Milton Grange, agency to host first-ever farming event Oct. 1
Hudson Solar will be attending the Homesteading in the 21st Century event!
But, for a lot of people with smaller pieces of property, it meant they could gain a measure of independence and autonomy by producing their own eggs.
Milton Grange 685 seized upon the zoning change as an opportunity to teach people more about being more self-sustaining and, in 2014, its hosted an event in the Milton Community Center to teach people all about raising and caring for chickens. Much to the group’s surprise, nearly 150 people showed up for the event.
Two years later, Milton Grange has partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension to host an event on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. called “Homesteading in the 21st Century: Gaining More Control Over Your Life.”
The free, day-long event will take place at the CCE’s 4-H Training Center at 556 Middleline Road, and it will include educational talks and demonstrations on topics ranging from blacksmithing and bee-keeping to gardening, food preservation, and care and feeding of livestock. Representatives from John Deere, Kubota Tractors and Stihl Chain Saws will be on hand to help neophyte “homesteaders” as well as seasoned farmers and food producers decide what type and size equipment will work best for the scale of their operations. Experts from Cornell Cooperative Extension and Hoosic Valley Farmers’ Exchange will offer programs on horticulture, livestock nutritional needs, and even how to cultivate mushrooms.
There will even be an internationally renowned biologist conducting “Woods Walks” to educate people on the numbers and types of amphibians that are indigenous to our region.
Homesteading in the United States has been steadily gaining popularity across the country and, contrary to the commonly associated stereotype of people “going off the grid,” a person can be a homesteader whether they live in midtown Manhattan or in Montana.
According to Jill Winger, author of the popular blog, “Prairie Homestead,” homesteading is a mentality and a set of values. Milton resident, grange member and homesteading proponent Eric Smassanow agrees.
Smassanow and his wife have been producing their own food for years and, for them, it’s about gaining a measure of independence. Smassanow stressed that the goal of homesteading is not to turn your back on the many benefits of modern technology; rather, he sees it as a way to embrace technology while also learning and adopting “old school” skills to become self-sustaining.
The Smassanows – like many other “homesteaders” in Saratoga County – produce fruits and vegetables, which they preserve and eat throughout the year. They are also participants in a livestock cooperative that raises cattle, swine and poultry for consumption.
There is not a lot of waste on the Smassanow property. Excess produce is fed to the pigs, turkeys and chickens, and the remainder is used as compost for future cultivation.
“The beauty of all this is that we have control over what we eat, and we also control what our livestock are fed,” said Smassanow. In an age of genetically modified food, and livestock that are given large quantities of anti-biotics, this is an important factor for many people when deciding what to put on their family’s dinner table.
Kirk Shoen, the farm business management educator for CCE, said that there are a lot of people living locally who own land and who want to “simplify their lives, grow their own food, and get back to learning the physical skills required to do so.”
He added that a recent survey conducted by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Service reported that, in 2014, 82 percent of farms in Saratoga County generated less than $50,000 in income. That means those farms are not generating a major portion of their household’s total income from farming.
“What is does mean is that these people are generating a huge amount of self-sufficiency,” said Shoen.
“The Homesteading in the 21st Century event will be an opportunity to teach people a number of skills that they could not normally find elsewhere. This event will teach living history,” he added.
Topics like butter and ice cream-making, gardening, wood-cutting, trapping, and forestry are all on the agenda for the program. The CCE’s 4-H Learning Center already provides education in those areas and both CCE and the Milton Grange see the upcoming event as an opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise with a wider audience who are already interested in the subject matter.
For more information about Homesteading in the 21st Century, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension at (518) 885-8995.