Rosemary Caspary keeps bees, raises shiitake mushrooms, creates mosaics and stained glass to decorate her kitchen, grows her own vegetables and herbs, experiments with permaculture, makes her own soap, and generally enjoys working in her house and garden.
“I’ve always wanted to be an artist, and from a young age, I repurposed things and was into plants,” she says of her childhood in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She also learned to cook from her mother and grandmother, and remembers making dandelion wine in the spring.
But her father wanted her to do something more practical with her life. “That’s why I became a dietitian,” she says.
“I thought the term ‘Homesteaders’ was appropriate because it can refer to whatever you are doing in your home, or just outside in your yard.”
Now that she’s retired and living in Stuart, she’s focused on the cooking, gardening, and artwork that she’s always loved.
Being relatively new to the area, she hoped to find like-minded people willing share their home-centered passions, talents, and do-it-yourself skills.
That was her impetus for starting the Treasure Coast Homesteaders meet-up group.
“I thought the term ‘Homesteaders’ was appropriate because it can refer to whatever you are doing in your home, or just outside in your yard,” she says.
“That way, it includes so many different activities and doesn’t limit you to rare fruits or herbs or butterflies,” she adds, referring to other specific groups available to the general public. “It opens you up to doing all sorts of things.”
Ground Floor Farms offers meeting space
At first, the meet-ups were held in participants’ homes, which worked for a while. But she hoped for a more permanent location.
Her wish was granted when she visited Ground Floor Farm in Stuart. It’s owned by three high school friends who shared common goals and decided they’d like to work together.
On Caspary’s initial visit, when the farm had just opened in March, co-owner Mike Meier recognized their kindred spirits and volunteered to host her group.
Meier, who is in charge of the crops on the farm, got much of his experience in New York as part of the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, where he helped raise vegetables on soil-covered rooftops in the city.
Deciding to move back to Florida, where he grew up, he wanted “to take the cool, young, innovative, exciting farming things I was doing in the Northeast and bring them home,” he explains.
Ground Floor Farm, Stuart’s first urban farm, includes about 1 acre for growing crops, plus a 5,000-square-foot banquet hall and commercial kitchen that can be rented for weddings and other community events.
And now, Caspary’s meet-up group gathers here once a month.
“I prefer calling our gatherings ‘meet-ups’ instead of ‘meetings’ because I want to convey a more informal get-together where people can talk and ask questions,” Caspary says.
Meier also urged Caspary to create an online presence so that others could share what they were doing between meetings. She set up the group’s Facebook page and started her own blog on Tumblr.
Today, more than a dozen people regularly attend meetings, and 100 have joined the group online. About 30 people are on an email list used to let people know when meet-ups are scheduled.
The meet-ups begin with a swap; members are invited to share whatever they have in excess – foods, plants, or supplies. One month, Caspary brought bananas that her trees had produced in abundance. At another, member Bob Brokaw of Fort Pierce, a carpenter by trade, brought fermented foods he’s been perfecting.
“My wife and I are neophytes, or wanna-be homesteaders, who are new to the idea,” he says. “But by contact with this group, we are slowly expanding what we do to the point that, one day, we may be able to consider ourselves full-fledged homesteaders.”
If there’s something new at Ground Floor Farm, Meier takes the attendees on a tour, sharing his knowledge. Finally, a speaker presents a topic, such as raising chickens in a backyard, or using medicinal plants.
“I like that a conversation gets started before, during, and after the meetings that lets everybody pull from others’ experiences,” says Brokaw, who hopes to someday go to solar energy, and to draw less water from his well by using rain barrels and storage tanks.
As word of mouth spreads, the homesteading idea is taking hold, says Caspary: “I think it’s a group that is going to evolve. Every week, I get more people asking to join.”
For more information:
- Treasure Coast Homesteading on Facebook: facebook.com/groups/tchomesteading
- Visit Rose Caspary’s blog, tumblr.com/; or join her email list of group updates by contacting her [email protected]
- Ground Floor Farm, 100 S.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Stuart; 772-600-4230; facebook.com/groundfloorfarm; groundfloorfarm.com