Seven Springs Speaker Spotlight: Deborah Niemann, Home Dairy and Homegrown Food Enthusiast

Reader Contribution by Erica Binns
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 Get to know Deborah Niemann of Antiquity Oaks.

What are you going to speak about at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR?

I have two sessions: one on The Natural Home Dairy and the other on Why Homegrown and Handmade.

I got the idea for the first session because I receive a lot of emails from people who visit my goat website and are surprised that we allow our moms and babies to stay together, so the babies can nurse. People have expressed surprise that it is even possible to share milk with babies, while other people have asked if I have any trouble selling my goat kids since so many people think that kids and calves have to be bottlefed. So, in this session I’ll talk about why we let our cows and goats raise their babies, as well as how we milk and make our own dairy products.

My other session is based upon the introduction to my book, Homegrown and Handmade, which talks about all of the benefits of growing your own food and making food from scratch: health, safety, ethics in factory farming, personal pride, and so on.

What are you most looking forward to sharing with FAIR attendees?

The answer to that is sort of a three-legged stool: my background, my enthusiasm, and my knowledge. I used to be a typical American in many ways: addicted to television, drank two liters of soda a day, ate fast food, never worked out, and so on. Today I’m thinner, healthier, and happier than I’ve ever been. I may sound like a bit of a cheerleader sometimes, but it’s because I really believe that if I can lead a more sustainable life, anyone can. Of course, we’ve had challenges, but we learned to overcome them.

Tell us about your background with your particular topic.

I grew up in a small town eating frozen pizza and canned ravioli and was sick all the time! When I got pregnant with my first child, I started learning about nutrition and realized that maybe my children would not have to endure a childhood filled with earaches and influenza if they had a healthier diet. So, more than 20 years ago, we became vegetarians, and I started baking bread, and each year we improved a little in various parts of our diet, and in 2002, we took the plunge and moved to 32 acres on a creek in the middle of nowhere to grow our own food organically. Today we grow 100% of our own meat, dairy, eggs, maple syrup, and a large part of our fruits and vegetables.

Why should fairgoers attend your presentation?

Because I’m living proof that it’s possible to grow a large portion of your own food without being a master gardener or growing up on a farm or being a morning person who rises with the sun. I was a city slicker from head to toe when we decided we wanted to become more self-reliant. We made a lot of mistakes when we got started, but we’ve learned a lot, and I like to share our mistakes with people, so they won’t make the same mistakes. For example, our first year out here, we got no tomatoes from the plants in our garden. Why? We had no idea the chickens were eating them all! So, yes, you can have free range chickens, but you need a fence around your garden!

How will you get to the FAIR, and how far do you have to travel?

My husband and I will be driving from Illinois in my hybrid car.

What are you most looking forward to at the FAIR?

Meeting the attendees and helping them figure out how they can make their dreams come true when it comes to becoming more self reliant, whether that means figuring out how to grow tomato plants on the balcony of their condo or putting a chicken coop in their suburban backyard or milking goats in the country. And I’m also looking forward to seeing all of the other interesting speakers who have so much amazing knowledge to share!

What advice do you have for attendees?

If you have a friend, partner, or spouse who can come with you, go to different sessions and take notes, so you can pick up as much information as possible and share it with each other!

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could have only one thing, what would you choose?

A milk goat. She would provide great company, as well as good food and something healthy and safe to drink.

Thanks, Deborah. We’ll see you at the FAIR!

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa. FAIR September 24-25, and upcoming FAIRs in other locations. Tickets are on sale now.

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