Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

HOMEGROWN Life: County Fair Season Is Here

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

 

HOMEGROWN-life-bryce-logo-150x150If you are a born and bred keeper of livestock, there are certain rights of passage that our agricultural system expects you to participate in. One of these is the annual cycle of county-based livestock breeding competitions we’ve come to celebrate in the form of county fairs.

For those not in the know, agriculturally driven counties have a strong tradition of holding summer convenings, where farmers get together in common spaces to compare their outputs, eat some fried junk food, and yuk it up in overalls and cowboy hats. (My people tend toward overalls, which we pronounce “over-hauls.”) The county fair is a celebrated institution. It’s an outgrowth of the kind of mindset that’s driven to grow more food, raise “better” breeding stock, use science and the understanding of genetics to learn from one another, and show off what we do on our individual farms.

HOMEGROWN-life-county-fair-season

Knowing our history is key to understanding how things work in the modern world. One-hundred-plus years ago, the country life movement helped inject professionalization, scientific inquiry, and educated competition into our agricultural system. The county fair is part of that great legacy as are the county-based, university-educated professionals who would live and work throughout the rural population, helping train a new generation of farmers. County-extension programs, as well as 4H, FFA, and other groups represent this history today.

My two boys, and my nieces and nephews, take part in our local 4H scene. As a family, we have a longstanding history of participating in and supporting the Bates County Fair, in Bates County, Missouri. It really is a sight to behold. Dozens and dozens of local youth work with their families to produce projects and livestock that demonstrate our agricultural capacity. There are contests for vegetable production, hog production, beef production, quilting, woodworking, jam making, photography, and even singing/performance art to wow the parents and grandparents.

The whole system is a beautiful conglomeration of hard work and community-minded spirit. It’s got some publicly financed support (that’s the university-driven outreach and extension system), but the primary driver is farmers and rural businesses working hard to create an event that serves and promotes youth entrepreneurship. Parents, grandparents, and small business owners have a stake in supporting the next generation of farmers.

This year my boys will be showing off their farming chops by participating in the goat- and swine-production contests. They’ll also be raising potatoes and tomatoes and peppers. And taking some photos, too.

Do we expect to win? No. Winning generally means spending thousands of dollars on breeding stock and high-powered feeds. We are in it for the experience rather than the competition side of the equation. I’m just glad they want to participate in the continuing agricultural legacy of the county fair system.

Plus, they have chores to accomplish every day. My boys are athletic and academic in nature. I was the same way. As farmers, we have to find ways to entice our young people to round out their education with daily activities that demonstrate a different way of living. Do your geometry. Work on your soccer footwork. But also feed your pig and make sure it has clean water.

It’s not the only way to live in the modern world. But it can connect you to a very basic human need to feed ourselves and our community with food. There’s a lot to be said about the mess of agriculture and its discontents related to fossil-fuel dependency and resource consumption. But there’s also a lot to say about a kid forming a bond with a growing goat or a gilt (a female but not-yet-mothering pig). It’s a real-life connection with a growing and breathing creature that depends on us for its sustenance.

I don’t particularly care whether my kids end up winning the county fair or not. Mostly, I care that my kids understand the annual cycle of living and dying and utilizing our resources responsibly. I care that they make a connection with the living creatures around us. I care that they care about the animals and plants here on the tallgrass prairies and the bottomland hardwoods that surround us.

HOMEGROWN-bryce-oates-150x150Bryce Oates is a farmer, father, writer, and conservationist in West Missouri. He lives and works on his family’s multigenerational farm, tending cattle, sheep, goats, and organic vegetables. His goals in life are simple: to wake up before the sun, catch a couple of fish, turn the compost pile, dig potatoes, and sit by the fire in the evening, watching the fireflies mimic the stars.

Sneak Peek! HOMEGROWN Skills Tent Workshops at Farm Aid 2013

Friday, September 6th, 2013

HOMEGROWN-skills-tent-workshops


Farm Aid 2013
is right around the corner: September 21 at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York. And while Willie, Neil, John, and Dave will headline the main stage, Christina, Sheila, Thor, and more will appear live in the HOMEGROWN Skills Tent.

HOMEGROWN-skills-tent-seedsWhat’s the Skills Tent, you ask? And who’s this Christina? On concert day from noon to 6 p.m., the Skills Tent will host hands-on workshops in the agrarian arts, similar to the sort of how-tos you’ll find in the HOMEGROWN 101 library. The Skills Tent is just one part of the HOMEGROWN Village, a county-fair-style hoedown on the concert grounds that’s jam-packed with interactive food and farming exhibits from groups across the country, as well as a HOMEGROWN stage featuring live music. Not bad, huh?

