By Cam Mather

On October 20th we will be hosting the “The Living Sustainably and Independently, Ready for Rough Times, Hands-On, Solar-Powered, All You Can Grow Workshop” again here at Sunflower Farm. I think the workshop gets better each year. Every year we take more steps towards independence and self-sufficiency and so we have more information to share each year.

One of the areas that we’ll be sharing information is on food production. There is nothing like growing food for 12 families for a season to give you an idea of just how much food you can squeeze out of a given amount of land.

Yes, we still purchase some of our food from the local grocery store, but it’s comforting to know that we could grow almost all of it if we had to. What boggles my mind though is how much time is involved with just harvesting it and storing it. And I’m not just talking about canning and freezing. Right now we’re busy filling up the root cellar. You have to be careful digging potatoes, making sure you don’t skewer too many of them. Once you get them in a wheelbarrow you have to sort them. Since we’ve finally had some wet weather you have to dry them a bit (out of the sun) and then sort them. I store the best in buckets in peat moss in the root cellar and put the ones with blemishes into boxes to use up this fall.

It seems I’ve spent hours this fall sorting onions. First it was for the CSA, now it’s the ones that I’ll be storing. I’ve had them drying on a rack in the garage, which is really just an old bedspring. After they’ve dried, I flake off any excess dried skin and make sure they are firm. The good ones go into onion bags that I hang up in the root cellar. The questionable ones go in boxes to be used up this fall. There’s going to be a lot of potatoes and onions eaten this fall at Sunflower Farm! We’ve been digging carrots and putting them in moist peat moss to last the winter. And the squash harvest was really big this year, so now we’re putting the best ones into the root cellar. Regardless of how nice they are they won’t last as well as some things, so we try and eat them up earlier, rather than later. If we aren’t successful at using them up, we’ll start discovering big white fluffy balls, formerly known as squash, in the root cellar.

The other thing I enjoy about presenting these workshops now is that we really have our act together in terms of our renewable energy setup. It’s taken 14 years but it works really well. We’ve minimized our propane consumption and the propane hot water tank hardly ever comes on during the year. It’s nice to have it for back up, but basically all our hot water is produced from renewable sources.

We also spend some time during the workshop discussing the financial aspects of independence. I see gold getting back up close to $1,800. Central banks are buying a lot of it. So what’s up with that? I’m always happy to share my perspectives but I find that the people who attend our workshop often have their own perspective on these questions. I think that’s why they’re here.

The thing Michelle and I have learned after presenting a number of these workshops now is to have a little less structured time and more time during breaks and lunch for people who have come to meet like-minded people and share their ideas. A lot of the workshop attendees have already read our books and know where we’re coming from. I think they like meeting others who haven’t taken the plunge to the degree that Michelle and I have and they enjoy getting a handle on other people’s perspectives on things. I know that’s one of the things many writers discuss as the key to a certain degree of happiness or contentedness in life, and that’s a feeling of community. Our workshops provide that to the people who come, even if it’s just for the day. You leave the workshop feeling “Hey, I’m not the only one thinking this way.”

Michelle and I find the workshops very motivating as well. It’s always nice to be reminded by people who live in more urban areas just what an awesome spot we have. It can be easy to forget just what an amazing place you live in when you experience it every day.

If you know of anyone who you think might be interested in a day immersed in sustainable and independent living, please forward this post to him or her. More specifics are available at

Here’s a shot of the fall harvest warehouse/staging area, formerly known as our garage.