Revitalizing old-time skill sets
By Amy Fewell
Every single morning I wake up to a rooster crowing. Most mornings, I love the simplicity. Other mornings, I want to hit him with a shoe and tell him not to crow for another two hours while I sleep until at least 6 a.m. Doesn’t anyone sleep around here? But I drag myself out of bed, put some coffee on, feed the backyard farm animals, tend to the garden, and become a muddy mess all before breakfast.
Homesteading—it’s a relatively old term with a brand new meaning. In the 1940s, homesteaders were mostly mountain people. People who were eventually driven away from their homes in order to create what we now know as Shenandoah National Park. But many homesteaders lived right among the hills and fields that we drive by every single day here in the Piedmont. They were people who didn’t have a choice; their living was made by growing their own food and being completely self-reliant. They were our grandparents and great grandparents—the people who can tell us stories for days, stories that we gladly glean. It was a hard life in many ways, but they knew what had to be done. Even more so, they enjoyed the bounty of nature and the work of their hands.
In westernized culture, many of us haven’t even plucked our own food from a garden or orchard. It’s rare for us to know where our food came from, from dirt to plate. But there’s a movement that’s shifting the face of our America—homesteaders rising up once again. And it’s a movement worth paying attention to.
Today’s homesteader can live on 100 acres and have herds of cattle, or they can live in a highrise apartment with an urban jungle of produce growing right on their balcony or rooftop.They are normal, everyday people, just like you and me. They are single and married, parents and grandparents, young and old. There’s no limit to these homesteaders. And they want nothing more than to live a healthy lifestyle on their own terms.
The homesteading movement is impacting our nation more than we realize. Homesteaders are literally taking back their lives from commercialized and oversensitized food and healthcare culture. They are saying “no” to genetically processed food, chemicals, and overpriced “sickcare.” They are growing and preserving their own food, raising their own sustainable meat, making their own cheese and butter, and learning about natural remedies. They are also fierce about changing the way people see this back-to-the-land movement. There’s nothing hippy or weird about it—these are simply people who care about their health, their food, and the Earth that they’re leaving behind to future generations.
Homesteading isn’t a trend, it’s the movement of bringing back old-time skill sets that we’ve lost. If you’re reading this article, do you know how to plant an efficient garden? Do you know how to safely can and preserve your food? Do you know how to distinguish wild edibles that are all around you? Do you know how to sew? or knit? or cook on cast iron? If not, then you can absolutely agree with the statement that these skills have been lost from the generations before us, skills that we haven’t carried on from our forebears.
Out of the abundance of this need and education, Homesteaders of America was founded. This organization is an online source of information and education as well as a community for homesteaders across the United States. Homesteaders of America connects like-minded individuals whom can learn from one another, teach one another, and trade goods and services. It’s a place for homesteaders to come together, share life experiences and skills, and celebrate in them.
Not only that, but Homesteaders of America will have its first annual conference right here in the Piedmont on October 14, at the Fauquier County Fairgrounds in Warrenton. Our event will bring together our growing online community of homesteaders to a central location where we can learn from the best in the industry, like Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily, Esther Emery (daughter of The Encyclopedia of Country Living author Carla Emery), and famous YouTubers like the hosts of Off Grid with Doug and Stacy. We have homesteaders coming from as far away as Washington State and as nearby as our own neighbors.
The conference will boast more than 100 homestead- and farm-related vendors, various workshops, lectures, food, speaker Q&A, and a community setting replete with marshmallows roasting over an open fire once the conference is over. From hog butchery to quilt making, chicken keeping to blacksmithing, this is the premier event to attend in the area if ever you’ve wanted to gain old-time skill sets to help live a more sustainable lifestyle.
As an extension of Piedmont Lifestyle Publications, we are extremely excited to bring you this annual event, and we hope that we’ll see your smiling faces there! Make sure you bring a notepad, good walking boots, and a curious, open mind. If nothing more, we know you’ll have a great time connecting with some amazing people who enjoy life to its fullest, and you might even fall in love with chickens!