HOMEGROWN-skills-tent-mushroomsBut back to the Skills Tent: HOMEGROWN is thrilled to have had the help of our barn-raising tentmate and partner in can-do, the Capital Region’s own From Scratch Club, in putting together this year’s workshop lineup. If you’re not familiar with From Scratch Club, it’s sort of like a food swap/book club/cooking school/food blog times one hundred. In other words: AWESOME. We love you, From Scratch Club! Now, without further ado, this year’s HOMEGROWN Skills Tent lineup:

ALL-DAY ACTIVITIES

» Make Your Mark!

Make your mark on Farm Aid 2013! Share what HOMEGROWN means to you in a potato stamp group art project, presented by HOMEGROWN.org.

» Kitchen DIY: Can-Do Projects

Learn how to make your own butter and lemon vinegar! Get the dirt on cold storage! Christina Davis and Co. of From Scratch Club share tips all day in between Skills Tent workshops.

WORKSHOP SCHEDULE

12:30 to 1 p.m.
Mushrooms 101: Grow Your Own

Thinking of starting your own shiitake crop? Bobby Chandler of Mariaville Mushroom Men shows you how.

1:30 to 2 p.m.
Makin’ Bacon 101: Cure It Yourself

Curing your own bacon is easier than you think! Erika Tebbens of From Scratch Club demonstrates, using pork bellies from New York’s West Wind Acres.

2:30 to 3 p.m.
Pancakes 101: From Field to Griddle

What’s the story behind your breakfast? Amy Halloran of From Scratch Club and Thor Oechsner of Oechsner Farms and Farmer Ground Flour connect the dots between grain grown and milled in New York State and your plate.

3:30 to 4 p.m.
Cheesemaking 101: Happy Animals Mean Happy Cheese

Good food starts with healthy goats and sheep! Learn the basics of home cheesemaking and goat care with the dairy farmers of New York’s own Nettle Meadow.

4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Fiber 101: Making Friendship Bracelets from Llama Wool

Where does wool come from? Find out, see a spinning demo, and make your own friendship bracelet from llama wool under the tutelage of Saratoga Llamas’ Linda Woods.

MORE WAYS TO GET INVOLVED

Farm Aid 2013 is sold out, but there are still plenty of ways to join the party! Visit farmaid.org/events for details on farm tours, a free screening of the new urban-farming documentary Growing Cities, and more. And stay tuned to Farm Aid’s About the Concert page for news and updates. See you there!

Join Us on the Road to Farm Aid

Friday, August 30th, 2013

 

Hello, HOMEGROWN flock! As many of you know, HOMEGROWN is the little sibling of Farm Aid, whose annual benefit concert is coming up fast. Farm Aid 2013 will take place at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York, on September 21, 2013.

HOMEGROWN-HQ-lunch

Fueling up for the month ahead at    Farm Aid/HOMEGROWN HQ, thanks to our friend and feeder Seta

We’re in full swing here, getting ready for the big day—and we know that many of you are, too. We’re thrilled that so many of you will be attending this year’s concert! In fact, we want to share all of the energy, planning, and good will that goes into the big day, and we want to show everyone the part you’re playing. From artists to family farmers to volunteers to HOMEGROWN Skills Tent presenters to music fans, we’re asking everyone to be part of the Road to Farm Aid!

The #Road2FarmAid will tell the stories of all of the different people working towards a greater vision for our farm and food system. There are lots of ways you can join us on the road:

  • Visit farmaid.org/road2farmaid to download official #Road2FarmAid digital swag likesocial media banners, cover images, web badges, and more!
  • Share your own blog posts, photos, videos, status updates, and anything else you can think of using the hashtag #Road2FarmAid. Don’t forget to share your swag to show your friends that you’re on the #Road2FarmAid.
  • Learn how others are celebrating family agriculture by checking out the official #Road2FarmAid feed at farmaid.org/road2farmaid. You can also explore the hashtag on your favorite social media site to see what’s happening across the country.
  • Connect with others throughout your journey. Make new friends, share what you have learned and learn from others as they cruise along their #Road2FarmAid.

Need some suggestions to get your creative juices flowing? A few ideas:

  • Tweet about your preparations. (“The cooler’s packed full of HOMEGROWN kombucha. Ready for tailgating! #Road2FarmAid”)
  • Share on Facebook the song you hope your favorite Farm Aid artist will play on Sept. 21.
  • Post photos on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter from your road trip to Farm Aid. (Did you stop at a farm stand? See a beautiful barn on the way? Pass a tractor?)

Be sure to use the hashtag #Road2FarmAid so we (and others) can find all of your creative posts and share them with fellow travelers. Farm Aid will be sharing spotlighted content at farmaid.org/road2farmaid. And be sure to keep an eye on Farm Aid’s About the Concert page for the latest concert news.