Gaining ground on the DIY movement with Small Terrain

Want to get into keeping chickens or bees, amateur mycology or gardening? Need to know how to can your tomato surplus? Natalie Pollard, manager of the West Asheville Tailgate Market, is in the process of putting together a center to help you do just that.

Pollard will open Small Terrain at 278 Haywood Road in West Asheville later this year. The business will offer equipment, goods and classes to help people of all DIY skill levels become more self-sufficient — wherever they choose to live. She hopes to offer an element of the old-fashioned general store, even installing a wood stove where people can gather to exchange ideas.

But the goods and information offered at Small Terrain will be timeless — vegetable growing exists beyond the scope of trends. “A lot of it is do-it-yourself, sustainable skills, mostly around food,” says Pollard. “Country skills kind of, but scaling it down and bringing it into the city.”

Why? Pollard explains on her website: “Small Terrain’s work is dedicated to inspiring and enabling healthy change of our built environment and personal lives, toward a more harmonious, more resilient way of modern living.”

To that end, Pollard will offer all of the tools that one needs to be reasonably self-sufficient, including equipment for keeping chickens or bees or for delving into fermentation and food preservation — even cheese-making supplies. She’ll also steward a seed bank and offer a place for summertime vegetable swaps (and hopes everyone doesn’t show up with nothing but zucchini).

It’s a model that should be rather popular, especially in an area where DIY is the norm. Many people engage in urban homesteading on at least some level, by planting seeds or keeping bees in a backyard apiary. People are are motivated toward self-sufficiency for various reasons that include saving money, seeking personal growth or making a change for the greater good, Pollard says.

“I think what it comes down to is [finding] a tangible and practical way of making a difference,” she offers. But even those who might be considered DIY-motivated sometimes encounter stumbling blocks.

One is the issue of time, Pollard says. On that point, we’d like to remind you that, as a recent Nielsen research report recently stated, the average American watches television for nearly 33 hours a week. Of course you may be different, but we imagine that there’s something you could cut out if you really wanted to. “And once you get familiar with [the techniques] it becomes easier to incorporate them into your life,” Pollard says. “And there’s definitely prioritization. That’s definitely a big part of it — and forming habits.”

Offering an information and resource center for the DIY-curious to develop those good habits is what Small Terrain is all about, says Pollard. It will also be free of the intimidation factor: Pollard will be learning some of the techniques right along with customers. “I’m not an expert in all of these things — I am, myself, exploring it,” she says. “So I’m going to be bringing in experts to teach.”

Ashley English, author of The Homemade Living series (a collection of books offering how-tos on cheese-making and canning, among other homesteading skills), will teach canning classes. Zev Friedman from Living Systems Design will offer permaculture classes. Various herbalists that Pollard knows will also offer classes ranging in price from completely free to very affordable, she says.

But don’t let Pollard fool you into thinking she’s without skill; she has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and attended Asheville’s Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. But you don’t have to earn degrees to become well-versed in these techniques, Pollard says. In fact, you don’t even need to change your lifestyle.

“You don’t have to give up your modern conveniences to do it — you can integrate it into your life,” she says. “Younger folks, myself included … are feeling disconnected from the world and where things come from. There’s this heightened awareness of all of this toxicity in our lives and a wanting to feel more connected to our sustenance and other things in our lives.”

With so many people craving that dovetailing of modern life and old-fashioned know-how, she says, the time is ripe for a store like Small Terrain.


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