Visiting our central Texas campus, traditional craft village and working farm, people have often asked: “How did all of this start? How did you learn to do all these things?” Recognizing that the craft village is also the home of our community, Homestead Heritage, many also wonder, “How is Ploughshare connected with Homestead Heritage?” This is a brief attempt to answer a few of those questions.
In short, Ploughshare and the classes we now offer grew largely out of the efforts of the Homestead Heritage community to lead a more sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle.
The community that’s known today as Homestead Heritage began in the early 1970s as a small peace church in the lower east side of Manhattan, New York, in an area known as “Hell’s Kitchen”. Here, a small but ever growing group of believers came together from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds to worship and share their lives with one another. In the midst of an urban jungle, these believers learned to practice care and concern for one another and quite soon became a small community.
In the 1970s and 80s, our community began to look for a place, a soil, in which the seeds of the cooperative community life we were now experiencing would continue to grow and flourish. This set us on a journey that brought us eventually to central Texas. Along the way, we learned to farm with draft horses, grow gardens, orchards and vineyards, raise sheep, goats, poultry and other livestock; spin, knit, crochet, weave and sew, make soap, can produce from the garden and orchard and much more.
In 1990, we purchased Brazos de Dios, the 510 acre farm near Waco, Texas on which is located the Homestead Craft Village, also the home of the Ploughshare campus. We built a small cafe and gift shop there, then soon a larger gift barn, a pottery shop, a woodworking/furniture-making shop and a blacksmith shop. Eventually we added a restored gristmill and a fiber crafts shop, along with other buildings. In 1990, we also held our first Homestead Fair in Texas.
Over time, people who came out to visit our craft village and farm increasingly began to say things like: “This is amazing what you are doing. Would you be able to teach us these skills, too? Have you ever considered offering classes?”
And so, we did. For many years we had been teaching these agricultural and craft skills to adults and children within our own community who wanted to learn. Now, we worked to put together curriculum for classes that we could begin to offer to yet more people — those who hadn’t made this entire journey with us and who needed, perhaps, a bit more structured approach. Soon we were teaching homesteading courses, gardening courses, canning and preserving classes, breadbaking and more. We continued to develop and add more classes, today offering more than 130 different courses each year through Ploughshare. The Homestead Craft Village and Ploughshare campus are open year-round, Monday through Saturday. Come out and tour our shops and have a delicious meal at our café.