ROCHESTER, Minn. — Heidi Kass said sometimes she feels like she should have been born 150 years ago.

She grows dozens of varieties of vegetables and fruit, preserves them, and saves seeds for next year’s growing season.

“I love the whole process,” she said. “You put this itty-bitty seed in the ground, and it grows and it becomes food — it’s magical.”

Kass also keeps chickens and cultivates mushrooms in the north shade of her house. All this is on an average city plot of land in Rochester.

“What I’m trying to do is get rid of as much yard as I can and grow as much food as I can,” she told a group of people touring her gardens July 25.

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Her home was one of multiple stops in Rochester as part of an urban homesteading tour hosted by Backyard Bounty Urban Homesteading Meetup group that Kass coordinates. When Kass began planning her urban homestead, she found the group but saw that it had been inactive for a few years.

In addition to growing food at her home, she decided to help grow the urban homestead community, too.

The weekend event was a chance for gardeners, homesteaders and DIYers to tour other city spaces who have a bent toward self-sufficiency in a limited space.

“It’s a lost art,” Kass said.

Chickens in Heidi Kass' Rochester backyard. (John Molseed/jmolseed@postbulletin.com)
Chickens in Heidi Kass' Rochester backyard. (John Molseed/jmolseed@postbulletin.com)

Groups, limited to 10 people to promote distancing, toured the stops and learned about the homeowners’ experiences and discussed tips, techniques and obstacles for each project.

Mark Orlowski wanted to get some tips for projects in his Rochester yard.

“It’s just fantastic to see the variety and what you can do with a city property,” he said.

He also attended the tour to see the results of projects he helped Ivan Idso start in Idso’s backyard.

Idso, whose home was a stop on the tour, had installed solar panels and various energy-efficiency features inside his house. The past couple years, he turned his attention to projects on the outside of the home.

“It’s about becoming more sustainable and resilient,” he said. “It’s going to be more and more important to localize your economy, whether it’s our energy or our food.”

The Southeast Minnesota group has grown to 170 people. Idso said more people are realizing that more self-reliance can make a community or home more resilient in uncertain times. He pointed to recent disruptions in supply chains due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think some people are going back and trying to do more themselves,” he said.

“I think it’s a building movement, with people coming in from different angles,” Kass said.

Although some of the group members attend in-person events like the tour, most interact online with advice, questions or discussions about how to do things or grow things specific to this part of Minnesota.

“It’s fun to see people try new things, experiment and learn,” Kass said.

To learn more about the group, visit www.meetup.com/Backyard-Bounty-Urban-Homesteading-Meetup/.