Meet the family that swapped city life for a rural farm

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A mum swapped city life for a rural farm and now forages food, has homegrown supplies to last six months and sells alpaca poo. Karee Upendo, 35, and her husband, Avery, 35, decided to move to a homestead when they found themselves working 12-hour days and felt they didn’t have enough time for their kids. The couple realised they were happiest when on an adventure – on a farming tour or travelling – so decided to look for an "escape" in the woods. Karee found a six-acre property, and sold their $195k seven-bedroom house in Racine, Wisconsin, US – moving 800 miles to Hampton, Georgia, US. Now the couple and their children – Alex, 16, Aven, nine, Asher, four, and Solea, nine months – forage Chanterelle mushrooms, beauty berries, and peppers on their land to make meals such as mushroom pizza and dandelion soup. They grow over 80 different edible wild plants and vegetables and barter with local farmers for their meat – swapping their excess edible wild grown food. Karee says she is at her “happiest” since leaving their busy lifestyle behind and moving to the farm. Karee, who owns the homesteading farm with Avery, said: “We’re pretty much self-sustainable. “We have three to six months of preserves. “I felt like I was losing my mind before. “I was never as happy as I am right now. "If the apocalypse happened, we could sustain ourselves off our land alone. "We've tapped our own well for water, have solar electricity and have created a permaculture food forest." The family sell their alpaca poo to gardeners and horticulturist all over the globe to make a living. Karee said: "Our alpacas bring in a large portion of our income. Their fibre and poop is a gold mind. "We sell 'magic beans' to gardeners and horticulturist worldwide. We sell s**t for a living." Karee said her late grandmother, Mae, 69, taught her about foraging from a young age. After meeting Avery, the pair started raising their family in Racine, Wisconsin, and worked long days – Karee as an educator and her husband as a handyman. Karee said: “We were working 12 hours day and so tired at the weekends. “We had everything we say you should want but we were completely unhappy.” The couple decided to “sell everything” they owned for a slower pace of life on a homestead. Karee said: “We were always trying to escape life. We wanted to make life the escape.” They moved onto their new land June 2021 – which had a cabin which needed “a lot of work”. Karee said: “There was mould throughout. “We started working on the homestead. We wanted to make the money from the homestead.” By October 2021 Karee and Avery had built two cabins on their land for guests to stay in – and now run foraging workshops. The pair also grow vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes - and even harvest the oil from beauty berry leaves to make their own mosquito repellent. They keep 180,000 bees on a one-acre bee apiary and make their own honey and keep chickens to fertilise the land and provide them with eggs. Karee said: “Growing up I didn’t see black people represented in the farming industry. “People say they have never seen a black woman beekeeper or farmer – I get that message most days.” Karee makes her meals from mostly foraged foods from her land – or local produce – and challenges herself to cook dinner from 50 per cent foraged food on a Sunday. She said: “Every Sunday we have a forage, catch or harvest challenge for the family, which means 50 per cent of the meal has to be one of those three. "It’s a food forest.” She makes mushroom pizza – from homegrown Chanterelles and peppers – and mushroom ravioli. Karee uses canning to preserve their food – and stocks of three to six months in her pantry. The family also use wildflowers for herbal medicine – and don’t use any modern medicines apart from cough drops. Karee said: “We don’t buy medication. “We eat dandelion soup.” Karee even uses pine needles and lemons to make an anti-viral for cleaning. Karee said: “We have an almost no waste farm, old food and scraps get composted for new soil or made into animal feed. "We repurpose all materials to build our animals enclosures. We’re living in a utopia. “It’s a feeling of unity. “I couldn’t have imagined this life for me and my family in my dreams.”