While most people dream of becoming homesteaders, they often don’t have the skills, land or time to make their dreams a reality. Start small and work toward your goals.
Homesteaders often preserve food to last through the winter. This requires a variety of tools, including a good canning set.
BERGHOLZ — Dr. Brian Burke thought he and his family were alone in their commitment to homesteading, a lifestyle that promotes self-sufficiency and living off the land.
As a local family physician with Trinity Health System, however, he came into contact with several different families in the Ohio Valley who were doing some level of homesteading but did not know of each other.
“Many of these families also felt like they were the only ones living this type of lifestyle locally,” Burke said. “My wife and I were fortunate enough to have wonderful mentors, Shawn and Beth Dougherty, to help guide us through our own journey into homesteading, and so we wanted to grow that concept out.”
Burke and his wife founded a local homesteading group that met regularly on different farms. Out of this group came the nonprofit organization the Healing Land with the mission of hosting fun and informational homesteading events in the Ohio Valley.
“In April of 2022 we had our first conference, then in September we did a skills workshop weekend, and so this spring we are doing a combo event of talks and demos and workshops,” Burke said.
The inaugural Homesteading Skills Festival will take place on Thursday through Saturday.
Burke first realized the numerous benefits of homesteading during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there was a growing interest in becoming less dependent on the various food and supply chains.
“As I dove headlong into homesteading, I saw how transformative it was for my children and the family relationship,” Burke said. “It was also amazing to see how our family was growing more independent in our food production, and how it was significantly improving our health.
Initially, he wanted to create a certain lifestyle for his family, instill a strong work ethic into his children, and provide food like raw milk that was otherwise difficult to get.
“But as we raised more of our own food and became more intentional about what we were eating, I began to see just how food can be medicine and the role high-quality, nutritious food has for the health of my family, community and my patients,” Burke said.
Burke had a growing desire to collaborate with local established homesteaders, especially the Doughertys, to educate those in the area and beyond on skills that can benefit all families, whether they live in rural or urban communities.
“Many of the skills we are teaching at our festival can easily be done with a small footprint, whether it’s a vegetable garden, canning locally grown foods, raising chickens in the city, and much more,” Burke said. “So much food can be grown with just a little space if you can learn the best methods for utilizing it.”
Burke’s mentors, the Doughertys, will serve as the keynote speakers. The couple has been homesteading for more than 25 years in the Ohio Valley and are nationally recognized speakers and educators on the topic.
Their speciality, Burke said, is in making homesteading accessible for beginners, introducing both the why and the how of homesteading and food independence.
“They have a wealth of knowledge and genuinely want to help others pursue this type of life,” Burke said. “Their genuineness is manifest in their decision to not put everything they do on social media, but rather to focus on the personal relationships that are so pivotal to a successful homestead.”
“They will be supported by many local individuals who are active homesteaders themselves,” he added.
In fact, the entire lineup of festival speakers either lives in the Ohio Valley or has close ties to it. They’ll be speaking from current experience, Burke said, since each speaker utilizes homesteading skills in their everyday lives.
“The Homesteading Skills Festival is a unique combination of educational talks and hands-on demos and workshops that will explain the 10 essentials of starting your own homestead,” he said. “It’s going to be a great three days in a beautiful location, with activities for adults and kids, music, and fellowship.”
Thursday is an optional workshop day, while Friday and Saturday are the festival days. Workshops and demonstrations will include butchering, blacksmithing, beekeeping, timber framing and building, knifemaking, pottery, music, cheesemaking, cann and more, a festival flier notes.
For information and tickets, visit thehealingland.com.