There is a great gal doing something old in this new busy world — homesteading.
About an hour south of Kansas City atop a steep hill near Drexel, Mo., there is a tiny driveway just big enough for one car. The trees and bushes are over grown, leaning and reaching toward the car, pulling city residue away.
A meandering quarter mile drive reveals a beautiful hill top farm oasis. The sun shines bright and your lungs can’t possibly pull in a large enough cleansing breath of the beautiful air.
Welcome to Smoky Hills Farm. Stepping out of the car, my shoulders relax so pronounced; I realize I’ve been wearing them as earrings for who knows how long.
To the left is a neatly kept barn with a red tractor and to the right a beautiful farm home. In front and atop the hills are the gardens and animals. Ducks hastily follow each other in a precise formation, while roosters strut and tomatoes bloom.
Dotty and Kevin Sharp are the owners of this beautiful property and are pulling the city folk out for farm-daycations.
Dotty’s arms are open for a welcoming hug. Her crystal clear blue eyes reveal an “old soul” full of wisdom and grace, insuring this land and way of life is her passion.
In the 80s, Dotty was faced with the all to familiar predicament, “Do we have enough money to feed the family?” That answer was questionable.
“I had to provide the most nutritional bang for my buck in order to feed my family,” she said. “The cheapest way to do that was to learn to cook everything from scratch.”
This eventually led to growing food in the family garden, canning, preserving and fermenting in the fall to extend the food source through the winter and spring. All this sprang from two books, “The Encyclopedia of Country Living” by Carla Emery and “Stocking Up” by Carol Hupping. And watching the beloved Julia Child on PBS.
With decades of experience under her belt and an entire team of experts, Dotty has opened up Smoky Hills Farm to teach the basics of living, raising, preparing and preserving food organically and sustainably in the modern world.
These classes include making all natural body care products, foraging, preserving, brewing beer and identifying herbal medicine. Smoky Hills has gardens, duck and chicken eggs, cows roaming the woods and the token Tom turkey, cartoonishly perfect as a happy animal should be.
By far living this natural life does not mean sacrificing fun; it means to celebrate every day with food and family. Bringing these skills to the modern world is a passion of Dotty. She has always leaned towards the natural way of living, with the base root of food is medicine, and it heals the body, mind and soul.
Our ancestors enjoyed good food. And it wasn't just the food; it was the camaraderie and relationship that resulted from cooking and sharing that food. Yes, it may take a little more time and energy, especially in the beginning stages, Dotty said, but then it becomes a way of life.
What we put into our bodies literally becomes us. Now is the time to teach the lost art of food. Good, nurturing food. Who better to learn from than a living-breathing example of every day possibilities and alternatives to the hustle and bustle? In Dotty’s eyes, the “future holds so many possibilities.” It all starts with food.
Eventually Smoky Hills Farm has a future vision to be a full sustainable community, with farm-cations available.
With one last deep breath before I crawled begrudgingly back into my car, I thought, when I grow up some day, I hope I can be as cool as Dotty.
For more information,check out Smoky Hills Farm School of Homesteading website. You can also check out it’s Facebook page.
Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.