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At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we have been educating folks about the benefits of self-reliance for 50 years. That includes researching and sourcing the best books and products to help individuals master the skills they need in times like these and beyond. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-234-3368 or by email. Stay safe!

For Farm Training, Practice Makes Progress

To build homesteading skills, supplement your studies with plenty of practice, and just get started, wherever you are.

| August/September 2019

Joel shares advice (and amusement) with a group of fairgoers.
Photo by Bryan Welch

 A common question I hear from aspiring farmers and homesteaders is, “Where do I go to learn homesteading skills?” A quick and easy answer: “Attend a MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR.”

I wish it were really that simple. To drill down on the question, I’ll tell my own training story. Each person’s story is different, but threads of commonality exist. Those threads are what we want to tease out.

First of all, I started my farming training early; I grew up on the farm we operate today. To be sure, my mom and dad’s off-farm jobs (school teacher and accountant, respectively) paid for the land, but the farm didn’t become what we’d call a “going concern” until my wife Teresa and I married and returned.

The first two threads are to start early, and to stop worrying about the scale or viability of your farming business. Just get involved. Until my late teen years, I didn’t realize that our farm wasn’t really a business. Oh, we sold some calves at the sale barn, but it never actually made a living. I’m sure it made enough to pay taxes, but not anything close to a salary. Still, it was a great place to grow up, to experiment with different agricultural enterprises, and to develop marketing savvy.

Mom and Dad’s situation didn’t dam­pen their encouragement for us kids to develop our own enterprises. My older brother raised rabbits, and I got my first chickens when I was 10 years old.

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