A look into the life at Homestead Heritage

One of the classes offered at the Homestead to local Wacoans and other non-community members is blacksmithing. Brooke Giacin | Multimedia Journalist Photo credit: Brooke Giacin

By Phoebe Alwine | Reporter

Pottery spinning, yarn weaving, wood chippings, metal tools and the smell of baked goods are some of the treasures at Homestead Heritage, a community approximately 20 minutes away from Baylor.

Homestead prides itself on being an intentional Christian community valuing sustainability, agriculture, self-sufficiency and craftsmanship. Seated on 510 acres and consisting of a craft village, faming land, pastures and housing, the close-knit community is home to around 1,000 members.

Homestead Heritage’s website states that while not affiliated with a larger organization, it shares beliefs with many Christian groups such as Baptist, Mennonites and Methodists.

“We are nondenominational, but our roots do go back to Anabaptist roots,” Hailey Scarbrough, a potter at Homestead, said.

The community stresses the importance of bringing the Bible into everyday activities. The website also shares that members believe in living a simplistic life, which is a main reason for their agrarian and craftsmanship lifestyle.

“Faith has to do with everything I do and the kind of person I’m hoping to be,” Angela Annunziato, a gristmill worker at the Homestead, said.

Their faith and beliefs lead the members of the community to utilize craftsmanship as one of the main resources to life at the Homestead. Their skills include pottery, blacksmithing, basket weaving, carpentry, the gristmill, yarn weaving and agricultural work.

“Products made from scratch are a lot better quality than factory-made products, and it’s very rewarding to use something that you made from scratch,” James Collins, blacksmith at the Homestead, said.

Children in the community begin crafting at an early age, enabling the members of the Homestead to be well-rounded in all crafts.

“You can start kids with hand sewing as young as 4 or 5. For pottery it would be a bit older you have to have good hand-eye coordination,” Brandon Trevino, a potter at the Homestead, said. “Most people in the community have knowledge in each of the different crafts.”

The community stresses an agrarian lifestyle, meaning they produce and maintain farmland. The website also explains that the members use natural farming techniques such as draft horses for plowing, mules for cutting grain and a water-powered gristmill, which grinds grain.

“The advantage to farming our own food is that we know where it comes from,” Annunziato said. “It’s high quality stuff; organic, non-GMO, no pesticides. We know exactly what we’re mixing into all our baking mixes.”

While they maintain a life of farming, self-sufficiency, crafting and producing, the members of the Homestead Heritage, such as Scarbrough, also value being connected with the Waco community.

“We offer many classes here for crafting. People will come in here and spend eight or nine hours with us,” Scarbrough said. “I teach most of the [pottery] classes and I’ve personally become good friends with a lot of people in the surrounding Waco area.”

The Homestead offers around 120 classes at The Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture. Classes include woodworking, blacksmithing, basket weaving, knitting, yarn spinning and kitchen skills.

During these classes, people learn key craftsmanship skills taught by various craft masters of the community. Offering classes enables the Waco community to learn the ways of the Homestead Heritage.

Saturdays at the Homestead are a great way for the Waco community to be involved with their way of life. The Homestead offers “make-your-own” activities for children, where kids can learn to weave baskets, make clay pots, shape a spoon with the blacksmith and stamp leather.

The Homestead’s website provides information on how to register for classes or to check availability. They also have hay rides around their community to share their agrarian way of life with outsiders.

The Thanksgiving Fair is an annual tradition bringing thousands of outsiders to The Homestead. This action-packed two-day event includes craft demonstrations, agricultural exhibits, live Gospel music from the Heritage Choir and Orchestra, food and shopping.

“In 2019 we had around 15,000 people come out [to the fair]. It’s a big way for us to come together,” Trevino said. “I think the biggest reward is getting to interact with the people during crafts, food and the music.”

The Homestead Heritage furthers its connection with the Waco community through the Café Homestead. This on-site restaurant is a favorite among locals and serves farm-to-table meals.

“We will basically have a new menu every season because different foods grow better in other seasons,” Andrew Taylor, the general manager of Café Homestead, said.

Due to the Homestead’s emphasis on growing its own produce, all of the food at Café Homestead is all natural and mostly organic.

“The café brings in a ton of people from the Waco area,” Taylor said.

The Homestead Heritage’s focus is on a self-sustaining, agriculture-forward, craftsmanship lifestyle. Yet the members of the community greatly value the connections with the surrounding Waco area.