Lessons from Fairs, Large and Small

This month our lessons from the homestead came from the Mother Earth News Fair. Most of our family returned from there last evening laden down with stuff, sales ideas, physician and motivation to try new things.

I have found that learning can come from a variety of places. But I especially like those places that are akin to our lifestyle. Last year we attended the Blue Ridge Folk Life Festival. My boys especially enjoyed the coon dog competitions. My daughter learned a great deal about weaving and has, help ever since, been looking for an affordable loom to purchase. And the entire family enjoyed learning the history of the American dulcimer by visiting the museum there. The best part of that day was when the broom maker spent a generous amount of time with my youngest, teaching him to make brooms by hand and assisting him in making his own. That little hearth broom still hangs next to our woodstove.

We went to the Mother Earth News Fair last year—at least the 11 year old and I did. This year the Fair was even bigger and was three days instead of two. This 11 year old went as a serious student. Since he attended before, he knew he better prepare. So as soon as the workshop schedule was posted online, he had me print it off. He then read all the options and circled those titles that interested him: Incubation 101, Edible Farm Workers, and Poultry Breeds Roundup were his top picks. There, he had his sling bag over his shoulder to carry his notebook and pencil for note taking, and I know he peppered each speaker with questions. Back in the hotel room (and in the car, and at home), he repeated to me everything he learned—and even a tidbit of information he shared with one speaker to help him with his predator problems.

Earlier this summer, the boys learned from attending our local County Fair. They both entered wood carvings they had made and the older one entered his flock of Bantam chickens. All the chickens and one of the wood carvings took ribbons. Of course they were learning lessons on the homestead by just preparing: chicken care, woodcarving techniques, planning, responsibility, follow-through, etc. But the best way they learned at the fair was by assisting the poultry judge with the judging process. How did they get to do that? All it took was asking. They learned basic chicken care secrets, the signs of a healthy chicken, and what a judge looks for in a Grand Champion chicken.

Interested in learning opportunities off the homestead but for the homestead?


Take in a fair or festival—even if it’s on a local level. Want something big in your area? Do an online search for “homesteading events” or “homesteading fair” to see what you come up with.

If your older child (or the entire family) is interested in more in-depth study, I met someone at the Mother Earth Fair that can help you. Check out The Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture. It is an onsite institute for teaching agricultural skills, fiber crafts, kitchen skills, woodworking classes, and other traditional crafts. They are located in Texas and even host their own homesteading festival each year. After talking with the overseers of this school, I came away confident that it would be a safe environment for any of my children looking to go away for further study.

Lessons from the Homestead don’t always have to occur on the family farm. Like with other homeschoolers, we take advantage of lots of learning opportunities in other locations. What about you? Been to a homesteading festival lately? I’d love for you to share what you learned in the comments.


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