It’s easy to seclude yourself in the great self-sufficiency movement, but sometimes we have to remind ourselves that there is constantly room for growth and community. It may look like trading with other homesteaders for soaps or produce, or maybe it looks like traveling across the country to a homesteading conference, like Mother Earth News or Homesteaders of America. Whatever it is, utilizing your homestead community is essential to every homesteader.
When we first began our homesteading journey, I had so many questions that I probably got on everyone’s nerves. Even though I’d grown up around the farm life, I was oblivious to many things. Just in the last 5 years have I really begun to master gardening. And during that 5-year time frame, I felt guilty for buying produce at the store or farmer’s market.
Why? I have no idea. But I suspect that it was because I felt like a failure. I felt like all of these other people knew what they were doing and were successful at it, but I hadn’t been successful at homesteading…yet.
The reality is that we’re not going to know everything there is to know about homesteading when we first get started. It take experiences — it takes doing it for a while. Heck, I’m not sure I’ll know everything there is to know about this 20 years from now. But the difference is that there certainly is a community ready and waiting to help educate you with open arms. And if you seek it out, you’ll most certainly find it.
Besides the fact that there are conferences across the United States that can help you gain experience and knowledge (we’ll get to those in a second), there are also people right in your own community that are ready and willing to help you.
In fact, most homesteaders share more information than humanly necessary, but it’s only because we are passionately in love with this lifestyle.
I can remember the very first chicken woman that I approached. I think I messaged her online every single night before bed to ask her about this chicken breed or that chicken breed. She probably got so darn tired of seeing my face pop up on her phone. But she was helpful, and she was willing to help me learn and gain knowledge about keeping chickens.
She didn’t just show up on my doorstep though. I had to seek her out. Often times, as a new homesteader, you’ll have to seek out those who really have hardcore experience and knowledge in your local community. Connect with someone at the Farmer’s Market. Ask them how they do it all. I know they would love to help you.
But more than anything, I had to get over the guilt trip. And here’s the cold honest truth…
We really need to learn to lean on our fellow homesteaders, and we really have to stop guilting ourselves for that.
If you don’t have enough space for tomatoes in your garden, it’s ok to connect with another local homesteader who has an abundance. You aren’t a failure because your crop failed, you didn’t have time to put them into the ground, or you simply aren’t ready to take on one more thing this year.
Supporting your local farmer or homestead is the next best thing you can do. You’re supporting a person or family who is doing this because they love offering their goods and services to us. Where’s the harm in that!? You might even find that you learn a thing or two from them along the way.
Building a homestead community is important to me. Extremely important to me. In the age of cellphones and social media, many people socialize online and forget about the homesteaders that are right in their own region.
I absolutely love my online homesteading community. I wouldn’t have the information and education that I have today without them. But I want to meet them. I want to hug their necks and sing Kumbaya around a campfire. Ok, maybe not the best song choice, but you get it.
So how do we do that? How do we connect and utilize our homesteading community that we love so much online, while learning and growing? Well, we find a conference or event in our area that we can do exactly that, of course!
Community is extremely important to a whole lot of other people too, and that’s why there are conferences and workshops all across the United States for homesteaders like you and I. Not only does it give us a chance to learn and grow our skills and abilities, it also gives us the chance to meet people face to face, and tangibly learn right alongside them. The very same people we talk to on a regular basis in online forums, Facebook, and YouTube.
It’s why I started the Homesteaders of America organization and conference in September 2016. And our very first annual conference will be held on October 14, in Warrenton, Virginia. You’ll hear speakers like Joel Salatin, Esther Emery, Lisa Steele, Darryl Patton, Off Grid with Doug and Stacy, and so many more. You’ll learn about raising chickens, hot butchery, dying your own wool and yarn, cheesemaking, how to successfully run a homestead business, and more.
It’s why Mother Earth News started and maintains all of the Mother Earth News Fairs throughout the United States every year.
It’s why Appalachia’s Homestead with Patara started The Great Appalachian Homesteading Conference in Tennessee, bringing together YouTubers from across the country.
It’s why we’re seeing so many people start pop up conferences all across the USA and beyond. It’s why we see homesteads, like Hand Hewn Farm, creating workshops where people can come to their property to learn alongside them. We long for education and knowledge, but more than anything, we long for education together in a community setting. We were created for community — homesteaders, we love to be together!
I encourage you to lean on your community this year and attend one of these amazing upcoming events throughout the country. I encourage you to seek out the expert at the farmer’s market or in that little cottage in the woods where she raises chickens.
I encourage you to stop feeling guilty that you can’t do it all right then and there, and instead, take that time to support your local farmer or homesteader, all while making a personal connection and building relationships and community in your own way.
I hope to see you at the Homesteaders of America conference, or at one of these other amazing events, and within our online homesteading community. We sure do have a lot of fun learning and growing together, and we know you will, too!
Amy Fewell is a writer, photographer, blogger, and homesteader based in Virginia. Along with her husband and son, she raises heritage breed chickens, quail, rabbits, and more! She believes in all natural holistic living for both her family and her animals. And she is currently working on a cookbook of traditional family Farmstead recipes. Check out more from Amy at The Fewell Homstead and www.AmyFewell.com. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.