We live in a world where money is the currency of survival. The green stuff buys us shelter, food, clothing, medical care and other essentials. We grow up acquiring skills that will one day help us make money and thus survive. But a growing number of people are choosing to learn skills that will make them more reliant on themselves and less on money. They're learning the lost arts of homesteading and crafts at folk schools turning up around the country.
Students enrolling in these folk schools defy stereotype. They're successful corporate businessmen, newly married couples, retirees, and students eschewing college. What they do have in common is the desire to learn forgotten skills, from building a stone oven to raising hens.
One such folk school, The Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture, which opened in the mid-1990s, is experiencing a huge enrollment surge. "We have people from every background: those that come from overseas'Israel, Africa, Germany; we have lawyers, and vice presidents of huge companies, all they way down to young couples who are just married and wanting to start a new life; we have an incredible mix of people," says Josiah Wheeler, vice president of the Waco, Texas-based school.
"Our students believe that in one way or another our modern consumerist economy is really ultimately unsustainable and that they in some way need to take control over certain areas of their lives, especially those related to survival'food, clothes and shelter," he explains.
Unlike "preppers" or survivalists, the bulk of their students are people who are looking for positive change in their lives, rather than those with a reactionary "Oh no, everything is crashing and I have to hole up somewhere," according to Wheeler.
Some schools offer single classes, while others have multi-week intensives with classes such as baking bread, furniture making, beekeeping, blacksmithing and raising poultry.
Ready to go to folk school? Here are some options:
The Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View, Arkansas: http://www.ozarkfolkcenter.com/folk_schools/default.aspx
North House Folk School, Grand Marais, Minnesota: http://www.northhouse.org
The Folk School, Fairbanks, Alaska: http://thefolkschoolfairbanks.org
The Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture, Waco, Texas: http://www.sustainlife.org
Whatcom Folk School, Bellingham, Washington: http://www.whatcomfolkschool.org
Adirondack Folk School, Lake Luzerne, New York: http://www.adirondackfolkschool.org