The Williams-Sonoma Homesteader

Preserving Jam Jars, Set of 4

Yesterday I mentioned on Facebook that I was starting to get interested in beekeeping. In reality, with a quarter-acre yard that is often full of kids, I’m nowhere near really considering it, but it’s fun to think about and might be a reality down the road. A friend sent a link to a sweepstakes with a prize of a $500 beehive, and only later did I realize that the link was to the new Williams-Sonoma Agrarian Collection, which launched in April. The collection features canning supplies, beekeeping necessities, seeds, plants, raised garden beds, and the like.

The term “agrarian” has been somewhat hijacked in recent years by hardcore homesteaders who seem to take issue with things like toilet paper, grocery-store meat, and conventional electrical grids. So mixing “Williams-Sonoma” with “agrarian” fried my brain. Even taking in the true definition of “agrarian,” which just relates to ownership and usage of land, Williams-Sonoma, with its $11 quick bread mixes, seems completely incongruous with simple living. This article from the Detroit Free Press says the new collection is for the “high-end homesteader.” This made me roll my eyes. The phrase “high-end homesteader” seems even more of an oxymoron than “Williams-Sonoma Agrarian Collection.”

But is it?

I remember reading Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs last year and being struck by Steve and Lauren Jobs’ commitment to organic food that they raised themselves. At one point, Steve was inspired by Lauren’s sunflowers, and used that design (the large head on a slender stalk) for a new and transformative Macintosh monitor design. In another part of the book, Isaacson mentions Lauren working on their beehives. Why should I be discriminating against those with significant means who want to be closer to their food sources? My motivation to get closer to our food source had to do with a concern over the current state of the food industry and the general health of our family, not a financial need. It’s also fun and satisfying activity. Truthfully, it would be much cheaper and far, far — FAR — cleaner to buy a dozen eggs from Wal-mart than to house ducks in our backyard. My new boyfriend Steve Ussery mentions in The Small-Scale Poultry Flock that it costs him far more to produce eggs and meat from his small flock than it would to purchase factory-farm hens from the grocery store. Who am I to dictate how much a chicken coop should cost?

And, not for nothing, perhaps if there are more attractive chicken coops and beehives and raised garden beds and clotheslines available, neighborhood associations might stop seeing these things as eyesores and nuisances and let residents use their land wisely in the ways they choose.

So party on, Williams-Sonoma. I hope you get lots of customers for your 4-for-$25 jam jars (can I roll my eyes about that one?) as more and more people change the food system, one high-end homesteader at a time.

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