Winter homesteading doesn’t stop just because the garden is full of snow or because the chickens are taking a break from egg laying. There are still chores to do, including chopping the ice from livestock water tanks and shoveling snow.
By Shelby Atkison
The fourth Ozarks Homesteading Expo took place at the Webster County Fairgrounds Friday and Saturday, drawing a crowd estimated to be double the size of last year’s event. With its inaugural expo taking place in Neosho, this was the third year organizers have held the event in Webster County and they don’t see it stopping anytime soon.
“Marshfield is central to the Ozarks and the fairgrounds had all the things we needed,” said organizer
Cheryl Franklin. “Our vendors loved the space and we had room for the crowd, which braved extreme heat to be there… that is a testament to how eager people are to learn these skills.”
From growing vegetables, to making homemade soaps and jams, and even how to butcher a hog – the program had something in store for everyone. Led by some of the best experts in the nation, attendees were able to soak in information face-to-face at more than 40 sessions over the two days. This included hands-on workshops, skilled artisan demonstrations, activities for children and vendors from around the nation with homesteading resources.
“Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms brought in a big crowd because he’s pretty much the most famous farmer in the world. They had such hands-on demonstrations,” Franklin explained. “We also processed a hog there… Brandon Sheard from Farmstead Meatsmith made it look so easy and processed a whole hog in about an hour. It was all wonderful.”
As a homesteader of over 40 years, Franklin has always been a follower of what she describes as primitive homesteading skills. She networked during her four decades as a newspaper publisher and always made it a point to know what resources were out there.
“I just always wanted to have an event where people could come together and learn that also showcased the resources so people could get the best products. We have worked very hard to prospect the best services and products to have there. A lot of it was invitations to come here and be a part of it,” she said. “We had a high-quality assortment of products and businesses there for homesteading and self-reliance. From beekeeping to sawmills, canning, kitchen supplies to make life easier… We tried to offer as much as we could so people could learn, but also take things home to assist in their homesteading.”
All of the parking spaces for the fairgrounds filled quickly on Friday and remained full despite the excessive heat warnings and Saturday rainstorms. Franklin believes that the pandemic and panic caused by grocery store closures have likely added to the demand for teachers of these homesteading skills. She explained that people began moving to remote areas, raising chickens, growing gardens and having more confidence in being self-sufficient rather than heavily relying on supply chains. Which adds to the importance of workshops, events and conferences.
“Joel Salatin told the crowd that having these skills is our new 401k and I just loved that analogy,” she added. “Homesteading is important. It always has been and the skillset will only ever become more valuable.”