By Clare S. Richie

If you crave the satisfaction of making something with your own hands, connecting with your neighbors face to face, or simply love bacon – consider taking a workshop with The Homestead Atlanta. It’s an urban folk school that offers workshops in traditional heritage skills and sustainable innovations.

The Homestead Atlanta began in 2012 as a pilot with fiscal sponsor, Georgia Organics. Thanks to a positive community response, course offerings have grown to include blacksmithing, herbal medicine, foraging, woodworking, organic gardening, canning, fermentation, mushrooms, fiber arts, beekeeping, rainwater harvesting, brewing and winemaking, alternative construction, small livestock care, and more. Courses are taught by expert instructors at convenient locations.

The Homestead Atlanta founder Kimberly Coburn.

Founder and Atlanta native Kimberly Coburn approached this calling in a roundabout way. As a child, she loved to read through the John C. Campbell Folk School catalogue. The seed was planted and germinated years later. As a college graduate, her “aha moment” came as she explored yoga and clean eating. “I realized how broken our food system was and thought, what can I do?” Kimberly recalled.

She started by establishing Crop Mob Atlanta (now Crop Mob Georgia) in 2010. Crop Mob Georgia connects volunteers to small local sustainable farms that grow diversified crops without chemical pesticides, fertilizers, or much mechanization. It’s a win-win for all involved. The farmers benefit from the community labor and the volunteers are hungry to learn more about agriculture.

Through this well-received grassroots initiative, Kimberly got her feet wet with community organizing. Ultimately, Crop Mob Georgia increased her respect for farmers but redirected her toward homesteading, “where you create for you and your family with extra to share with the community,” she said.

She also recognized that the traditional generation-to-generation channels for passing down these skills are disappearing. This urban folk school, however, is not about nostalgia. Instead, The Homestead Atlanta demonstrates that these skills are relevant and forward-looking. To Kimberly, “it’s about living lighter on the land, increased self-reliance, and reclaiming control over what we consume – food, water, and energy.” She calls it human-scale technology. “I don’t know how to build 3-D printer, but I could learn to forge the tools to build a wooden table.”

You can find the fall course schedule online at thehomesteadatl.com. There is something for everyone. Highlights include a blacksmith series that meets bi-monthly to create an outdoor cooking set complete with tripod, utensils, camp ax and more. Mushroom guru, Tradd Cotter, teaches a course on foraging, cultivating and medical uses of mushrooms. The Herbalista and Concrete Jungle team up on a ramble from Krog Street Market to identify edible plants and fruit trees in an urban landscape. Or you could learn to cure your own bacon with Pine Street market.

These courses are conducted in donated space around the city, but the goal is to find a permanent location. Ideally, a large community hub with a garden, farm, and space to host instructors. Where you can learn skills and also see them in practice.

So, try a workshop this fall. “Carve a spoon and see how capable you can be,” Kimberly urges. More than a new hobby, you may find a new way of living.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.