By Don Lowe

Long-time McDonald County, Missouri, resident Cheryl Franklin is right at home in founding and organizing the Ozarks Homesteading Expo, which first began four years ago in Neosho and will host its fourth consecutive gathering in Marshfield, Missouri, Sept. 6-7, 2024. 

It’s all about cultivating a mindset that living off the land is beneficial, and Franklin says, “I didn’t grow up with a garden. We lived in a big city with a tiny yard, but Mom would go to the farmers market and buy bushels of tomatoes to can and bushels of cucumbers to make pickles. 

“Not everyone is in a place in their lives where they can move to acreage in the country. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have more control of your food, where it comes from and how it’s prepared.” 

Franklin explains, “Whether it’s raising a cow for milk, cheese and yogurt, growing a garden or supporting your local farmer, there is no reason you have to feed your family food that has traveled thousands of miles to get to your table, handled by who knows who and filled with who knows what.” 

It’s not necessarily about going off the grid, and Franklin says, “Homesteading doesn’t mean you have to live like a pioneer without modern conveniences, but it sure is good to have those skills if needed.” 

That’s exactly how the Ozarks Homesteading Expo came about. 

“I’ve been what has most recently been dubbed a homesteader for about 40 years while at the same time working full time in local media. When my media career ended, God took my passion for agriculture and teaching and opened up a lot of doors to start the Ozarks Homesteading Expo.” 

The Expo attracted almost 4,000 people this past summer. 

“While having big, nationally known names such as Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, You Tubers Living Traditions Homestead and An American Homestead and beekeeper Dr. Leo Sharashkin draws a lot of people, the big draw is the quest for knowledge,” Franklin says. 

The goal is simply to learn and become exposed to a lot of skills and ideas at this expo. 

“We have more than 40 sessions in two days at this educational, self-reliant and experiential event, from processing hogs and chickens to cheesemaking, foraging, canning, breadmaking, soapmaking, beekeeping, do-it-yourself solar, raising livestock and healthy living ideas. 

“There is a hunger out there for this type of information, and I am more excited every time to get to bring all this information into one place for people to immerse themselves into for two days,” she adds. 

Without a doubt, COVID-19 resulted in so many changes everywhere. 

“The events of 2020 opened people’s eyes to the idea that the food they need to feed their families might not always be available at the grocery store for various reasons. As a result, seed companies couldn’t keep up with the demand from people learning to grow their own food, and hatcheries ran out of baby chicks for people investing in backyard chickens. An estimated 12 million people in the United States now own backyard chickens.” 

Franklin suggests, “I think we skipped a whole generation or two of people knowing how to survive without the grocery store, but that is changing. A lot of people want to get back to the basics, which is why we are also planning a week-long, intensive homesteading camp for ladies in the spring. 

 As she strives to help educate all those interested in homesteading, Franklin doesn’t claim to know everything about all the topics but says, “I have surrounded myself with some wonderful experts. 

“As an example, my friend Bo Brown, who wrote ‘Foraging the Ozarks,’ Rachael West of ‘Eating the Ozarks’ and mushroom expert Mike Snyder of WildWise Botanicals are all three foraging experts, which is something that would be valuable to learn if food was scarce.” 

As if Franklin doesn’t stay busy enough, she also leads the McDonald County Chapter of the National Ladies Homestead Gathering. The group meets monthly and includes a new homesteading topic every month, holds workshops and serves as a place for ladies to encourage each other in their homesteading journey. 

Franklin has also been the lye soap demonstrator at George Washington Carver National Monument Prairie Day for more than 30 years and volunteers at Har-Ber Village and New Bethel School Preservation Association in her spare time. While raising her children, she volunteered with McDonald County 4-H, leading the dairy goat project group and photography, and serving as a community leader at Tiff City. 

“We’ve raised dairy goats for as long as I can remember, so I’m kind of the goat lady to a lot of people,” Franklin says. “We are big supporters of 4-H, and McDonald County has a great program.” 

She sums it up in saying, “People don’t have to do it all at once. Start small and master what you learn, then go on to the next thing to keep things manageable. 

“Of course, it is still fun to learn a little bit about a lot. That’s kind of what we do at our expo and our ladies’ gatherings; then you can figure out what you’re good at and what you love to do the most.”

McDonald County Resident Cheryl Franklin Fast Facts 

Husband: Yancy. 

Years Married: 44 years. 

Farming Life: Own Beeman Hollow Farm. 

Born and Raised: Born in Buffalo, New York and moved to McDonald County in 1978. 

Children: Wes and Shalee, and children Keagan and Liam; Erin and Steve and son Ryder; Travis and Kait, and son, Wyatt. 

FYI: Learn more about Ozarks Homesteading at Find McDonald County Ladies Homesteading Page on Facebook, at Mighty Networks NLHG of MCDonald County, Missouri and at Beeman Hollow Farm on Facebook.