Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Conference schedule finalized!

We are very excited to announce that the schedule for the 2015 conference has been finalized. In addition to some beginner-level topics, this year we are also providing some in-depth sessions presented by experts, which provide more advanced information. Here are just a few of the speakers and topics this year.

Patricia Foreman, author of City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-reyclers, and Local Food Producers, will be presenting three sessions on chickens:

  • Chicken Whispering: Discover the Chicken You Never Knew
  • Garden Chicks: Growing Food With and For Your Chickens
  • Primary Poultry Healthcare & The Poultry Pharmacy
Dr. Jennifer Miller is a veterinarian, FAMACHA instructor, and boer goat breeder, and she'll be presenting a session on Non-Chemical Parasite Control in Small Ruminants.

Richard Hungerford, a certified rangeland specialist who presented at our first conference in 2012 is back to present an in-depth session on fencing for livestock.

Donna O'Shaunessy, former owner of South Pork Ranch, will be talking about how to build a house out of grain bin, as well as how to create and run your own on-farm store.

And in response to last year's attendees, Wes King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance will again be talking about the legal requirements to sell your homegrown products, including new and upcoming legislation that have changed or will change some of the rules.

Click here to see the complete schedule!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The faces and story behind the conference

by Deborah Niemann

Deborah speaking at the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania

People sometimes ask who exactly puts the conference together, so here's our story. Back in 2010, the folks at Mother Earth News Magazine decided to have their first ever "Fair" for homesteaders in Pennsylvania. I was one of the lucky people asked to speak at that event, and it changed my life in many ways. For starters, I met the folks at New Society Publishers and began writing books for them. The other thing that happened that weekend was that I realized that there were thousands of people in the world like me! In my little corner of Illinois, our family is quite the anomaly, as we are surrounded by conventional corn and soybean fields. The organizers and speakers at that event were overwhelmed by the attendance, which topped out at about 12,000 for the weekend. Apparently there were a lot of people who were excited to get more information about this lifestyle!

homesteading logo
The following year, there were two fairs -- one again in Pennsylvania and one in Washington State. And by the time the PA fair rolled around again, the folks at Mother Earth News had decided to declare September as International Homesteading Education Month, and they were encouraging others to start having events in their areas. One of the things they kept hearing was that there were many people who wanted to attend such events, but they simply could not travel very far to do so. As soon as I heard about Homesteading Education Month, I started planning the first Mid-America Homesteading Conference for September of 2012.

We decided to have the event at Joliet Junior College because my husband, Mike Boehle, is a professor there, so he knows his way around, understands the technology, and knows who to contact for what. It shortened the learning curve for us in terms of the venue. They were also willing to let us cancel at the last minute in case no one registered. (Thankfully, that was never a problem!) I then began searching for speakers and creating a schedule, as well as this entire website and our Facebook page. Sounds simple enough, right?

It turned out to be a LOT more work than I expected! A couple of enterprising people contacted me and asked if we needed any volunteers the day of the event, and I said yes, which was a very smart move because when the whole thing was done, I realized the day would have been complete chaos without their help.

Cathy Lafrenz speaking at the 2012 conference
The conference officially falls under the umbrella of our farm's educational program. Antiquity Oaks started as our family's homestead, but as our children have grown up and moved away, our focus has turned to educating others through on-farm classes, books, online blogs and webinars, and through this conference. Although most of our educational offerings feature my husband or me as the instructor, the conference is an opportunity for us to bring other speakers to the area, including other published authors and homesteaders who bring additional knowledge and experience to the table.

Putting the conference together is truly a labor of love, and each year at the end of the day, as we are chatting with speakers and attendees, we are reminded of why we keep doing it. It's educational, inspiring, and just plain fun! And as we are working on our fourth annual conference, we hope to continue doing it for many years to come!

Registration for this year's conference is now open.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

And the winner is ...

Kristin is the winner of the $20 gift certificate for the conference bookstore.

We are still working on firming up the last couple of speakers for this year's conference, although we do have a partial list of speakers available on the speaker page of the website so you can see who has already confirmed.

Confirmed sessions this year include:

  • Value-added products with livestock
  • Fencing for livestock
  • Non-chemical parasite control in sheep and goats
  • Raising goats
  • Permaculture
  • Wild mushrooms
  • Legally selling farm products
  • Vermicomposting

And our DIY track is especially exciting, as you'll learn how to:

  • Build a grain-bin home
  • Make and use medicinal herbs
  • Make cheese
  • Make goat milk soap
  • Make lip balm
  • Create and run an on-farm store

Friday, May 1, 2015

Registration now open for 4th annual conference!

You can now register for the Fourth Annual Mid-America Homesteading Conference, and if you register by midnight, Friday, May 8, you'll be entered into a drawing and could win a $20 gift certificate for the conference bookstore, where you can buy books on permaculture, beekeeping, animal husbandry, or dozens of other topics, as well as goat milk soap, lambskins, and Shetland wool rugs, roving, or yarn. We'll also have cheesemaking supplies (rennet, citric acid, cultures, and cheesecloth) again.

Although the schedule is not complete yet, it will be within a few days. We've already confirmed sessions on:

  • Legally selling farm products
  • Raising goats
  • Raising chickens
  • Intro to Permaculture
  • Fencing
  • Parasites in sheep and goats
  • Mushrooms

We will also have live demonstrations so you can learn how to ...

  • Make soap
  • Make mozzarella
  • Make lip balm

And that's only about half of the sessions. Keep an eye on the website over the next couple months as we give you details on the topics and the speakers we'll have at this year's conference.

Click here for the registration form! And remember, registration is fully refundable up until July 31.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Video recap of 2014 conference

If you're wondering what it's like at one of our conferences, this video gives you an idea ...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mark your calendars for the Fourth Annual Mid-America Homesteading Conference

The 2015 Homesteading Conference will be at Joliet Junior College on Saturday, September 5. The schedule is already taking shape as we have confirmed sessions on livestock fencing, value-added products with sheep and goats, raising goats, making soap, and more.

If you have ideas or suggestions for speakers or topics, let us know!

The Hampton Inn will again be the conference hotel. They are offering us a special rate of $109 per night. For more details, check out the hotel page of our website.

Early bird conference registration will open May 1.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Third annual conference a success!

Thanks to an amazing line-up of speakers and a group of enthusiastic attendees, our third annual conference went off without a hitch! Here are some of the comments from the evaluations ...
This conference rocked!
Bring questions -- the friendly speakers are happy to answer them.
Lots of great information on sustainable living
Great to learn about different aspects of homesteading
Lots of good info and networking opportunities
Great way to learn from people with life experience
Even if you don't live on a farm, there is something to learn.
When asked what their favorite session was, most people listed more than one, and some attendees even said, "all of them!" We also received lots of compliments about the lunch, which was catered by Chipotle this year.

Victoria Miller, author of Pure Poultry, talks about poultry

We want to give a big thanks to Premier1 Supplies for their generous sponsorship, which allowed us to bring in Victoria Miller, author of Pure Poultry, who spoke about living off-grid, canning, and of course, poultry.

Thanks to Modern Farmer magazine for providing all attendees with a free copy of their magazine.

Plans for the 2015 conference are already underway. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, be sure to let us know by commenting below.