If we could name this year something other than all the things that we consistently hear the media tell us, I’d name this year “the year of the homesteader”. But of course, we won’t read too many articles or watch too many news reports talking about the tens of thousands of people who jumped head first into homesteading this year. It won’t ever be a mainstream headline. And maybe it wasn’t all out “homesteading”—maybe it was something as simple as growing a tomato plant on their back patio. Nevertheless, this year has been different.
When I first started Homesteaders of America, one of the things I consistently said was “let’s make homesteading normal again”. Little did I know that just a few short years later, a mass exodus of people would suddenly find themselves leaving the rat race (most unexpectedly) and taking on this old-time lifestyle. Some out of necessity, other’s out of the need for self-sufficiency. The need to not depend on a broken food and health system. The reality that they absolutely can do this.
You can homestead. You can plant a garden. You can raise chickens and rabbits and cows and goats. You can make bread in your home instead of buying it from the store. You can use natural remedies and bypass most of the common issues that you used to need a doctor to tend to.
Something has shifted. Life has changed. And now, more than ever, people are more aware of their food, their health, and their ability to learn (and re-learn) vintage skills.
It wasn’t just the year of the homesteader because people decided to pick up this lifestyle, though. It was the year of the homesteader (and farmer) because when the big box stores had nothing, farmers and homesteaders were the only ones available to serve our local communities.
We had eggs and meat to sell. We had skills and experience to share. We were suddenly good enough to buy from, no matter how different the cost may be from the big box stores.
And we delivered, with smiles and open hearts. We did what we do best—take care of our community, our family, and our farms.
At times it was stressful. Sometimes we ran out of product and even we couldn’t keep up. Homesteaders and farmers were faced with the unique situation where they had to hold back food for their regular customers, and only give surplus to those who were flocking to their farm stores and homesteads to buy meat, eggs, and vegetables. People didn’t understand the concept. And so, not only did homesteaders and farmers have to deal with uncertain times, but also, fearful and upset people.
But we got through it. We always get through it. That’s the beauty and resiliency of homesteaders and homesteading.
While many businesses were hurting, for the first time in decades, the family farm was once again flourishing in local communities. Certainly, it has been a unique year, and not one that we can base a budget or financial projection from. My hope, however, is that we see more people putting faith, and money, into their local farmers and homesteaders. That they remember who was there, and who wasn’t—because the small-town farmer is there every single time for their community.
This wasn’t just the year of the homesteader because of new homesteaders and farm sales, though. This was also the year of the homesteader because people who have been living this lifestyle decided this was the year to grow. This was the year to take on new projects, grow a bigger garden, buy 100 meat birds instead of 25, buy that milk cow, or even expand and purchase more property. This was the push so many needed to take hobby homesteading into truly living this lifestyle and growing more towards sustainability.
I, personally, grew the biggest garden we’ve ever grown. While it could be small compared to many, we also had a toddler under foot and a brand new property to learn. Either way, we did it. We committed to it. We had so many failures, and so many successes. But my goodness, was the fruit of our labor worth it. We grew hundreds of pounds of potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, processed chickens, and more. We preserved the harvest like never before. It motivated us to have bigger goals in 2021—to grow our homestead more, and to truly embrace it all.
We shared our bounty. Not just bounty in produce and meat production, but bounty in knowledge as well. I spent countless hours on the phone with homesteaders from across the country (though mostly local) who often asked the question, “where do I get started?” I received phone call after phone call of people looking for chickens to purchase. I eventually had to stop responding to voicemails (mostly about chickens for sale), because it literally would’ve been the only thing I did all day long for weeks at a time.
I can remember one woman calling and begging me to teach her how to can her food from her very first garden that unexpectedly produced more than she could’ve guessed. Thankfully I was able to connect her with another local homesteader to help her along the way.
Hatcheries ran out of chicks and hatching eggs. Homesteaders bought more meat chickens than ever before. People who had never even owned chickens suddenly had twenty-five meat birds sitting in their back yard that they had no idea how to process. We have a video showing you how to do that, by the way.
Seed companies ran out of seeds. Suddenly, everyone had a garden, no matter where they lived. We called them our own version of “victory gardens”.
All of these things, and more, encouraged us to start our “How to Grow Your Own Food Series” on YouTube. In less than 24 hours, we gained over 10,000 subscribers on our HOA YouTube channel, simply because of the series we were starting. People were eager to learn this lifestyle. Even people who had been living it to some degree for years. They needed to know how to grow food. Was it even possible? Did normal people grow food?
