Finding Your Tribe

We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness…

– Robert Fulghum

You’re weird.

There, I said it. You’re weird.

Don’t be offended though.

It’s going to be okay.

I’m weird too. We are both weird. And if you’re reading this maybe we are weird in a mutually satisfyingly weirdness kind of way. And maybe that mutually satisfying weirdness that we share makes us a whole lot more alike than we realized. And if we band together long enough, embracing our weirdness, maybe our weird will attract others who are similarly weird. And maybe we’ll all start going to the same weird places and encountering the same weird folks at those places. And if we do that  long enough we may all feel that mutually satisfying weirdness so much that it becomes our new normal. And then, suddenly, we’re really not so weird after all. We’re a movement. And that movement is towards a better place for us all.

Now Robert Fulghum wasn’t talking about a social movement in asserting his idea of  “mutually satisfying weirdness” above. He was talking about love. What we call true love. The relationship between two people. But how many of you feel a connection to your passion – whether it is gardening, homesteading, farming, or the like – so much that it feels like your passion is a deep component of who you are? Isn’t that love as well? I assert that it is and that our love of that passion makes us weird. And that’s okay.

That’s okay because others feel that weirdness too. And when we have the opportunity to come together we can grow that mutually satisfying weirdness into something larger and more significant. Keep in mind that the things that make us different in life are not nearly as important as the things that make us similar. When you find the right people – whether it be the one or ones that complement who you want to be and where you are going as a person – you are on the right path to finding your tribe. And finding your tribe is an incredible feeling.

Your tribe is your people. A community unto itself. A community that can shift your entire paradigm until weird is no longer weird and you question how it ever felt that way in the first place.

We were fortunate to find ourselves surrounded by our tribe earlier this year. In June, we attended the Homestead Festival at Hardison Mill hosted by the amazing Rory Feek. The Homestead Festival was a two day homesteading and music event on Feek’s Tennessee farm that brought together families, homesteaders, musicians, amazing speakers, artists, and vendors to celebrate and share their experiences.

Rory Feek addresses attendees at the first Homestead Festival at Hardison Mill.

We didn’t know initially what to expect when we packed up and headed to Tennessee for a long weekend getaway. We’d followed a few of the guest presenters for some time either on YouTube or through books, but there were many other presenters new to us in our homesteading journey. Plus, being the first homesteading event we would attend, we did not know how many homesteaders would be in attendance. We were relatively young in our homesteading experience. Would we fit in? Would we be out of our depth? Would we be… weird?

Folks, I tell you it was absolutely amazing. An unparalleled weekend well worth the experience. This was our tribe and we were welcomed wholeheartedly by everyone we met.

We had no sooner walked onto the farm property at 7:00AM when we saw none other than Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia. Joel is an amazing farmer, author of numerous books on farming, and has appeared in documentary films such as Food, Inc. and American Meat. The man is an expert and a celebrity. 

At first we were a little star struck. Nervous to even approach him. He was a key speaker and demonstrator at the festival. Surely on his way to important tasks. We were noobs. Barely a couple of seasons into our homesteading journey. Surely Joel Salatin had more important things to attend to that morning. We actually hesitated to draw ourselves to his attention. But fortune favors the bold, so we approached him with a quick hello.

Any apprehension we had vanished when he shook our hands, clapped us on the shoulders, and stopped to take a picture with us. Sure he had things to do that morning, but he also appreciated fostering belonging within the tribe. To that end, Joel Salatin is exactly the person you see in his video appearances and in books. Friendly, warm, genuine, and authentic from the word go.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia.

Our first chance encounter with Joel wasn’t the only time we’d talk with him over the weekend. Nor was it the only time we’d meet and chat one-on-one with many of the homesteaders we followed. The Homestead Festival allowed us an opportunity to meet and connect with so many of the homesteaders and vendors we had followed over the years. Some of the highlights included meeting Jessica Sowards from Roots & Refuge Farm in South Carolina, Justin Rhodes and his family from Abundant Permaculture in North Carolina, Jill and Nate Ragan of The Whispering Willow Farm in Arkansas, Dr. Temple Grandin  of Colorado State University, Tom Watkins of Murray McMurray Hatchery in Iowa, and Zach Coblentz with the crew from Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron, Ohio.

In addition to the numerous presenters, musicians, and vendors at the festival, we met with so many amazing homesteaders and others who shared our interests. And we found that our experiences were valued and welcomed just as much by other homesteaders with either more or less experience than we possessed. We were not weird. Nor were the people we met. We found a warm and welcoming community, which Joel would go on to describe in his keynote as, “His Tribe.”

So remember when I told you that you’re weird? You are. It’s okay though. I am too. And here’s why.

Farming, as an occupation, was dropped from the American Census way back in 1990. Why? Because by that time farming accounted for less than 2% of the American population. Two percent! Couple that with the fact that in just two generations the majority of the American public has lost the know-how to raise and preserve – and sometimes even prepare – their own food, and the minority of people homesteading becomes weird to the majority of people dependent on consuming what less than 2% of Americans are producing. In today’s normal, even with the slight resurgence of home gardening during COVID-19, growing and preserving your own food seems weird to a lot of people. 

Now factor in that we’re a nation of consumers. And that’s okay. Necessary, actually. No point in producing a product if someone, even yourself, isn’t going to benefit from it in some way. But obsession with consumption without an equal regard to its production leads to huge issues. And to us, that seems to be what modern society sees as normal. Mass consumption with little regard or consideration to production. If we on the homestead thought much the same way we’d be normal. And that seems weird.

But that feeling isn’t weird to the members of our tribe. People want local products? We want local homesteads, farms, and cottage industry sales. People want fresh, in-season tomatoes? We want roadside stands. People want freshcut flowers? We want them to look to their local neighbor. People want ethically raised pastured meat and eggs? We want laws that permit their local sale on a small, homestead scale.  People want farmer’s market quality at grocery store prices? We want to incentivize local production to make products competitive with subsidized mass production and long haul transportation of foods. People want community? We want community.

See, we’re all weird. Weird in different ways. And life is weird. But we’re all in this life together. And maybe there’s enough of us in the mutually satisfying weirdness to actually foster a change. That’s a movement. But a movement, weird or not, starts with finding and growing your tribe.

Be weird. Find your tribe.

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