Behind the Scenes at the 2019 Country Living Workshop

Editor’s Note: Did you miss this year’s Country Living Workshop? No worries! Local homesteader and contributing blogger Sarah Kroger is sharing with us her experience and what she learned.

With six children 12 and under in my house, you can imagine that finding one thing with the ability to hold everyone’s focus and keep everyone entertained is a challenge, to say the least. There are times the big kids have to endure yet another Word World for the sake of the 4 and 6 year olds and there are times the little ones feel left out when the big girls get to stay up a little later to watch a movie. One playground has great slides for big kids, but might as well be scaling Mt. Everest to the little ones. You get the idea.

But frankly, one thing that never disappoints is a trip to Lehman’s. They all enjoy the in-store scavenger hunt, and each kid has a favorite area of the store. Some like the rooms of tools, some the outdoor gardening section (complete with an actual push mower), and of course, they all love the candy room.

Recently, however, we made the drive to Lehman’s for a different reason. The last weekend in June was once again the Country Living Workshop, and having gone last year, we knew we wouldn’t miss it. It was my boys’ (ages 6 and 8) first trip to the workshop, and they weren’t sure what to expect. Would it be interesting? Would we actually get to go in the store? Of course, I was there to hear Joel Salatin and Stacy Lyn, so we loaded up and headed to the store.

As usual, Lehman’s didn’t disappoint. The very first sight upon arriving was a beautiful display of woodworking from a local artisan. I was so impressed that they talked to my sons about the types of wood in each piece and the tools they used for each project. They even had some tools available for the kids to try to have some real hands on experience stripping bark from a log.

Then it was time for the Keynote speaker. We all filed into the room, toast and homemade (and warm!) apple butter in hand! Joel Salatin was dynamic, educational, and reassuring as always. See, as a mom and a new homesteader, (I grew up in the suburbs…in a neighborhood. We didn’t even have a dog! This whole idea of growing my own food, raising chickens, milking goats, meeting my meat…it’s all pretty new to me still), I regularly doubt our course in life. Are my kids working too hard? Am I going to turn them against homesteading? Should they be in a regular neighborhood? After all, there’s no one right way to do things. But after leaving the Workshop, I was encouraged and inspired and had a little more flesh on the bones of my vision for our little farm. I got to hear first hand, and even ask questions of, some of the leaders in sustainable homesteading. I got to meet people who live nearby who are living this lifestyle and I got reassurance that “free range kids” really do turn out to be somewhat civilized adults!

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin was the Keynote speaker this year.

Joel Salatin’s keynote was “What does Country Living Contribute”. Wow. What a list of positive offerings that people like us give to the world. While some people consider us midwesterners just “fly over states,” we know that we hold a crucial place in this country.

Truth in Life – In the day and age of Fake Everything, we still know that you can’t fake soil fertility to a tomato plant, and that in order for there to be life, something had to die. Also, the food on our plate will still be valuable even if Wall Street Crashes. I have regularly had the thought that even if everything else falls apart, I have eggs and milk coming from the barn, rainbow chard and cucumbers from the garden, and pork coming from my freezer.

Practicality – We work with and produce, a product you can actually touch. It has to be real. After all, “You don’t grow a tomato with a focus group.”

Personal Development in Life – Farming, homesteading, gardening, even scratch cooking…it all is personal affirmation, your need to be needed. It reminds us that children are an asset, not a liability and that letting them work and do meaningful things that can’t go undone affirms their worth and place as well. There is responsibility taught on the farm, even to the smallest child. If the eggs don’t get collected, there’s no breakfast. If the nesting boxes don’t get cleaned out, the eggs get messy or the chickens go lay elsewhere. We teach that there are natural consequences to our actions when they’re young. There’s also the lesson of acceptance. The tomato plant never bullies you and the cows are always happy to see you.

Simplicity In Life – These days, you can’t even fix your own car anymore, but there’s value in someone holding on to simplicity. You can’t rush the milking. If you try, you end up with the goat stepping in the bucket and spilling the milk. There’s security in being able to fix what’s broken and knowing where everything came from. It can’t be all taken away from you if you can grow more yourself.

Faith to Life – We get fearful when we don’t know where things come from because we don’t have any control or any options if it stops. We, through simple farming and connecting to our food, can give certainty and faith to those in an insecure world.

It is a hard life. Certainly a dirty life. And perhaps even a bit of a threatened life. But after a day spending time with people who “get it” and encourage it, I was reassured in the beauty and rightness of coming home and hugging my goat.

Want to attend the next big event at Lehman’s? Check out the event calendar here.

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