Grit Blogs > Waking up in Kansas

Grow Your Own Brooms

By K.C. Compton

Tags: Broom-making, broommaking, handmade brooms, broomcorn, art from found objects, John Holzwart, Little John's Brooms, Moonwise Herbs, Linda Conroy, K.C. Compton,

As a long-time fan of the art of everyday things, I was thrilled to discover a completely unlikely source of inspiration at our recent Mother Earth News Fair. Hint: If you think brooms are a strictly functional object designed for the back of the pantry, guess again.

Historically, many farmers grew a little broom corn and crafted their own brooms to use around the home place. At the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, I met John Holzwart and his partner Linda Conroy, who are carrying on that honorable tradition with a very modern twist, proving that art is an approach, not a matter of materials.

 John Holzwart broommaker extraordinaire  

“Little John” uses no machinery to craft his rustic brooms, which are made from all-natural broomcorn and handles crafted from a variety of materials, from tree limbs to carved sticks, shed antlers to wrought iron and even guitar necks reclaimed from the landfill. (He will do custom work, if you have an old guitar or other object you’d like turned into a broom handle.) Every piece is individual, bearing its own personality and character – which in my book is one definition of art.

John and Linda grew their own broomcorn for a while, then the business grew to the point that he needed to contract out that portion of the process. As Grit readers might remember, I grew up in Lindsay, Oklahoma, the “Broomcorn Capital of the World,” so running into John and Linda at the Fair was a great reminder of home. His broom-making demonstration drew a steady stream of interested observers. Since we’ll be returning to Seven Springs in September 2012, I plan to spend more time observing how he does the actual work this time, instead of oohing and aahing over these very cool brooms.

Here’s a video interview I did with Linda (owner of Moonwise Herbs and a wise, wonderful woman in her own right) explaining a bit more about the brooms, which you can order from Little John’s website, and which I think would make great gift ideas for weddings, showers or the winter holidays.

If you buy a broom, just don’t stick a fork in it – a comment that will be much less mysterious if you watch the video. :-)