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Homesteading and Going 'Off the Grid' Gain Popularity Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

photo of garden
Homesteading -- described as 'more than gardening, but less than farming' by Glenda Lehman Ervin is getting renewed attention as people want to live off the grid.

The coronavirus pandemic is driving an interest in products that allow people to go “off the grid” -- and also in products to help pass the time during social distancing.

At Lehman’s in Kidron, the warehouse is running about a week behind as orders pour in for oil lamps, wood stoves, and other items that allow people to live self-sufficiently. VP of Marketing Glenda Lehman Ervin says they’re also seeing more demand for gardening supplies from people who may not have a lot of land but want to grow more of their own food.

She says homesteaders have often been considered a “fringe group” – but they’ve actually been warning of a pandemic for years. When it comes to their take on food, she describes the lifestyle as more than gardening, but less than full-scale farming.

“Homesteaders believe in providing for their family, on their own property. So you would have chickens for eggs; perhaps you’d have a goat or a cow for milk. They tend to bake from scratch. They tend to preserve their own food. And the whole basis of self-sufficiency is not relying on somebody else -- for your power, for your water, for your food – but doing it yourself.”

She says at the other extreme, they’re seeing a big demand for “comfort” items.

“People are bored and they’re tired of watching the news and they’re with their families.”

She says people need an escape, which is evident when she compares last spring’s sales to this spring’s.

“We have a popular puzzle called ‘Things I Ate As a Kid.’ In 2019, we sold 3; in 2020, we sold 786.”

Ervin says many families are also looking for books and toys which can be enjoyed together, and also that will keep kids off their devices.

Kabir Bhatia joined WKSU as a Reporter/Producer and weekend host in 2010. While a Kent State student, Bhatia served as a WKSU student assistant, working in the newsroom and for production.