Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Hello, HOMEGROWN friends and family! The following 101 covers how to propose and write a HOMEGROWN 101. What’s a 101, you ask? A HOMEGROWN 101 is a step-by-step how-to on a particular skill or project, from growing radishes to tapping maple trees to soil testing. Since HOMEGROWN.org exists first and foremost to celebrate the culture of agriculture, HOMEGROWN 101s are mostly connected to food, with a few outliers here and there. And HOMEGROWN 101s are mostly written by and for HOMEGROWN members. That’s where you come in! Hi!


HOMEGROWN is actively seeking folks to write new 101s. Got a skill you want to share? Now’s your chance. Writing a 101 lets you pass along your know-how and score some sweet bragging rights, to boot. Plus, it’s a great way to connect with your fellow HOMEGROWN members. Collectively, these 101s make up a crowd-sourced skill-sharing library that’s created and maintained by HOMEGROWN’s most powerful and inspiring resource: YOU! So, what’s the 101 protocol? Read on.



What kinds of topics lend themselves to 101s? You might start by browsing the HOMEGROWN 101 library for examples. If you have an idea in mind and you want to check to see whether it already has been covered, you’ll probably encounter one of three scenarios:


A) If you come across a 101 that’s a list of links, rather than a full-on set of instructions (see exhibits A and B), that’s an old 101 in need of updating—in other words, fair game! If it’s a subject you know something about and you’d be willing to flesh out the existing 101, proceed to step 2.


B) If your idea already has been covered front to back, soup to nuts, don’t despair. Post a comment to the existing 101 and add your own 2 cents.


C) Got an idea that doesn’t already exist in the 101 library? Want to write about it? Proceed to step two.



Unlike nearly everything else on the site, you can't post 101s yourself. Jennifer, the HOMEGROWN flock tender, has to post them from the site’s back end. We made that decision for a few reasons but mostly because we’re aiming to make these 101s as clean, typo-free, and reliable as we can. Jennifer functions as a very light editor and fact checker. Her goal isn’t to be heavy handed or to mess with your stuff; her goal is to ensure the 101s make sense and are easy to follow. Despite the extra step or two, she aims to make the process as smooth and easy as possible. She won’t make your life harder—at least, not on purpose. But a warning: She likes to chat!


So, let’s say you’ve got a 101 idea of type B or C above: It hasn’t been covered already on HOMEGROWN or it has been covered but could use some serious updating. Shoot Jennifer a message and run it past her. She’ll get back to you ASAP. She might suggest a slight tweak to your approach or she might give you the automatic green light. In case of the latter, proceed to step three.


One other scenario worth mentioning: Let’s say you have an idea but you don’t have the time or the inclination or the expertise to write about it yourself. Shoot Jennifer a note and let her know, and she’ll go in search of a volunteer. (No arms will be overly twisted in the making of 101s. Just mildly twisted. Voluntarily.)


And one megaimportant P.S.: YOU MUST TRY THIS AT HOME. We don’t want 101s on stuff you haven’t actually attempted yourself. Also? No ripping off other blogs, no plagiarizing, no stealing. Yes, you can refer to other resources—but credit them! No, you can’t write a 101 paraphrasing another blog or article. In short: Getting inspired by another source is fine. Just say so! Copying and pasting from elsewhere, or writing about a skill without actually getting your hands dirty, is not. We want your experience, your advice. That’s what makes it HOME grown and not "this thing I heard about from my mother's brother's dog's babysitter" grown. We clear? Cool. Onward!



No matter what kind of skill you’re writing about, from making jam to creating a terraced garden to incubating eggs, start your 101 with a paragraph introducing yourself. Tell folks where you’re from, how you first got interested in the skill you’re writing about, and how you gained experience in it. Got a colorful anecdote about canning with Grandma or that time your precious pasta sauce exploded all over the kitchen? Share it! Colorful details are good reminders that we’re all human and that nothing goes perfectly on your first try. Oh, and the intro is also a good place to mention any other resources—blogs, books, websites; with links, please—that you've found particularly helpful.


From there, you'll want to compile a list of all the materials folks will need to complete the skill. In most 101s, this falls under the heading “WHAT YOU’LL NEED.” Be sure to reread your list once or twice. Are there any special tools—a blender? a wrench? a funnel?—folks should have on hand? Include it. Does your 101 make a certain number of servings or cover a specific footage or acreage? Include a note about yield or finished size.


Next you’ll want to walk your fellow HOMEGROWN types through each step in the process. This usually falls under the heading “WHAT TO DO.” It’s important to use language that’s as clear and direct as possible. Think about writing a recipe or imagine that you’re talking with a friend and walking her through the process. If numbering each step works for you, go for it. If the steps in your 101 aren’t quite so discrete, feel free to write in paragraph form, as in this 101. And don’t hesitate to ask questions. That’s what Jennifer is here for.


For great examples of standard recipe-style 101s, see:

» Allen’s Growing Shiitake Mushrooms 101

» Jackie’s Apple Molasses 101

» Penny’s Mead 101

» Joan’s Dog Poop Composter 101

» Charlyn’s Beeswax Candles 101

Maybe, as a bonus, your recipe-style 101 will include an actual recipe. For examples, see:

» Todd’s Koji Rice 101

» Mary Elizabeth’s Rendering Lard 101



Yep, there are absolutely exceptions to the rule. Some 101s don’t lend themselves to the WHAT YOU’LL NEED/WHAT TO DO format. No worries! HOMEGROWN is flexible.


