Homestead Heritage is an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community. Its literature stresses simplicity, sustainability, self-sufficiency, cooperation, service and quality craftsmanship. It also strives to live in peaceful coexistence with the land, other people and other faiths.
Our 550-acre farm, made up of numerous small family homesteads, farms with draft animals and raises its own staple crops. These include wheat, oats, barley, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet sorghum, pinto beans and a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. It mills its own grains in the community’s water-wheel-run gristmill, which is housed in a historic 250-year-old, hand-hewn, timber-framed mill. It holds an annual sorghum festival, harvesting cane and processing it into sweet syrup through its mule-driven sorghum mill. Whatever farm- or ranch-raised produce the community itself doesn’t use is sold through the gristmill, through the community’s restaurant, through its market or else is given away.
Homestead is internationally known for its quality craftsmanship. In its Craft Village, the community has a pottery house, a blacksmith shop, a cheese-making house, a woodworking and fine furniture-making shop, and a fiber-crafts cottage that features spinning, knitting and weaving. These shops are run by award-winning craftsmen and are open year-round to the public.
Homestead furniture makers have won top awards across the country and, by Presidential request, contributed fine pieces to the permanent White House Collection. Their work has been featured in numerous national publications.
The highest quality crafts, which either journeymen or master craftsmen create, are sold year-round in the eighteenth-century barn that the community restored and erected in their Craft Village. Numerous other restored eighteenth- and nineteenth-century historic structures also serve the community’s own needs as seminar rooms, a weaving and spinning workshop, a gristmill as well as cheese making, bread making and food preservation classrooms.
Many other Homestead crafts are sold in their annual Homestead Fair at Thanksgiving, an event most recently attended by nearly 20,000 people. At least 40,000 others tour Homestead throughout the remainder of the year. In addition, the community hosts 5,000 to 6,000 public- and private-school children on tours every year, free of charge. Many college classes come out for seminars.
Events at the Thanksgiving Fair include dozens of hands-on crafts for children, as well as demonstrations of barn raising, sheepdog events, horse farming, hand milking, pottery making, blacksmithing, woodworking, boat building, quilting, weaving, spinning, basket making, cheese making, bread making and food preservation.
Seminars are also offered on homesteading and self-sufficiency skills. The community’s 100-voice choir, as well as several children’s choirs, sing for crowds of thousands, accompanied by their 40-piece orchestra. Several well-known musicians play instruments handcrafted by community members. In addition to the thousands of craft items sold at the Fair, a wide array of multicultural dishes are offered at the Fair food booths.
In addition, the community runs the Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture, which conducts year-round courses in all the above crafts and skills. These courses—such as woodworking, blacksmithing, pottery, spinning and weaving—take place in a setting much like that of a preindustrial village, where the craft shops are carefully configured into the natural surroundings (see www.HomesteadCraftVillage.com for more information).
The Ploughshare also teaches many courses in homesteading skills, from gardening and canning to milking, cheese making and horse farming. These skills were first mastered on the community’s own family-run homesteads and are now taught to people from across the country and around the world.
Homestead has received media coverage from many newspapers, as well as from both national and regional magazines and from television stations coast to coast.