Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘movement’

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.

HOMEGROWN Life: Am I Doing This Right?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a question I find myself asking more often as I delve deeper into a homegrown lifestyle – What does it really mean to live HOMEGROWN? Am I doing this right?

(Photo via Caroline Malcolm)

Growing up as one of five in a rural New England town, I was accustomed to canning jam, green tomato pickles, and whatever else we could preserve, digging for potatoes and harvesting lettuce, wearing hand-me-down clothes and playing in the woods.  We lived more simply than most of our neighbors.  My parents built our log home together, we raised animals, and we ate dinner together at home, usually sourcing from the garden or from local farms.  It was our way of life and it was second nature to me.  We lived “homegrown” in order to survive, and to keep traditions alive in our family – and it was easy for us.

(Photo via Flickr)

Going to college in the “big city” allowed me luxuries that I didn’t have as a youngin’.  There was a movie theatre within walking distance! I could get pizza at 3 am! I could get across town and back without a car! It was a new and exciting way of life for me. I still enjoy the buzz of the city after four years of living it, but it isn’t the best environment to fully enjoy the greener pastures of a homegrown lifestyle.

Maybe it’s something instinctual inside of me that yearns for a simplified, way of life.  I want to live homegrown, but I’m not sure that I can do it on my own. I’ve enjoyed perusing local farmers’ market and making meals out of what I can source locally.  I find recycling, composting, and repurposing fun and easy to do. Crafting and DIY-ing feeds my creativity and imagination. I love caring for container “gardens” and talking about growing and planting with others.  But, am I doing enough to be “homegrown” and am I doing it correctly?

(Photo via Flickr)

I’m not canning or preserving on my own. I’m not generating my own energy.  I’m not growing everything I need to survive, nor am I purchasing solely from farmers.  I’m not making my own soaps, laundry detergent, or cosmetics (yet!). I’m still drinking mass-produced beer. And, I don’t feel that I’m really changing the world.  It’s daunting to think how far I have to go.  Living in a shoebox apartment on a shoestring budget, it’s daunting to think of all the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” that would make my life more sustainable, my footprint smaller and myself a better steward of the land.  Sometimes, I’m just plain old overwhelmed.

But, I have found that this movement is less about doing everything, and more about doing something.  I want to live simpler and more self-sufficiently.  I want to grow my own food and utilize renewable energy.  I want to make my own clothing and cosmetics, but I am 22, fresh out of the dormitories, and just getting started on an independent life.  I am a newbie, and I’m not going to change the way I live overnight.

(Photo via Flickr)

Instead of being overwhelmed, I’m channeling that energy into making the most of what I have where I am in my own life, while contributing to a greater social movement in the meantime.  The more and more time I spend talking with folks who are also attempting to live homegrown, the more and more I feel that I am part of an alternative system of doing, eating, crafting, and spending.  The integrity and importance of this movement keeps me going on my path to establish a homegrown life.  And, I realize that I am doing more to become self-sufficient every day!  Despite needing to read books about canning, Google garden terminology, and research the ingredients in purchases that I do have to make as an urban resident, I am educating myself and about living homegrown, while teaching others new skills, too, which is at the heart of the matter!

We all can’t live as off-the-grid purists overnight, but we can follow a path to our own version of homegrown living.  We can plant the seeds of change first by informing ourselves and learning from those who emulate homegrown living – the homesteading superstars we all strive to be.  This dissemination of information and sharing of skills via hands-on experience or through a resource like HOMEGROWN.org builds a community within the movement, and increases motivation to realize our own homegrown goals. Whether that is growing herbs in a window box, starting a farm, or building an Earth house, we can all find ways to live homegrown and to inspire others to do the same.

Share your homegrown living tips. What motivates you? Why do you chose to live HOMEGROWN?  Add to our discussion and keep the movement alive!

 

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.