Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘homegrown’

HOMEGROWN Life: A Work in Progress

Friday, January 6th, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

For the past few months I have been writing about my experiences in the “real world” as a recent graduate settling into a semi-HOMEGROWN kind of life.  It’s been a mixture of fun and frustration: from failed attempts at cooking with kohlrabi to the joys of raising chickens; but, throughout this journey I’ve grappled with the meaning of “homegrown” – from origins and evolution of this HOMEGROWN movement, to the vastly different interpretations of it among folks across America. And, how I can make HOMEGROWN my own.

I come from a background in agriculture. My great-grandparents were first-generation American farmers in Michigan.  They lived the agrarian lifestyle out of a combination of necessity and desire, raising their herd of children and animals on an isolated farm. The depression hit them, like the rest of America, hard, but they carried on by working the land to survive. My grandmother left the farm at age 13 to work in town for another family in order to send money home to help financially support her own family. She later joined the war effort – first as a riveter, and then as a Red Cross nurse. She met and married my grandfather, one of her amputee patients, and they moved back to his family farm in Connecticut where they raised 9 children and took on subsistence farming in addition to working their 2 or 3 jobs.

My dad, aunts and uncles grew up in farming on the same piece of land my family lives on today.  They lived on the outskirts of town and spent the majority of their mornings, afternoons and evenings doing farm chores in order to survive – the same skills that are a central part of today’s homegrown movement. For them, raising cows and sows was never-ending work.  Making butter was an all-day job. Canning pounds and pounds of produce in a hot kitchen in order to have a stockpile of food to eat in the winter was the furthest thing from trendy. And, growing up as farm kids was not cool. It was isolating and difficult.

None of the kids in that generation became farmers.  My dad keeps some animals, plants gardens, makes syrup and still practices agrarian skills, but he took a job off of the farm (for a chemical company…go figure…) and never wanted us to live the lifestyle he lived.  So, we didn’t. We raised a miniature horse, some goats and chickens, played Little League, and went to college.  As time went on, it became harder and harder for my family to survive off of the land, as ironic and sad as that sounds, so as of yet, not one of us has turned the soil again.

As this homesteading/DIY culture has blossomed in recent years, my family and others like them haven’t totally assimilated into the movement.  Even though they’ve always made venison stew in the winter, field dressed chickens, and preserved their vegetables, it was for survival, rather than enjoyment. Some of them scoff at this movement (and me for being a part of it!). They think it’s just a bunch of “city slickers” buying produce, sugar, pectin and jars to make small-batch jams, raising a couple hens on a scrappy yard, noshing on gourmet cheeses from the farmers’ markets, and sipping organic craft beers. For them, this movement hits a place deep inside of them –  their souls. These folks can’t afford to exclusively farm anymore, and they can’t afford to be a part of this movement, so where do they fit in? What do they think and how do they feel about the culture of nouveau-agriculture? How can we ensure this movement is inclusive and genuine?

The HOMEGROWN.org community has been an invaluable resource for me, 20-something who has just up and flown the coop – an old family farm in the sticks – and is starting to build her own nest – as one of them “city slickers”. It’s inspiring when folks from Brooklyn to Boise gather together on the site to share skills and stories from their own vastly different lives.  While I don’t know where all of these folks come from, I do know that they are living their own interpretation of HOMEGROWN.  Be it raising some American Guinea hogs and tending a small garden in the suburbs or farming for a living in rural America, the tie that binds is the desire to live independently, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty; to honor the hard work, skills and culture of agriculture and to adapt it to your own lifestyle. For me, that is HOMEGROWN.

It takes all kinds to build a movement and a culture.  We need the “city slickers” to support family farmers in order to keep them on the land, and we need agrarians to share their skills and know-how with the rest of us who aren’t on the farm anymore. This online community is a shining example of this co-existence and community.  It’s getting back to something very real: the root of civilization: agriculture, food, family!  I am grateful for it and for all of you who contribute to the community every day. From the farmers to foodies, the fields to the forks, let us continue to make this movement our own and to live HOMEGROWN together.

 

I am the Flock-Tender here on HOMEGROWN.org. I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle fresh out of college.

Happy HOMEGROWN Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

I am the Flock-Tender here on HOMEGROWN.org.  I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle fresh out of college.

