After receiving a cancer diagnosis, a couple from a city in Southern California gained a new perspective on life and began to question their lifestyle. They then made the huge decision to move to the mountains of North Carolina for a more intentional life. Six years on, they are growing their own food, homeschooling their daughter, and living their dream life.
Jason and Lorraine Contreras, and their daughter, Penelope, currently have a 14-acre homestead in western North Carolina. They have learned to grow the majority of their own food, raise their own meat, improve the land and soil they live on, and thrive without electronic distractions.
Transition to Homesteading Lifestyle
“Twelve years ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Jason told The Epoch Times. “After chemotherapy, losing my hair, and a whole year of feeling completely sick from all the treatments, my wife and I began to question everything, from the food we brought into our home and put into our bodies to the products we used on our skin.”
During this time, Lorraine, who worked in the fashion industry, loved the idea of climbing the corporate ladder and was driven by ambition.
“I loved clothes and they defined me,” she said.
However, after Jason’s cancer diagnosis and visiting doctors for various appointments, she realized a few things. She found she wanted to be with Jason at every appointment as well as when he was home sleeping off nausea from chemotherapy. She also wanted to cook him the most nourishing meals, yet had no idea where to begin. She also thought of having children after all, but questioned whether it was too late.
“I looked at our life and we were so far from that,” she said.
She felt as helpless as Jason in the face of his cancer diagnosis, so the couple took back control where they could—in their choices of what to eat, how to work, where to live, and how to spend their leisure time.
They first made a small garden, tuned out the noise of the city by getting rid of their TV, started cooking meals from scratch, and daydreamed of leaving the California city life behind to own a bigger piece of land. One day, Jason quit his office job of 16 years, and the couple started to make their dream a reality.
“No more days spent sitting under artificial lights and hunched over a computer,” he reflected; “I was free to dig my hands in the soil and get dirty!
“Slowly but surely, we made the transition into this homesteading lifestyle.”
In 2016, the couple sold the majority of their belongings and left California when Penelope was just 4 years old. In North Carolina, they had no friends or family nearby. Unaware of whether it would all work out, their only plan was to “figure it out.”
According to Jason, their only goal at that time was, “to grow food, build a homestead together as a family, and to never go back to an office job.”
They initially started out on a 1.5-acre plot. Jason created a YouTube channel, SowTheLand, to chronicle the family’s journey as novice homesteaders.
A 14-Acre Plot
After almost six years at their first homestead, and many lessons learned, the family had the skills and confidence to graduate to a much larger plot. They now have a 14-acre plot and share the land with two steers, a pair of breeding kunekune pigs, meat chickens, egg-laying chickens, two geese, and eight turkeys.
“We found an amazing fixer-upper horse property,” said Jason. “The pastures have been over-grazed and soil is beaten down over the years from too many horses; some run-down barns need a lot of attention.
“We grow most of our own food. We would love to get to a point where we grow almost all of it. We have a small community of like-minded farmers around us where we can barter for things that we cannot produce on our own.
“Our goal is to have a fruit orchard; we have started one, but we need to build a fence to keep the deer out and continue planting.”
In the new homestead, the family have also gained access to a creek and a private well, and masses of space to expand their gardens and animal husbandry. They plan on turning the old stables into a barn for hosting educational workshops, to teach others how to plant and harvest farm-to-table food, and raise and butcher animals.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have this old farm,” said Jason, “and we are already hard at work, rolling up our sleeves, turning it into a working homestead and, day by day, healing the soil.
“I guess that’s why we chose the name ‘Sow The Land; we are restoring the land, making it better than we found it, and growing the healthiest food from it.”
Jason, who has been in remission since completing six months of chemotherapy is tasked with continual building, gardening projects, animal husbandry, troubleshooting on the homestead, and creating social media content for SowTheLand, including filming and editing their videos for the channel.
He said that he feels more active and is in better shape today than ever before.
Another major change that came with homesteading was the decision to homeschool Penelope. Luckily, Jason and Lorraine have the support of their local community, which comprises other homesteading families and homeschooled children.
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