MEET Kimberly: nonprofit newbie and self-sufficiency aficionado
Do you have a hankering for learning long-lost skills? Ever wonder what it takes to become a master canner, soap maker or chicken raiser? Well Atlanta is on its way to having a one-stop-shop to teach you all of the self-reliance skills your heart desires. We sat down with Kimberly Coburn to learn more about her adventure in founding her new nonprofit, The Homestead Atlanta.
Tell us a little about your project:
I’m in the beginning stages of starting a nonprofit educational center for self-reliance and sustainability skills called The Homestead Atlanta. It will be an engaging community hub offering hands-on classes on everything from blacksmithing to beekeeping, canning to cob construction, smoking to small engine repair. We hope to be a go-to resource for folks endeavoring to lead a more authentic lifestyle, reconnecting with both forgotten heritage skills and innovative sustainable-living approaches.
How did you get started with it?
It’s kind of funny, actually – I receive the John C. Campbell Folk School’s catalog every year and pour over every page, wishing I could attend 90% of the classes. But I’ve never been able to due to the distance, cost and time commitment. Atlanta has a number of fantastic organizations offering great classes, but I really longed for a central space dedicated to that sort of education. As far as I know, The Homestead Atlanta would be the first center of its kind located in an urban environment where, arguably, the information is most needed.
What inspires you to do this work?
On a philosophical level, I feel we’ve become very removed from work that helps us thrive and feel productive. There’s a unique sense of accomplishment that comes with holding something in your hands that you’ve made, something that will sustain you. And, at the risk of sounding like a doomsdayer, there will most likely be a time for our generation or our children’s generation where dependence on systems will have to be replaced with reliance on ourselves and our community – and that can really be a beautiful prospect if approached well. On a selfish level, I want to take all the classes.
What challenges are you facing?
Since we’re just getting started, we’ve been lucky enough to have relatively smooth sailing thus far, but there’s a long way to go. Personally, my largest challenge has been learning what it takes to start a non-profit. I’m not naturally an entrepreneurially minded person, but when you want something bad enough – and you are comfortable asking for help and advice – I guess you just sort of figure it out piece by piece. I’ve also been surrounded by tremendously supportive, wonderful people who help keep The Homestead on track with their enthusiasm.
Are you collaborating with anyone?
While there aren’t any formal collaborations thus far, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much my work with Crop Mob Georgia has motivated and inspired me. Additionally, Michael from Georgia Organics and Chris from The Urban Farmer Magazine have helped enormously in making sure I meet the right people to start setting up a really robust and engaging curriculum. Mike at Rationally Creative has helped with web work, for which I’m immensely grateful. Folks at Irwin Street Market have also been unbelievably supportive; even though nothing has been signed yet, it will most likely serve as home for The Homestead, and we couldn’t think of a better spot to start growing a community. And thanks to Melonie and The Feed for featuring us!
What impact are you hoping to have on our Atlanta community?
I try to stress the importance of self-reliance rather than self-sufficiency because that’s one of the first and most important lessons to learn from this type of education: we need one another. My hope is that by providing engaging, hands-on classes with passionate instructors, The Homestead Atlanta will help preserve largely forgotten crafts, encourage a more sustainable and authentic lifestyle, and help build an interconnected community of like-minded people eager to help one another.
Would you like to see this organization replicated?
Mercy – I just want to get this one off the ground! I guess I could imagine if The Homestead is very well received and there’s a large community demand, that the same structure could be followed in other cities. You know, The Homestead Charleston or something like that. On the other hand, having it a unique organization helps make it an Atlanta destination that helps move the city toward its goals of sustainability.
What kind of help/assistance do you need to keep this going?
As is the case with all nonprofits, funding will be an essential component to keeping the class quality high and prices reasonable. We’ve got some exciting ideas for events and fundraisers in mind, as well as potential membership models. We hope to launch a great, small-scale fall curriculum and might engage in a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign before that for some essentials like website development, etc.
What are some of the biggest issues you see facing Atlanta?
I’ve lived in Atlanta my whole life and have enjoyed watching it go from a convention town to a thriving cultural and arts center. I think with a bit of work, we could help set the standard for green cities and would love to see people becoming more engaged with everything from bolstering Right to Grow (and keep small livestock) initiatives to improving bicycle transportation. People who wish to make positive choices for themselves and their environment shouldn’t be hampered by legislative red tape.
What are some of your favorite things and organizations around town?
There are so many I can hardly pick! I guess I have a soft spot for all things local food, so all the sustainable farms, farm to table restaurants, farmer’s markets, GA Organics, Slow Food Atlanta, Crop Mob Atlanta…you get the idea. I also remain really excited to watch the Beltline project grow and can’t wait to see how that could tie in with The Homestead and Irwin Street Market.
Where can interested readers find you?
You can connect with our Facebook and Twitter – as well as sign up for our newsletter and fill out an informative survey about the types of classes you’d like to see – by visiting our website (www.TheHomesteadATL.com). Plus, I would love to hear from people about their ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, because Pinterest is my private dancer, you can find us there, too! (www.pinterest.com/thehomesteadATL).