenty of money from the show, but some of them may now be working other jobs, too.

Noah claimed on Facebook in late 2018 to be starting a new job as a diesel mechanic. The median annual salary for diesel mechanics is $46,360, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which isn't too shabby — and once combined with Noah's earnings from the TV show, that should end up as quite a comfortable living for Noah Brown, wife Rhain, and their baby.