5 farm workshops to learn traditional trades

If you’re a farm kid at heart but never had the opportunity to learn the traditional arts and skills associated with rural living, you’re in luck.  Local agriculture organizations and businesses are always scheduling fun and educational classes and demonstrations. Check out some of these events and activities happening throughout West Virginia:

1. Soap making

Wild Rose Soap Company offers a beginner’s cold process soap making class. (Cold process, as opposed to the melt-and-pour method, is when you make the soap from scratch.) Students will learn how to mix olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter and lye, then add essential oils to make a lovely smelling, all-natural soap. The class includes safety tips, recipes, and resources to help beginning soap makers.

2. Butchering

The annual West Virginia Urban Ag Conference is the place to be for numerous  homesteading classes, including the art of home butchering. The instructor will use a lamb to demonstrate proper tools and their use, handling of the carcass, and packaging. (If you want to learn many skills, this is the place to be. Additional classes at the conference include beekeeping, home brewing, and growing lavender—the last of which has potential to be West Virginia’s new big cash crop.

3. Quilting

Cedar Lakes Conference Center, Jackson’s Mill, and several West Virginia State Parks including North Bend and Tygart Lake frequently offer quilting workshops for all skill levels, from one-day events to weekend retreats including meals and lodging. Marvel at the unique designs while you learn to perfect the various styles, patterns and techniques this age-old tradition.

4. Wild food foraging

To forage for wild food, you need to learn how to identify edible plants and know where and at what time of year they are most likely to be found. The folks with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture can assist with identifying the many species of edible wild plants, from morels to ramps, or sign up for one of these annual retreats hosted by West Virginia State Parks:

  • The Wild Edibles Festival at Watoga State Park focuses on medicinal, herbal, and edible plants that can be found in Pocahontas County.
  • One of the region’s largest events, Nature Wonder Weekend at North Bend State Park typically includes guest speakers, presentations, nature walks, collection and preparation of wild foods and cooking contests.
  • Twin Falls State Park’s Tracking and Woods Lore Weekend hearkens back to the 18th century, when pioneers took their cues from the local Native American tribes to learn how to live closer to the land. Workshops offered include medicinal/edible/useful native plants.

5. Sheep to Shawl

Heritage Farm Museum & Village and Prickett’s Fort State Park both host a variety of workshops and artisan demonstrations, including the popular “Sheep to Shawl” event during which guests can experience the process of cloth making from start to finish, including sheep shearing, carding, spinning and knitting. (Heritage Farm’s annual celebration of Worldwide Knit in Public Day—held in June—includes beginner knitting lessons. Bring your own size 7/8 needles and a skein of yarn.)

6. Maple sugaring

West Virginia’s annual Maple Syrup Day, sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, includes guided tours of farms and maple sugaring demonstrations in which you can observe and participate in a variety of sugaring techniques. You might even get to sample some of the delicious products, like syrup, candy, and doughnuts!

This post was last updated on March 17, 2022