Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘skills’

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 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 I am keeping a chronicle of my experiences learning, living, and growing a homegrown lifestyle fresh out of college.

HOMEGROWN Life: Back-to-School in HOMEGROWN Style

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011






Remember the days of sticky pleather school bus seats, mystery meat Mondays in the cafeteria, and field trips to the same museum year after year? September is back-to-school season! Whether you’re back in the classroom yourself, or sending your little ones off on the bus, there are many ways to live homegrown this school year.  Wholesome peanut butter and berry-wiches? Yum! Waste-free lunch kits? Genius. After-school canning with kids? Piece of cake. Try some of these ideas for a homegrown school year for you and your kids.

Photo by Lynn S.

School Lunches

Whether lunch comes in a brown bag or on a school lunch tray, think about ways to make your meals more homegrown.

  • The movement to change school lunch menus through Farm to School programs is changing the face of the cafeteria.  Farm to School “connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.” Join the movement and get involved – it’s good for the farmers and good for your family! Farm Aid’s Farm to School Toolkit is chock full of  great information to expand your school lunch programs and revitalize cafeteria food.
  • We all got sick of the weekly chicken patties as kids pretty quickly, and so are some teachers! Fed Up With Lunch a blog written by the anonymous “Mrs. Q.” tells one teacher’s story of eating lunch in the cafeteria every day for a year with her students.  She digs deepers into the school lunch system, provides her two-cents from a teacher’s standpoint on current education issues, and shares new resources for teachers, parents, and students.

Photo by Lynda

Take a family field trip to your local farmers’ market (Local Harvest can point you in the right direction), and stock up on the season’s bounty for your lunchbox.  Then, take those ingredients and check out some great recipes from and Whole Foods Market to make a local lunch!

What do you pack all of these homegrown lunches in? Try to reduce, reuse, and recycle your containers, utensils, bottles, and napkins.

  • One mom sends waste-free lunches for her son. It may sound like a lot of extra work when you’re busy getting those kids off to school on time, but check out her 5-Steps to a Waste-Free Lunch, adapted from

The 5 Steps to a Waste-free Lunch

  1. Replace paper bags with reusable lunch bags.
  2. Use reusable food containers to eliminate single-serve packaging.
  3. Switch from plastic baggies to reusable snack & sandwich bags.
  4. Reusable napkins, utensils and even straws replace their disposable counterparts.
  5. Kick the bottled water and juice habit with a reusable water bottle
  •’s waste-free lunch kit saves about $371 annually.  Their site has tips on choosing the right styles, sizes, and materials for your lunch bags and containers. Join the Waste-Free Lunches in Schools Campaign, which reduces consumption on a daily basis, preserves natural resources, saves money, and encourages healthy eating habits! By committing to a waste-free lunch, you can even earn cash or prizes for your school!

School Supplies

  • Instead of buying new notebooks and pens, try upcycling, recycling, or repurposing old materials you have around the house. If you do have to purchase something new, Rodale’s Nontoxic Back-to-School Shopping Guide is full of information for parents and students about the safest school products for humans and for the environment.

Extra-Curricular Activities

How do you teach your kids to live homegrown during the school year? Get their hands dirty and grow, cook, make, and do together!


  • Take a field trip with your family to local farms, markets, and demonstrations.  Have them learn new homegrown skills at a local skillshare! Start a garden or get some livestock at your own home.
  • Get everyone involved in the growing! Cultivate a school or community garden in your district.
  • Visit the Discussions Forum for the HOMEGROWN 101’s.  These handy guides can help you with all kinds of growing, cooking, making, and doing. Lots of projects are easy to do and are family-friendly – try the butter-making! Check out the Goodies – make your own seed packets, canning jar labels, and garden plant labels! Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, try the projects on the printable HOMEGROWN How-To Cards
  • Teach your little ones about food, the environment, and sustainability on the day-to-day.  Five tips from
  1. Grow something you all can eat
  2. Kitchen science with green products
  3. Be a detective
  4. Recycle
  5. Save water
  • Get inspired by Project Homestead: Kids where the whole family is growing, cooking, maple tapping, and enjoying the land together
  • Become a scientist in your own kitchen by canning with kids.  This blog has great recipes and concoctionx to try at home.
  • Take the Urban Land Scouts pledge and become a better citizen of the Earth by completing the 10 levels and living the values of the ULS.  Earn badges and learn about the natural world. Visit the Urban Land Scouts blog and get scouting!
  • If you’ve got a child interested in farming and agriculture, find out if there are Future Farmers of America chapters in your area.
  • 4-H is another great way to get your kids involved with science, healthy living, and citizenship.  There are many homegrown skills to be shared in 4-H chapters, and lots of fun at 4-H fairs!

