Homesteading: “Back-to-the-Land” activities are thriving

MODERN HOMESTEADING IS BOOMING, as more people want to become self-sufficient, eat local food and, in many cases, relive happy childhood memories.

The new generation of homesteaders is snapping up chicken coops, gardening tools, beehives and pickling and canning supplies. This retail segment has grown into a $200 billion business, economists estimate.

“Every year we see many new growers joining our customer base, confirming the significance of this healthy, home-grown, local food movement,” says Eric Boudier, who has owned Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply with his wife, Pattie, since 1996.

Classes in canning and pickling abound. This summer Newcastle Produce in Newcastle is offering a class on making summer preserves, including amaretto peach preserves and Early Girl tomato marmalade. “You come out of this class with the confidence you need to start preserving the best local ingredients our area has to offer,” says chef Chelsea Federwitz.

Peaceful Valley’s website features a YouTube video of In The Kitchen owner-chef Wendy Van Wagner and her husband, Joe Meade, preparing sauerkraut at home, alongside the fermenting crock that you need for preparation. Fresh sauerkraut has a crunchier texture than the store-bought version and is super-healthy.

Outside the kitchen, backyard chicken farming has joined vegetable gardening as a popular “back-to-the-land” activity. The Creative Coops in Grass Valley reward, the chicken keepers say: Superior tasting eggs.

Cities across the nation, including Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee, are relaxing regulations to allow backyard chicken coops. This is spurring up-and-coming businesses, such as Creative Coops of Grass Valley, owned by Mark Hall.

Beekeeping also is gaining in popularity. One hive can produce 30 pounds of honey in a year. In our region, the Nevada County Beekeepers Association has grown to 210 members and has a regular “Bee Booth” at the Nevada County Fair.

Here’s a video on an apple peeler and corer from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply:

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