If you’re writing about growing a specific crop, these 101s offer great examples of ways to format your information:

» Lucy’s Growing Lettuce

(topic headings include: what to plant, when and where to plant, when and how to harvest, pests and problems)

» Mary’s Growing Broccoli 101

(topic headings include: varieties, planting and companion planting, watering and harvesting)


If you’re writing about a long-term project that’s not something you can accomplish in one day or that’s more abstract in nature, you can still break up your information up into topical chunks. For examples, see:

» Anita’s Starting a CSA (Even If You Don’t Have a Farm) 101

» Margiana’s Community Building 101

Sometimes lists can help you organize your information:

» Lola’s Edible Gardens for Kids 101

» Rick’s Finding Morel Mushrooms 101

» Farm Aid’s Food Labeling 101

» Cynthia’s Six Ways to Use Stale Bread 101

And sometimes you can cover several variations on a theme in a single 101:

» Freezing, Drying, and Storing Herbs 101

» Black Cat Cottage’s Homemade Extracts 101



In almost all of the 101s above, you’ll see a paragraph up top in italics, thanking the author. Don’t worry your pretty little head about that. Jennifer will add it—although if there’s something specific you’d like us to mention, spill the beans!


In most of the 101s above, you’ll see a paragraph toward the bottom labeled: “MORE FROM HOMEGROWN,” followed by links to related content on the website. If you know of something relevant to link to—a group, a video, another 101—include it! If you don’t, don’t sweat it. Jennifer can add that.


And in all of the 101s above, you’ll see a paragraph down at the very bottom labeled “SPEAK UP!” No need to tackle that. Jennifer will add it, too—although suggestions are always welcome.



Don’t forget photos! Take lots and lots and lots—a shot or two of every step in the process, if you can. We’ll take them all! If you don’t have a camera or a spare hand, never fear. We can search our HOMEGROWN archives and other free common-use sites. We’d just rather have yours! We’ll take whatever you’ve got, but our ideal photo specs are:


» 300 dpi

» horizontal shots no smaller than 350 x 245 pixels (or, for vertical shots, 245 x 350); larger is better

» JPG format preferred, TIFs OK


Don't know the difference between a dpi and a TIF? Don't worry. Send us what you've got. Two important notes, though: Don’t send us photos that aren’t yours. If you didn’t take the photo, or a friend didn’t take it for you, we don’t want it. (No grabbing images off the web. That’s stealing! No bueno!) If you or a friend did take your photo/s, be sure to let us know that, too. We want to give credit where credit is due!



You’ve got your text. You’ve got your photos. You’re in business. It’s time to send stuff to Jennifer. You can send her a message via the HOMEGROWN system or you can email her directly at wehunt at farmaid dot org.


1. If you’re sending in your 101 via HOMEGROWN, please copy and paste your text into the body of the message. Use the image icon to insert photos.


2. If you’re emailing your 101, you can attach the text as a Word doc or you can paste it into the body of the email. For photos, please attach each image as a separate photo file. No PDFs combining all images, please!



Jennifer will be in touch as soon as she has received your 101. (Well, maybe not at 2 a.m. but as soon as possible.) If something’s not clear, she may have follow-up questions for you. If that happens, don’t stress. It’s just part of the process. She’ll wait for your responses and incorporate any additions or tweaks to the 101. She’ll format everything, add your photos, make things pretty, and publish your 101.



You’re not off the hook quite yet. As soon as your 101 is live, Jennifer will send you the link. When she does, please give your 101 a careful read. This is your chance to make sure your name is spelled correctly, all of the steps are in the right order, and that photo X matches description Y. (We would send you a proof earlier if our web platform allowed it. But the DIY-ness of this whole process is just part of HOMEGROWN’s charm, right?) Please check everything over carefully and then email or message Jennifer with any changes or with your all clear.



Jennifer will incorporate any final tweaks or changes you’d like her to make and then she’ll start publicizing your 101 so that folks can find it and try it out themselves. In most cases, she’ll feature your 101 on HOMEGROWN’s homepage, as well as via HOMEGROWN’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Want to help spread the word? Post a link to your 101 via your own social media accounts—or share or like HOMEGROWN’s posts. Heck, you’re published! Enjoy it! Brag about it!



Your 101 will live indefinitely in the HOMEGROWN 101 library. If you reread it next week or next year and you see a change you’d like to make or a typo you want to fix, we can do that. Just shoot Jennifer an email or a message and let her know. The link to your 101 won’t change, so you should always be able to find it.


And that’s it! Well, with one major addendum: THANK YOU. Thank you for being interested in writing a 101, for being an engaged member of HOMEGROWN, and for wanting to participate in HOMEGROWN’s mission of spreading the word about good food. One of the nicest things about HOMEGROWN is that it gives folks the opportunity to share useful, practical information among one another. You’re talking directly with folks who care about the culture of agriculture and who believe that doing things themselves is the best way to learn. By mastering—OK, sometimes just attempting—these skills, we’re keeping the can-do spirit alive. When you build your own raised bed, you care about the quality of the soil you put in it. And when you save your own tomato seeds, you care about how much work went into growing the fruit. We think that knowledge makes every tomato so much sweeter. You, too?


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