Organizations: The Homestead Atlanta
Kimberly Coburn grew up in the city but always dreamed of tilling soil and cultivating old-timey self-reliance along with corn and pole beans. She just didn’t know where to begin.
“I wanted to walk up to some farm and volunteer to work, but I was too chicken, too unsure of exactly what to do with a hoe, and worried that I would mess up the crops,” she says.
Sensing that other stressed-out urban types are “wannabe farmers” who share her curiosity, she founded The Homestead Atlanta, an educational nonprofit modeled loosely after the North Carolina-based John C. Campbell Folk School, with the mission of helping students of all ages “reconnect with forgotten heritage skills and explore innovative, sustainable living sources.”
The organization offers a variety of courses in organic gardening in small spaces, cheesemaking, blacksmithing, humane chicken-butchering, salt cellar carving, campfire cooking, canning, fermentation and other forms of food preservation.
Classes usually range from $30 to $45 and meet at different sites around the city, depending on the subject. Atlanta has proved fertile ground for urban homesteading, she notes. “We have a year-round growing season and an enthusiastic locavore movement.”
The program, fiscally sponsored by Georgia Organics, has served more than 250 students since it started in March.
“We’re losing these skills in self-reliance, and they will become increasingly important, not just as a leisure activity for hobbyists but as a way of life necessary for sustainability,” says Coburn, who looks the part of “earth mother” with long, auburn braids. “Plus, there is great satisfaction in holding something authentic in your hand you have grown or made yourself.”