By Danny Nichols, Country Reunion Magazine
Singer-songwriter Rory Feek saw his 100-acre farm near Columbia, Tennessee, turn into a “field of dreams” for thousands of visitors as he hosted The Homestead Festival for the first time on June 3 and 4.
Hosting an event like The Homestead Festival has been a dream since having bought his farm in 1999 to settle near Nashville, according to Feek, who lives on the property in a restored historic farmhouse with his daughter, Indiana, 8, whose mother, singer-songwriter, Joey Martin Feek, died of cancer in 2016.
Homesteading today is a lifestyle choice, one nearly forgotten, but if the numbers of those attending The Homestead Festival is any indication of its popularity, then one must conclude there is a major resurgence taking place in America and around the world. It’s a real and viable movement, a movement that carries those making such a choice back to their roots, to the soil.
“Going back to one’s roots is important,” said Feek, who diligently works to practice what he preaches. “I’ve sold my newer vehicles and kept one old truck that keeps me rooted close to my home, my family and community are the most important things in my life.”
Preserving what can be preserved of ancestral skills, homesteaders today combine that knowledge with an increased awareness of their environment. They employ traditional farming techniques while also utilizing modern strategies. This provides homesteaders the ability to increase their yields while creating healthier foods and positively impacting the environment.
While early pioneers learned many lessons of growing or foraging for food by trial and error, today’s homesteaders have the ability to seek assistance from others who are considered specialists in their fields. Not only are books available on every topic under the sun, there is also assistance provided via the Internet, YouTube, Facebook and a myriad of digital and social platforms.
Festivals such as The Homestead Festival also serve to not only promote a lifestyle but also to disseminate information for those seeking knowledge and advice. This movement is so compelling that people came from dozens of states to learn about growing their own “field of dreams” during Feek’s inaugural event. Feek hosted more than two dozen professional presenters, most of whom are well-known and highly respected within the homesteading movement, who distilled information to hungry eyes and ears who traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to attend the event.
Darryl Patton presented a program on “Herbal Medicine in Nature” while presenting samples of the actual plants to his audience. Many note-takers were busy at work in the attempt to absorb the knowledge he shared.
Justin Rhodes, a 15-year veteran homesteader, took the stage to share his experiences in a program entitled “If I Can Homestead, So Can You” Rhodes films and documents his family’s homesteading efforts on YouTube as do many other homesteaders.
Melissa K. Norris traveled from the state of Washington to speak on “How to Grow a Years’ Worth of Food.” Many notebooks and writing pads opened on this subject as well. Given projected increases of food costs, this program was of particular interest to many in attendance.
Dr. Temple Grandin and Joel Salatin presented on the ethical and humane treatment of farm animals used for food on the farm or for sale in the marketplace. Both are well respected within the homesteading community and beyond.
Feek moderated a question-and-answer session with Amish farmers from Ohio, exploring how the Amish lifestyle helped preserve family and community values while also embracing and utilizing technology within the bounds of their religion.
Jim and Bonnie Bellmer traveled from Ashland, Ohio, where they own and operate a resale business named Blue Bell Barn. Starting their own business in their barn in 2000 and moving to a larger facility in 2019 is indicative of the entrepreneurial spirit shared by many homesteaders. They attended the festival in hopes of learning more about the needs of homesteaders and how their own business could help meet those needs.
Feek provided entertainment for the festival goers at the end of each day, including The Isaacs, Jimmy Fortune, Brotherly Love, Julie Roberts (with special guest Jamie Johnson), Feek himself and movie legend Kevin Costner with his band, Modern West.
During the program on Saturday night, Feek was pleased to announce The Homestead Festival would be held again next year on the same spot to which he was given a rousing and well-deserved round of applause.
Information is available at thehomesteadfestival.com.