Learning New Skills as an Urban Farmer

Urban farmer. Urban homesteader. Is there a difference between these two terms?

It's hard for me to differentiate, and I use the two interchangeably. The similarity in my mind is…

It's important to learn new skills to really refine our craft, whether that be in the business world, in healthcare, in large scale commercial farming, and in city homesteading. John and I are very fortunate in that we have many resources within 60 miles of our urban farm that support our quest for lifelong learning.

I spend a bit of time at the Indian Creek Nature Center, mostly teaching backyard chicken certification courses. However, this spring I am taking a multi-week beekeeping course (since bees are now allowed within city limits in our town!) and a single day maple syruping course.

Remember, I am tapping trees and boiling sap with a friend for the first time. It was coincidence that a class was offered the same week we tapped. This class at the Indian Creek Nature Center was taught by Andrea, and was very hands on.

While the ICNC has dozens of trees tapped in their sugarbush, Andrea walked us through the tapping process. This is so important, especially for newbies like Lisa and I. Reading about a process (and process!) in a book or watching a YouTube video simply doesn't do learning justice.

Face-to-face, in person education is where it's at. Are you feeling me?

After tapping a few trees, our small class trekked out of the sugarbush to see the ICNC sugar shack. Their boiling system is much more advanced and commercial than ours. You can see that it is wood fired and has two large tanks for boiling sap.

There's also a separate finishing tank (to get the sap to 219* behind us). The season began around the third week of February in Eastern Iowa, and the sap will run for about 4 to 7 weeks in all. While we were out in the sugarbush, we collected sap from a few trees and added it to the tank.

We're very fortunate to have organizations and individuals in Eastern Iowa that teach the skills that are important to urban homesteaders and farmers. While we might not have huge, commercial sugaring operations…

… we find joy in small, hobbyist scale adventures.

What makes your community unique? Is there a place you enjoy gaining new knowledge? 

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