Making a Difference

Reader Contribution by Susan Berry
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I have virtually met so many wonderful homesteaders and farmers over the past two years and especially this past year since being back in North Carolina. I have long believed that this passion God sowed into me as a seed 12 years ago had so much more spiritual intention to it then was visible in the natural.

Some of my new homesteader friends are religious, some are not; our beliefs are not usually the center of our discussions and sharings. Sometimes faith comes into the conversation but mostly we share our passion and love of homesteading. The one common consistent value I see in ALL these people is respect and mutual admiration for each other and the life we foster. We try and share with beginners who desire to live a healthy, productive, giving, dedicated life of using what God has blessed us with through the earth, animals, crops and a hard day’s work.

For the first time yesterday, I felt led to pray for these people. This is only February and it not only has been a hard winter but so far been a tough year for many farmers. We may have a respite from gardening and crop care in winter, which can be a season of rest for many of us who mainly focus on growing our food in gardens. But, for we who raise animals for food sources, the hard work does not take a rest in winter. Many have had losses this year in precious life of their beloved animals. As I prayed, I was shown that with hard work and heartache comes wisdom.

Learning never ceases, understanding the fragility of life and reliance we must have on a Higher Power becomes more apparent. I have been so blessed by the many people we have crossed paths with over the years, the immense amount of knowledge I have gained through these relationships is overwhelming to me at times. These people are amazing! They endure, they persevere, they willingly share and encourage. Homesteaders make the BEST cheerleaders and motivational speakers! 

As we all wait patiently for spring and long to feel the warmth of the sun on our shoulders, we can use our slow winter days to encourage, share, learn, and yes, pray for one another. Whether you are religious or not, homesteading is and can be a mission to make a difference here on the little bit of earth we have been given, to educate others about the quality and origins of our food. We all have our areas of expertise and passion. For me it is to educate people who have limited space that they still can grow their own food in many ways and improve the quality of their diet and health through adopting a “homestead life without a homestead,” the slogan I use for my classes.

A new passion for me has become learning that there are heritage livestock breeds of animals and poultry that are decreasing in numbers and their wonderful heritage is being lost through increased hybrid breeds with a focus on production and quantity rather than quality and purity. When I discovered The Livestock Conservancy,  I was shocked to learn that many of our heritage breeds are in danger of disappearing. The Conservancy’s mission is “”Ensuring the future of agriculture through the genetic conservation and promotion of endangered breeds of livestock and poultry”

Personally, I have discovered some of the breeds I chose three years ago when I welcomed laying hens to my homestead lifestyle are actually on the Conservancy’s list of heritage breeds. At the time I had no idea my choices were helping a breed rich in history.

This awareness has guided my other choices when it came time to increase my flock of hens and soon, welcoming pigs to our homestead.

It is these learning moments that have enriched my life and opened my eyes to small changes I can bring to others’ lives by sharing what I learn through education and experience.

Just as it is important to know where our seeds come from and strive to grow organic, heirloom vegetables, it is important for us to consider genetically sound, heritage breeds of animals when we make the decision to welcome them into our lives and farms.

Take the time to read and learn the history of these amazing breeds that helped shape American agriculture.

Get to know other homesteaders through social media and your local community. Ask questions, share your own gifts and talents as you glean from theirs, making homesteading not just a trendy movement but an enduring lifestyle. Support, encourage, lend a hand to a beginner and change someone’s life as they grow their first tomatoes. You’ll be amazed at the joy you feel seeing their excitement when their first seeds germinate. It never gets old for me. Were it not for a couple of dear friends who were hen parents, I would not have mustered the courage to become a chicken owner myself. Now, I can’t imagine my life without my “Girls.”

So I would like to offer a prayer and a blessing for all the homesteaders of .05 acre or 50 acres whose dream it is to live life close to the earth, a coop and a barn. When you come to visit us, we may have old jeans on and have some mucky shavings on our kitchen floor, but we will greet you with a warm smile and cook you up the best deep orange-yolked eggs and tastiest bacon that ever passed over your lips. And you may even go home with some seedlings rich in history to plant in your new garden. Thank you ALL who have touched my life.

Many blessings this spring to you and yours.

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