Heritage Harvest Festival 2013

Author Photo
By Donna Rae Barrow

Organic Gardener. Sustainability Spokesperson. Natural Beekeeper. Farm-to-Fork Cook. Small, Local Business Supporter. Committed Preserver.

These are some of the hats I wear daily here on our little plot of suburbia. My day may start with a check on the beehives, continue with a little bread baking in the outdoor ceramic cooker, and end with a crochet hook in my hand, creating dishcloths while watching a documentary on food or farms or homesteading. It’s a great life! I wouldn’t want it any other way! But sometimes … well … the neighbors and the friends think I’m a little strange. They wonder why I fill my compost bin instead of my city-provided trash container. *sigh*

Sometimes I long for community. A visit with the like-minded. A chat with the revolutionaries of our time. A moment with the dirt-under-their-fingernails crowd. I am blessed to be part of an urban homesteading group. Supportive, skilled, amazing folks sharing freely.

Friends From the Virginia Urban Homesteaders League at the Heritage Harvest Festival

But to recharge with LOTS more folks like us, my husband and I travel each year to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for the Heritage Harvest Festival. Imagine … a whole weekend in the most beautiful surroundings (Jefferson’s gardens are worth the trip!), learning and sharing with hundreds of people sharing your love of the land and all things homestead. This year, several friends from the Virginia Urban Homesteaders League made the trip as well.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

This festival, in its seventh year, is a weekend filled with workshops and speakers and activities celebrating the things dear to this girl’s heart. My husband and I attended fantastic classes on Friday on topics such as cheese making, pig plowing, beekeeping, chicken keeping, permaculture, and companion planting. One of my favorites was a class on healing and thriving with native medicinals.

Native Medicinals Workshop

Saturday, a gorgeous day, started with the Seed Swap, hosted by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Just like the name declares, seeds, lovingly collected and brought to the Swap by festival-goers, are traded as freely as the advice on how to grow and harvest them. Lemon Balm was traded for False Indigo. Malibar Spinach was traded for Nicotiana. And so on. And so on.

Seed Swap

The rest of the morning was filled with heirloom tomato and apple cider tastings, demonstrations by blacksmiths and weavers and spinners and food fermenters, and visits with vendors of natural soaps and garden spades and farming books and green juices.

Tomato Tasting


Traditional Food Preservation


Then, the highlight of the day for me …

Me With Hank Will

… meeting Hank Will, editor in chief of Capper’s Farmer and GRIT magazines. What a warm and welcoming soul! We had a lovely chat, comparing notes on bees, gardens, and other delightfully home-y topics. (He is quite tall, but truthfully, I’m what my husband lovingly calls a halfling.)

Later that day, my husband and I left the festival, our sacks filled with heirloom seeds, books and notes, a nice hot pepper jelly, and so much more. On the way back to our everyday life, we smiled thankfully for the time with the like-minded, our non-geographical community of growers, keepers, and makers.

Heritage Harvest Festival 2013 T-Shirt

Published on Sep 24, 2013