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Preaching the Simple Life: Manitoba’s New Wave of Homesteaders

Published: 07/30/2013

They're getting prairie life lessons in how to tend bees, raise chickens, ferment foodstuffs, build pallet and lasagna gardens, among many other "sacred skills" that have long been lost to time and modern living.

"This is just the beginning of homesteading education," says Adrienne Percy, co-organizer of the DIY Homesteaders Festival held in late June. "There's such a desire for this right now." 

Indeed. These eager-to-learn, rubber-booted masses are smack dab in the middle of a growing trend that is rippling across Manitoba. Call it homesteading 101. 

In classes and at festivals across the province, producers, farmers, gardeners and modern homesteaders enthusiastically share the ins-and-outs of life on the land. In turn, those students-mostly urbanites and travelers-take snippets of those skills and try them back home. 

With its kids play zone, a small farmers' market and folks wandering from barn to tent to field checking out classes, the one-day DIY Homesteaders Festival also has the air of an old-fashioned barn raising.

"It's all about discovering the joys of getting back to basics or simply sneaking a peak at how the other half lives, says Kris Antonius, co-founder of Nourished Roots a year-round organization  that teaches homesteading skills online and through workshops in Winnipeg. Topics include food fermentation, nose-to-tail eating, cooking bone broths and baking sourdough bread.

Learning about homesteading reawakens traditional skills, but applies them to the modern kitchen. It's an extension of a larger  food-movement: knowing where our food comes from and growing as much of our own food as we can.

With the autumn harvest come a few other homesteading adventures in Manitoba: 

At the Harvest Moon Festival every September in Clearwater, Manitoba the community comes together to celebrate the season and to connect people to farmers and producers who grow their food.  The town, located about 2.5 hours southwest of Winnipeg, is harvest central. Workshops include organic farming and food security to how to make apple sauce and natural body products.

From end of September through mid-November, dozens of traditional community-based fall suppers - buffet feasts of down-home cooking, locally grown ingredients, and family recipes - are a must on any modern homesteader's calendar. Autumn has been a season of super suppers for more than a century in rural Manitoba.

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