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. A holiday for all of your HOMEGROWN senses! From the turkey to the pie, there’s lots of good food – and family farmers – to be thankful for. May your tables sag under the weight of all the gastronomical goodness! Although the fare usually takes the cake (er, the pie) on Thanksgiving, I am getting back to the root of the holiday this year – celebrating the farmers that grow our food and connecting with folks that we share it with.

Photo Courtesy of Farm Aid

My family’s own holiday menu was crafted after we harvested what we grew and perused local markets over the weekend to find fresh, seasonal foods in our region (check out this downloadable menu from our friends at Farm Aid and fill it in with your own dishes). We hoped to get the “Connecticut Grown” stamp on everything we purchased, but extended our reach into other New England states. While “eating our zip code” this Thanksgiving eliminates some old standby dishes from our table, it allows us to experience the bounty of the season through others. Adios, green bean casserole; hello, mashed celeriac!

I am truly thankful to be able to enjoy local foods grown by family farms, instead whatever wilted veggies and oversize turkeys you can get last minute from the major food corporations. It sure tastes better keeping food dollars in our local economy and supporting family farmers on the land. Celebrate family farmers and independence from corporate control this year – stage your own version Occu-pie Thanksgiving!

Photo courtesy of Farm Aid

Prepping, preparing, and enjoying these foods connects us back to the root of our food system – the family farmer – and sharing them brings the connection full-circle. From the seed, to the soil, to the farmer, to the eater, food is a beautiful thing to celebrate. Passing the platters of good food between good folks instills the sense of community and conversation that we enjoy each day on HOMEGROWN.org! Start a HOMEGROWN discussion over your meal. Share with each other what you’ve been growing, doing, crafting, and cooking with each other.  Experience together and share new skills and ideas this Thanksgiving. Take the conversation off-line and back to the HOMEGROWN roots around the kitchen table! Let us know how you celebrated, and what you ate, this year.

However you celebrate this year, and whatever you’re cooking, I hope that your holiday is full of good food, good friends, and good times! Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Accepting Submissions for the End-of-Season HOMEGROWN Fair!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Recently I traveled back to my roots in rural Connecticut to celebrate an annual agricultural tradition – the Durham Fair.  The Durham Fair is the largest agricultural fair in Connecticut, and growing up as a local, I’ve never missed a fair season! There’s something magical about fair season; a wonderful communal culmination of a year of agri-culture that connects us all back to our roots.

Photos courtesy of Caroline

The beauty of agricultural fairs is the celebration of a rich farming history and homegrown skills.  Family farmers who have worked the land for hundreds of years come back annually near harvest time to show their animals, crafts, art, baked goods, preserves, and plants, share traditional skills and demonstrations, and to eat amazing food and enjoy the exhibits.  Community groups and schools work behind booths to sell their products and their food – much of it local and in support of community-building initiatives.  The spirit and culture of these fairs reminds me very much of the philosophy of HOMEGROWN.org – a space for folks to come together and share their knowledge and skills with one another and to enjoy a lively conversation about good food and good living.

Photos courtesy of Caroline

As we approach the end of the harvest season and prepare for winter (here in the Northeast, anyway!), we can all take a little time to look back on a year of progress in living HOMEGROWN.  Share your successes, failures, thoughts and experiences with the HOMEGROWN community – fair-style. Anything new that you’ve done, built, created, explored, or learned, share with us!

  • Submit photos of your backyard livestock, chickens and pets.
  • Post recipes for your favorite dishes that use locally-grown ingredients.
  • Share planting, growing, and food preservation tips.
  • Upload instructions on creating homegrown art, crafts for the upcoming holiday season, or projects you’ve been working on all year.
  • Create a virtual skillshare of new skills learned and share with others.
  • Comment on other’s work, and foster the sense of community that we are proud to build on HOMEGROWN.org

While we can’t display your bountiful harvests, beautiful dishes, and crafty projects in a physical space, we want to share them with all in our community through the fall season. Upload your photos, videos, and blogs with “HOMEGROWN Fair” in the title so that they are recognizable submissions.  Of course, we will award prizes for the best of the best – a HOMEGROWN.org prize pack, HOMEGROWN Mix-Tape, and a few surprise goodies.  We want to showcase the work that you’ve done this year and how you’ve done it! So get those submissions ready and enjoy the first-annual, end-of-season HOMEGROWN Fair!

Photos courtesy of Caroline