OSU Extension offers proven methods for homesteaders

May 24, 2024 | Headlines

By Gail Ellis | OSU Communications 

STILLWATER — Homesteading has become more mainstream within the past decade as interest climbs in gardening and locally sourced products. With more than a century of experience and research, Oklahoma State University Extension is a valuable resource for homesteaders.

“People want to get back to their roots,” said Cheyenne Patrick, Osage County Extension agriculture educator and Federally-Recognized Tribes Extension Program educator for the Osage Nation, who has organized local workshops on beekeeping, backyard chickens and breadmaking. “They want to learn how their grandma cooked because there for a while, many of us got pretty far away from that. Now we want to know what’s in our food and either make it or raise it ourselves.”

Mayes County resident Rachel Pritchett and her husband became interested in homesteading 20 years ago with a few backyard chickens. They garden, preserve fruit from their small orchard and manage a beehive. The family enjoys a form of modern homesteading that includes hunting, fishing and raising meat goats while creating content for their Hidden Heights Farm YouTube channel.

“The pandemic has exposed a need for homesteading,” Pritchett said. “It was a wake-up call for everybody when they couldn’t find bread and eggs were so expensive. How were people supposed to buy meat or milk? We’ve seen an increase in farmers markets with people going straight to the source.”

Over the past two decades, the Pritchett family has relied on its local Mayes County Extension office for accurate information on homesteading. From support with tree grafting and soil testing to insight on tree diseases and other horticulture topics, OSU Extension is a trustworthy bank of information.

Rachel, her husband and their business partners, Sean and Brandi Farnsworth of the popular homesteading YouTube channel Keeping It Dutch, own and coordinate the Okie Homesteading Expo they established in 2022 at the Mayes County Fairgrounds. They invited OSU Extension to set up a booth and connect with fellow homesteaders. The following year, Extension specialists presented on pecan grafting, demonstrated a calving simulator and recruited Master Gardener volunteers to answer questions about all levels of gardening.

“Extension information is backed by research. We’re going to trust someone who can provide the data and science behind it,” Pritchett said. “A lot of homesteaders don’t have a background in agriculture. We rely heavily on the experts.”

Attractions and attendance at the family’s Okie Homesteading Expo continue to expand, drawing homesteaders from across the country. Pritchett said the goal is to advocate for a more self-sufficient lifestyle that gives people the confidence and inspiration to try something new.

“Typically, people have the perception of homesteaders living off-grid, but that’s not the case,” she said. “There’s a place for everyone. If you want to learn how to make bread, you can do that right in your own apartment or grow vegetables in your window. You don’t have to have a large acreage.”

Trinity Brown, the family and consumer sciences educator for OSU Extension in Pawnee County, said homesteading has been a primary theme of Extension education since its founding in 1914 with proven, research-based methods and practices.

“Any family and consumer sciences or agriculture Extension educator at the county, state or district level can teach people the correct homesteading methods that are safe for families and homes,” Brown said. “Homesteading is just a renaming of the phrase family and consumer sciences. It’s a trending word, but we have been teaching the same programs since day one.”

An expert in food safety, Brown is passionate about using her canning and food preservation knowledge to support homesteaders. She has explained the chemistry of baking in breadmaking classes, taught youth how to cook simple skillet meals at home, demonstrated how to can produce from the garden and tested pressure cookers to ensure they are in safe working order.

“This whole push for organic food and farmers markets has been part of Extension all along,” she said. “We focus on kids with 4-H youth development, but adults can still turn to us with questions about owning a home, lawn care, financial management, gardening, eating healthy and cooking. I hope to make a difference in the homesteading programs we offer.”

OSU Extension homesteading resources are available via extension.okstate.edu, fact sheets, seminars and workshops, and online courses.