Homegrown Village was started in 2007 as the hands-on component of the Farm Aid benefit concert, a place where concertgoers could meet farmers, check out educational exhibits, and learn agrarian skills. At Maker Faire, we’ve always had food makers represented, and in 2009, with the help of Farm Aid’s Cornelia Hoskin, we brought Homegrown Village to Maker Faire. Cornelia has been leading the charge since, along with our own Kim Dow, as Homegrown Village has grown to include all varieties of food makers, from beekeepers to sauerkraut makers to goat farmers.
1. Tell us about Homegrown Village at Farm Aid. How did it get started and what purpose does it serve?
The first Homegrown Village happened at the Farm Aid concert in New York City in 2007 and has been a part of every concert since. At the Farm Aid concert, it’s an opportunity to engage music fans in the work of our partner organizations in a region, organizations that are joined with us in working to counteract the damage created by the industrialization of our food system. The Homegrown Village is a place full of engaging experiences: games, workshops, presentations, and interactions. The lasting power of those experiences is what helps connect eaters (which means all of us) with the sources of good food: family farmers.
2. How did you get involved in Maker Faire and how long have you been producing Homegrown Village at the Faire?
We were lucky enough to meet Sherry [Huss] and Dale [Dougherty] through a mutual friend. We had dinner together and discovered that we were each part of the same movement: finding enrichment in making change through making! This year will be the fifth year of our partnership!
3. How has Homegrown Village been received by the Maker Faire community?
It’s been so gratifying to see people returning to Maker Faire each year. I love hearing how people’s gardens have been doing, what folks have discovered about composting or fermenting, and that they are now teaching their friends and neighbors about what they’ve learned. The first year was our introduction to each other, and now it’s like seeing old friends. Interest in good food is stronger than ever, and that makes for really exciting conversations.
4. Tell us about one of your most memorable moments from previous Faires.
A San Francisco urban farmer brought her goats a couple of years ago to demonstrate milking and cheese making, and they spent several hours walking around the Faire blowing people’s minds. People were accustomed to seeing fire-breathing robots at Maker Faire, but goats? Come on!
5. What’s new for Homegrown Village at this year’s Faire?
One thing I’m most excited about is the Maker’s Marketplace. The folks from Forage Kitchen and FARMcurious will be selling packaged edibles and food-making tools. It’s a welcome addition to the programming for sure!
6. What are some notable demos and talks we can expect to see on the stage?
Lloyd Kahn, the founder of Shelter Publications and all-round hero of the modern agrarian, will be giving his talk titled “The Half-Acre Homestead.” It covers everything you need to consider when creating your own self-sufficiency compound. The East Bay Urban Agriculture Alliance will be covering animal husbandry topics, and sauerkraut-making with Happy Girl Kitchen is always an entertaining activity.
7. Tell us about yourself. What do you like to make and who/what are your inspirations?
I’m a big gardener and cook, so I’m not ashamed to say I love Martha. I’ve been reading a lot lately about permaculture and trying to install some of the concepts in our little urban homestead in Boston. Anyone who grows and raises the majority of their food is an inspiration to me. I do what I can, but still depend on my farmers to keep my family fed!
8. What advice can you offer for folks who want to get more involved with the homegrown movement?
We are only a few generations removed from a time when most of us were directly involved in agriculture. These agrarian activities are a part of the human experience — we all eat, and many of us long to feel more connected to the Earth and nature. Grow lettuce or tomatoes. Visit the farmers market and cook with an ingredient that you like. Go on a farm tour. Play in the soil. Find other people who like what you like and become a tribe. Together folks can effectively, and joyfully, take back our food system!
The online component of Homegrown Village is Homegrown.org, “a gathering place for celebrating the ‘culture’ in agriculture and sharing skills like growing, cooking and food preservation.”