Food Column: Festival presents a look at the modern homesteader

If the word "homesteading" makes you think of covered wagons, the frontier and "Little House on the Prairie," think again.

Little Bit of Heaven Farm in Springboro, Crawford County, is encouraging folks to become modern homesteaders -- to transform their lifestyles to become more self-reliant.

The farm is hosting a Homesteading Festival from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with speakers, demos, vendors and livestock.

Visitors can see alpacas and heritage chickens, try their hands at milking goats and watch Amish vendors make potato chips.

Speakers will cover topics such as preserving food, making natural household cleaners, growing vegetables in containers, raising heritage livestock, using edible plants, fly fishing, financial planning, small-scale maple sugaring and using cloth diapers.

Little Bit of Heaven Farm owners Luka and Melanie Krneta have a vision for teaching skills that are increasingly lost in modern culture. They don't sell meat or vegetables; they just grow or raise whatever they use for themselves. Lately, Mrs. Krneta has been canning tomatoes, beans and beets in preparation for winter, as well as caring for sheep, goats, a donkey, a pig and horses. She's also clearing a field to grow wheat.

But even though the Krnetas don't sell food, they do open their farm to visitors for classes on making soap, bread and cheese, knitting and spinning wool, cooking over a woodstove and other topics.

Mrs. Krneta estimates that she and her husband produce only 30 to 40 percent of their own food, but "if I needed to be more self-reliant, I could probably be 80 percent" because she has the requisite skills.

She teaches small school groups, Girl Scout troops, garden clubs and the like. She tries to reach out especially to inner-city children to give them a rural experience.

She cites as her motivation the old adage, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Local food banks, she said, are overrun with need in the present economy. As she sees it, she has the space and the skills to help people learn how to provide for themselves.

Advance tickets for the Homesteading Festival are $10 for a one-day pass and $20 for two days. At the gate, tickets will be $15 for one day or $25 for two days. For tickets, call 814-587-2243. For information, go to, search for "Little Bit of Heaven Farm" and click on the one located in Springboro, PA. The "events" tab includes festival information.

Ethnic festivals

It's festival season, folks, so the homesteaders aren't the only ones having fun this weekend. Check out these additional festivals:

Ukrainian Food Festival: Pierogies, stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, borscht, pastries and more. 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15, at Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Carnegie. Information: 412-527-5359.

Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest: The promotional materials boast, "Beer! Bands! Bratwurst!" but you'll also find amusement rides, a zumbathon, vendors and children's activities. 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, in Downtown Canonsburg. 724-745-1812 or

Oktoberfest in the Park: Authentic German dinner (roast pork, wursts, sauerkraut, potatoes and more), German music, Penn Pilsner and Coors products, wine and schnapps. 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, in the Pavilion, Avonworth Community Park, Kilbuck. $50 per person benefits a fund to restore Miller Hall at ACORD Park. For tickets:

A Taste of Serbia: BBQ lamb, chicken and pig, plus Serbian meat pie, Serbian steak, cheese pita, cheese-filled crepes and more. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, Castle Shannon.

Soup art

Campbell Soup Co. has released limited-edition tomato soup cans in honor of the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol's famous painting, "32 Campbell's Soup Cans." The four label designs reflect Warhol's colorful pop-art style, and each includes a different Warhol quote: "In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes," "Pop Art is for everyone," "The world fascinates me" and "But I always say, one's company, two's a crowd, and three's a party."

Meanwhile, you could get your own 15 minutes of fame by transforming one of your Facebook photos into a Warhol-inspired work. A few photos will be selected as the cover photos on the Campbell's Condensed Facebook page. For details, go to Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh.

Eat and drink for causes

Eat It and Beat It: Pasta dinner and gift basket raffles to help finance surgery for an ailing five-year-old boy. Eat-in and takeout will be available. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, at the Catholic Center in Ellwood City. $7 for ages 10 and older; $4 for children younger than 10; $30 for a family of up to seven people. Advance tickets are recommended (but not required) by calling 724-758-4411 or 724-758-5591.

Taste of the Valley: The Allegheny Valley Chamber of Commerce's food and drink event features more than two dozen area restaurants plus beer and wine vendors at the Syria Mosque in Cheswick from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18. Tickets are $15; get them in advance at 724-224-3400 or at the door.

Shakin' It Up: Mixologists will compete to create signature mocktails using healthy ingredients; the event also includes appetizers, a live auction and music for ages 21 and older only. 7 p.m. next Thursday, Sept. 20, at Jay Verno Studios, South Side. $75 per person; $125 for two; proceeds benefit LUNGevity, an organization that funds lung cancer research.

Kids cook

Fun Fridays: What's for Lunch?: Whole Foods staff members lead a kid- friendly cooking session. 5 p.m. Sept. 21 at The Ellis School, Shadyside. For girls ages 21/2 to 5 and their parents. Free, but registration is required by Monday. or 412-622-4880.


Nine meat cutters from Texas Roadhouse restaurants in the region will compete today in the first round of the National Meat Cutting Challenge from noon to 2 p.m. at Monteverde's Produce House in Crafton. Each cutter will receive 50 pounds of beef; cutters are judged on quality, yield and speed. Today's winner will advance to the semifinals in January; the finals will be held in May in Maui.


Apple Bake Off: McGinnis Sisters stores will host an Apple Festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 22. The first 12 people who register before Monday can bake an apple dish and bring it to their local store at noon on Sept. 22; customers and employees will taste and vote for their favorites from noon to 1 p.m. Winner gets a $50 store gift card and a bushel of apples. To register, call 412-858-7000 ext. 7 or e-mail

Pin It to Win It: Each week through Sept. 25, the participant who pins and shares the most T.G.I. Friday's items on Pinterest will receive a T.G.I. Friday's Fun Pack, which includes a $25 gift card, free dessert card and other items. To get started, go to or

Rebecca Sodergren:


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