Modern Homesteading Becoming the New Normal

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With a local increase in the desire to garden and become self-sufficient in 2020, local businesses such as B.F. Long and Co. and Southern States are finding it difficult to keep in stock and restock jars, lids, rings, and other canning needs.

By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate

Self sufficiency is becoming a priority for numerous people as the times are changing from the global pandemic of COVID-19.  Homesteading is defined as a lifestyle of self-sufficiency characterized by subsistence agriculture (only producing enough to satisfy yourself and your family), home preservation of food, and may include small scale production of clothing or household items.

Rapidly growing in popularity, the W.Va. Department of Agriculture launched a series of webinars beginning in June that they have named “The Homesteading Series” which have covered topics including backyard chickens, canning, preserving and freezing, small fruit production, goat herding, W.Va. dairy farming, farm tool use and maintenance, and forest farming.  The past webinars have been recorded and can be viewed by going to www.youtube.com and searching for WVDA.

The webinars will continue covering topics including culinary and medical herbs, fresh cut flowers, pasture pork and processing, and consumer impact on W.Va. grown products.  If you wish to participate in these live events, you can find the information on the WVDA website, www.agriculture.wv.gov or on the WVDA social media pages.

Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt said, “There’s a new generation that wants to get away from the big cities for a life more meaningful.  They are leaving their urban jungles to reconnect with the land and open spaces.”  He continued, “As the public becomes more aware of the food they eat, we will continue to see an increase in homesteading and sustainable agriculture.  States like West Virginia must take advantage of this homestead movement.”

Jesica Streets, Tucker County WVU Extension Agent, said “We have had several calls and emails since the early spring about planting gardens, soil tests, and even preservation.”  She stated that the Family Nutrition Program mailed out 25,000 “Grow This” seeds throughout the state, over 300 of which went to residents of Tucker County.  “I’ve had people ask where to find seeds and now people seem to be having trouble finding canning supplies,” Streets added.

“Homesteading goes beyond gardening and food preservation,” she continued. “You can find your niche doing what you love.  If you enjoy crocheting, learn to raise some sheep and spin wool,” Streets suggested.

Information can also be found utilizing the West Virginia University Extension Office.  Their website has been undergoing significant updates pertaining to several homesteading topics.  “Extension is a great place to start and can point you in the right direction,” Streets said.  A virtual master gardeners course is launching on August 20 and a lunch and learn program in the fall.  Those topics will include cover securing your garden for the winter, backyard orchards, pruning, and an introduction to insects and other bugs.

Potomac Highlands Food and Farm Market Manager Jen Olinger has noticed an increase in customers utilizing their curbside service as well.  All of their products come within an 80 mile radius, or within the region, from small scale farms which have presented no problems with receiving their inventory.  “Because we’re pretty safe here wearing gloves and masks, people are feeling comfortable shopping with us,” said Olinger. She added that a lot of locals as well as tourists are buying their meat and produce there because they know where it comes from and they feel safe taking these items home to cook with.

Parsons Southern States owner Mike Adkins was contacted to see if he has experienced an increase in business lately, to which he stated he has seen “ten times the increase”.  “Everybody this year is planting a garden and getting ready to harvest,” Adkins stated which has made it difficult to keep canning supplies in stock.  Not only has the gardening supplies quickly vanished from inventory, but so has the small livestock supplies, such as chicken wire, feeders, watering supplies and feed.  “I can’t even order chicken wire,” he explained.

Another canning supplies resource in the Parsons area is B.F. Long and Company.  Ben Long, owner of the business, is experiencing an abundance of shoppers looking for canning supplies.  “I’ve seen a huge increase,” Long proclaimed.  “I’m running out and I cannot get them (jars, lids, and rings).”

If you are interested in self sufficiency, check out the resources listed above through the WVDA or WVU Extension Service.