While the back-to-school season can be overwhelming, living homegrown through the year doesn’t have to be.  Try a few of these ideas out, and figure out how best to live homegrown everyday. Share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with all of us this school year!

HOMEGROWN Life: In the HOMEGROWN Village at Farm Aid 2011!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011






Another Farm Aid has come and gone, but the HOMEGROWN spirit lingers!  The 2011 Farm Aid concert was held at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in KCK on August 13, and was there to enjoy the music, the food, and celebrate the good food movement!

The 2011 Farm Aid events began on Friday night with a Farm Aid 2011 Kick Off Party at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, and continued through Saturday’s press event, the 15 sets on the main stage, HOMEGROWN Concessions that sold foods foraged from local and regional family farmers, and the HOMEGROWN Village.  Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and friends championed throughout the day for the family farmer, urging the crowd to take action to change the current system of agriculture by voting with their forks, supporting local farmers, and participating in our food system.

Photo by Cathy Tingle

Off-stage, the buzz of activity was felt throughout the HOMEGROWN Village, where almost 40 local, regional, and national food and farm groups exhibited their work for concertgoers.  Along with the dedicated Farm Aid staff, we coordinated an exciting and interactive area where folks could visit with farmers and get their hands dirty with some of the inspiring individuals that are in the thick of the good food movement.

Photo by Shriya Manian

Photo by Shriya Manian

While I was busy with logistics and coordination of the Village on concert day, I did get to visit some of the exhibits and vendors.  Some highlights included getting my staple pork sandwich from our friends at Patchwork Family Farms; visiting the three farmers’ markets set up around the venue; playing the National Agriculture Center and Hall of Fame’s “Wheel of Agriculture” game that tested agricultural history knowledge; touring Nebraska Environmental Action’s revolutionary mobile meat processing trailer; posing for Food and Water Watch’s Farm Bill testimonial photo booth; learning about new foods through New Roots for Refugee’s “Meet Your Farmer, Meet Your Food” trivia game; and the trying my hand at the Intertribal Agriculture Council’s grain-grinding workshop.

Photo by Shriya Manian

Photo by Shriya Manian

The Farm Aid Farm Yard tent showcased the “Turnip the Heat” action center, where visitors could sign petitions for fairness in our food system, the Farmer Resource Network “Game of Farm Life”, and the informative displays on the history of Farm Aid’s work and the issues they focus on.

Photo by Shriya Manian

This year there was a new addition to the Village that drew in the masses throughout day.  The HOMEGROWN Skill Share Tent featured the exhibit, and a stage where masters from Mother Earth News and Slow Food Kansas City demonstrated their skills on stage for Village visitors.  The demonstrations included making your own baby food, making homemade home cleaners, composting, making sauerkraut, plowing with pigs and farmstead solutions, and rendering lard.  In between each demonstration, farmers and artists gathered in the Skill Share Tent to discuss agriculture and how to become active in the movement.  It was a great way to learn new HOMEGROWN skills, connect with growers, eaters, and doers that embody this lifestyle, and inspire newbies to get involved!

Photo by Shriya Manian

Photo by Shriya Manian

Photo by Shriya Manian

Farm Aid has a uniquely beautiful way of bringing together the larger community of foodies, farmers, and everyday folks to celebrate family farmer agriculture and to drive the effort forward.  This year seemed to highlight the HOMEGROWN culture that is adding its own blend of spice to the movement – we even had Neil Young stop by and check out the Village this year, affirming the importance of the work and the breadth of the community we are creating.  It truly was a day where everyone in attendance was “Living HOMEGROWN”.  I hope that you get to experience Farm Aid and the HOMEGROWN Village in 2012!

Photo by John Cavanaugh

Photo by Shriya Manian


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