Are you interested in growing your own food, building connections in your community or self-sustainability?
The Rochester Market and Demo Faire will offer an opportunity to explore all of those areas.
The event, which will be held at the 112-year-old Gate Schoolhouse near Rochester on June 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will include live music, demonstrations, vendors, bread and cookie baking competitions and family activities. The faire will hold demonstrations throughout the day, with each being held at a different time. Among the demonstrations planned for the day are soap making, mushroom cultivation, food fermentation and pruning.
The organizers of the event are four local Rochester women, Shelby Barkoff, 30; Rachael Heinrich, 44; Jennifer Spiegelberg, 41; and Jennifer Winter, 54. All four women were previously involved in the Faire as vendors, but this year will be the first in which any of them are involved in organizing the event.
“It’s a lot of work, enough work for four women to have to do it,” said Barkoff, who later emphasized the fun of the event.
“My husband said, ‘We’re not going to this event to make money. We’re going to have fun,’” Barkoff said.
They said the previous event attracted about 500 attendees. They’re expecting between 500 and 1,000 people at this year's event.
The women said the faire used to be a private event, where only members of the homesteading community were invited. But the women decided they wanted to invite the public to come this year.
“The goal is to help educate people on all things homestead,” Barkoff said.
One of the women compared homesteading to the back-to-the-land movement while another said, “It’s like farming. You grow your own food, raise your own animals.”
“The purpose (of homesteading) is to help teach people about soil and farming,” Heinrich said.
“Community based self-sufficiency is the main idea,” Spiegelberg added.
They said homesteading has grown significantly in the past couple of years.
“Especially in light of COVID, everyone was going out and buying goats and chickens,” Heinrich said.
“That’s a silver lining (of COVID-19),” Barkoff said. “People are getting more into self-sufficiency.”
But while the growing homesteading movement may have self-sufficiency as its central goal, it doesn’t mean the movement is a monolith. All four of the women engage in agriculture to some extent, though the size of their farms varies significantly.
Barkoff put it succinctly when she said, “I think all four of us have a different approach to homesteading.”
“My property is 5 acres. I have a lavender farm … My goal is to eventually grow berries and harvest and sell them,” said Winter, whose farm is named “Wallupt Farm.” Winter said she named her farm after a lake in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.
Heinrich said her farm was named “Half Pint 40 Acre Farm” because originally everything they produced was half of something: the land was on half an acre, they sold half pints of different goods, etc. She moved to her current 40-acre farm after her house burned down. She now owns a bakery appropriately named “Half Pint Farm Bakery.”
“Everything I use in this bakery comes from my farm or other local farms,” Heinrich said.
“Rachael is the biggest advocate of local (consumption) and community,” said Barkoff.
“We have 1 acre and we do it on a shoestring budget and hillbilly ingenuity. We have an acre and we use it as best we can,” Barkoff said.
Barkoff said she and her husband named their farm the “Grateful Acre” because “we’re on an acre and we like the Grateful Dead.”
“Our farm is 80 acres. My part of the farm is a large lavender garden and we also have hay and cows and chickens and stuff. My main thing is lavender farming and I do markets,” Spiegelberg said.
According to Spiegelberg, the family had intended to call their farm “Spiegelberg Farm,” but soon discovered that name had already been taken. But they decided to name the farm after their family anyways, though with a little bit of a linguistic twist. The family chose to translate the name from its German original — the Spiegelbergs are descendents of German immigrants — to its English equivalent. Simply translate “spiegel” to “mirror” and “berg” to “mountain” and you’ve arrived at the farm’s name, “Mirror Mountain Farm.”
When asked what got the women involved in the homesteading movement, one of them quickly gave an unexpected answer.
“Being unreasonably afraid of a zombie apocalypse was definitely a reason why,” Barkoff said.
The other three women provided more conventional reasoning.
“We were looking around for a place where we could have a home-based business because I was tired of working for other people,” Winter said.
“I’m self-sufficient because I want to know where my damn food is coming from. Let me be in control of what we’re consuming … and I've always been a DIYer (Do It Yourself-er),” Heinrich said.
“I spent a lot of time in college learning about rural development and learned about the importance of buying locally,” Heinrich added.
Spiegelberg emphasized the importance of independence when explaining her reasoning.
“I like to try things for myself,” Spiegelberg said. “I’m a DIYer and I wanted to see if I could do something myself.”
Spiegelberg said her family background has had influence on her pursuit of the homesteading lifestyle. She said she has a disabled son and she began to stay home to help take care of him, but she still wanted to find a way to help support her family.
“It’s just been a way to contribute to my family. It all stems from me challenging myself to do it myself,” Spiegelberg said.
The Gate Schoolhouse is located at 16925 Moon Road SW, Rochester.