September 24, 2012

Grassroots live on at Homesteading Festival

'It's learning by doing and experiential training'


---- — PAUL SMITHS — The Adirondack Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival gives people the opportunity to see a hands-on, sustainable way of living during a daylong event for the grassroots community.

Alongside local farmers and members of the community, students and faculty members of Paul Smith’s College will put on dozens of hands-on workshops and lectures Saturday, Sept. 29, at Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center.

The public can learn about everything from backyard meat-processing to cider pressing, butter churning to soap making, and fermentation to canning, said Brett McLeod, director of the festival and professor of natural resources. 

“Neighbors helping neighbors to become more sustainable” is the event’s tagline. 

Local farmers are supporting the event by bringing in animals such as chicken, cattle, sheep and goats. North Branch Farm in Riverview, N.Y., owned by Joe Orefice, a forestry professor at Paul Smith’s, is one of the many farms volunteering its services. 

Small-scale livestock and homestead-cow talks will be featured, and during the backyard meat-processing workshop, an expert will even demonstrate how to butcher a chicken. 

The Adirondack Farmers’ Market, which sets up weekly at the college, was moved from the usual Friday schedule to Saturday to take place at the festival.

The Homesteading Festival will coincide with Paul Smith’s Open House for prospective students.

“We’re trying to show students that we can walk the talk,” McLeod said, adding that a major theme for the college is learning by doing and experiential training. 

“For me, it shows how these skills are not so much about going back in time, but going forward. There’s a lot the student can gain and appreciate from these type of skills.”

It’s not just about using their heads but using their hands, he said. 

And with about 100 students participating and helping lead the workshops, the event provides a good way for them to showcase their skills.

One highlight will be a speed-chopping, crosscutting and ax-throwing demonstration by the college’s Woodsmen’s Team, which competes on an intercollegiate level all over the United States and Canada. Being a former competitor himself, McLeod is also the team’s coach. 

“It’s culturally based so a lot of people in these rural areas share these same complimentary skills to one another,” McLeod said of the festival’s offerings. “If it’s something people devoted their life to, it’s going to be something they’re more than willing to share with others.”

McLeod expects a couple hundred people to attend the event, which is a first for the college. 

He thought the festival would be something fun to try and came up with the idea as a way to showcase some of the things that are different about Paul Smith’s.

“It’s learning by doing and experiential training,” he said.



WHAT: Adirondack Rural Skills and Homesteading Festival.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29.

WHERE: Paul Smith's College Visitor Interpretive Center, Paul Smiths. The main entrance is on Route 30, one mile north of Paul Smith's College.

ADMISSION: $5 per person or $10 per vehicle. Donations accepted.

CONTACT: 327-6241.