That led us into the “Garden Tour” series, where homesteaders from across the country (and even into Canada) brought you into their gardens with them every single week. They shared tips and tricks, showed you their failures and successes, and more.
Almost every Monday for seven months, I sat in front of a computer during a livestream and chatted with you guys. People from all over came and interacted. They would tell me where they lived, what they’d done that week, what they were excited to learn about on the next garden tour or in the next talk about growing food. Thank you for the honor of opening up your homes to Homesteaders of America, as we tried to help teach you the basics of living this lifestyle (for absolutely free). I hope it encouraged you. I hope it showed you just how attainable living a sustainable life can be. And I hope that it motivated you to step away from the big box stores and grow your own food.
You could say 2020 has been a little chaotic. No matter what you believe, or what you don’t believe, this year has been a learning experience for us all. Hopefully it taught us that homesteading isn’t just a hobby, it’s a necessity.
We, too, had to make hard decisions, though. As a business, we here at Homesteaders of America were faced with so many torn emotions and options as the year continued on. It was hard trying to navigate the “what-if’s” and “what could be’s”. And so, in July of 2020 we officially made the announcement that we would be cancelling the 2020 in-person event that’s held in Virginia each year. Instead, for 2020, we would take it online as a virtual event.
I wasn’t happy about it in the least bit. But, it was the best decision in uncertain times. While it lacked community and the tangible learning, we were still pleased to see thousands of homesteaders learning, growing, talking, and sharing during the virtual event. It was more than we could’ve ever imagined.
In case you’re not aware, Homesteaders of America isn’t a big corporation. We are literally just a few women homesteaders (and husband supporters) that are running our homes, homesteads, children, homeschool schedule, and more. We are everyday average people, just like you. Homesteaders of America was never created to be a corporation of hundreds of people. We are community minded and offer our time and energy because we truly love this lifestyle and helping others grow. And we were equally as devastated when we couldn’t come together in person as a community this year. You guys are our people in more ways than you know.
But, there’s always 2021, right?
So, what’s in store for Homesteaders of America in 2021?
That’s a really good question. As we begin to close out this crazy, unexpected year, we are excited about the possibilities of a new year here at HOA. We are officially planning the 2021 Homesteaders of America in-person event. Put it on your calendar! October 8 and 9 (Friday and Saturday), at the Warren County Fairgrounds in Front Royal, VA.
Tickets for the event won’t go on sale until sometime in January 2021. We will also have our pre-conference workshops that Thursday before the event. You must register for those separately. We will more than likely NOT be selling tickets at the gate this year (but you can purchase them that weekend on your computer or phone). We DO encourage you to buy pre-sale tickets so we know how many to prepare for.
We are also excited about the possibility of a smaller event that would take place in the spring of 2021, as we partner with one of our favorite homesteaders on his farm in Tennessee! While the annual HOA fall event brings in thousands, this spring event would only have 300 or so spaces. Think of it as a VERY in-depth, intensive, hands-on “Learn How to Homestead in a Weekend” two-day event. There would also be entertainment, and a big dinner the final night of learning. Talk about community! But, we’ll talk more about that soon, as we just want to make sure all things will line up in the new year. HOA members would get first dibs on tickets, and then they would be released to the public. We don’t expect them to last long, so when we do launch them (as long as all goes as planned), make sure you grab them quickly!
Besides the in-person events, we’re working on some mini-courses that we hope to get out in 2021. We’re partnering with some amazing homesteaders for a series of online teachings that would help you along your homestead journey. This is still in the beginning stages, but we’re hopeful we’ll be able to get a couple out to you by springtime.
As we prepare to go into a new year, our hope here at Homesteaders of America is to encourage you, grow with you, share truth and knowledge, and bring together community. Homesteading takes a village. While we love to use the word “self”-sufficiency, the reality is that, in an olden days agrarian community, there was no ‘one man show’. The food system was the community. The health system was the community. Not the state or the country—the community. It was farmers helping farmers, homesteaders helping homesteaders. And at the end of the day, our hope is that we can cultivate a large agrarian community of homesteaders across the country (and beyond), and then motivate you to build your own local relationships in your own local communities.
We can’t wait to grow with you and learn more with you in the new year. While 2020 may have been the year homesteading became “normal” again, 2021 will be the year we heal the family farm, build agrarian communities, and confidently live this life we love.
Here’s to 2020—because it planted new seeds in darkness.
Here’s to 2021—because it will help us grow.
Amy Fewell is the Founder of Homesteaders of America, and is an author, photographer, blogger, wife, herbalist, and homesteading mama. Find her most recent books, The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion and The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook online, and visit her blog at The Fewell Homestead.