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Yogurt making, backyard chicken rearing, weaving part of homesteading workshop series

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County realized last fall that the homemade food movement had hit a louder note in Western New York when more than 30 people crowed about classes they took to raise backyard chickens, mostly for eggs but also for meat.

“People have been asking since, ‘What other classes are going to be offered?,’” said Amanda Henning, 31, Extension agriculture and food systems educator.

The buzz gave rise to a series of homesteading classes that will start March 31 with a class Henning and Jen Regan, an Extension community educator, will teach on yogurt and butter making. Henning – who with her husband, Scott, bought a 26-acre farm in Burt last year and plan to grow and sell strawberries there – also will teach workshops on raising chickens, making fruit jam and crafting homemade soap. “People are really interested not only about what they’re going to be eating,” she said, “but what goes into their body products. That’s why we have a couple of classes focused on that.” See below for a complete list of classes open to residents in and outside Niagara County.

Q. How easy is it to make yogurt and butter at home?

Amanda Henning

Amanda Henning

Making yogurt is a little bit easier. It takes about 15 minutes of hands-on time. It takes two ingredients to put it together and you don’t have to go out and buy a yogurt-making machine. All you need is a mason jar and a cooler. It’s healthier because you’re controlling the two ingredients: milk and yogurt. You’re going to have to buy a half-cup of yogurt. A little container will do. You need the active, good bacteria in there to add to the milk. You’re going to cook it and let it set. After that, you can use the yogurt that you made as a starter. Butter is a little bit harder. We’re going to be putting heavy cream into a container and shaking it to show people that it does take a long time, but we’ll show them other ways to make it at home. Butter is not something you want to eat a lot of, even if you make it yourself, but people will be able to taste the difference. Then you can have buttermilk left over to do other things with. If you’re buying the milk from a local farm or you know what’s going into it. It can be healthier, but you’re starting with heavy cream. Butter is fat from the the milk.

Q. Can you make healthier and cheaper yogurt at home than you can get in the store?

I like to use 2 percent milk but you can do it with other kinds. We’ve tried to price it out a bit, and obviously it can vary on whether you’re buying organic milk or not. Using a gallon of conventional milk, it will cost about 75 cents to $1 to make a quart, versus already made yogurt in a store that is going to cost you $2 to $3. If you eat a lot of yogurt, that can be a huge savings over the course of a year. Plus you can control the ingredients. A lot of yogurt that you purchase in the store has added sugar, or artificial color, flavors or preservatives that aren’t necessarily bad for you but you probably don’t want to eat a whole lot of them, either.

Q. What other classes in the series that you’re not teaching that you plan to take?

I’m really interested in going to our sourdough class, the last class in July. The weaving class sounds interesting to me, too.


Individual classes will cost $10 to $20. The classes will start at 6:30 p.m. every other Thursday from March 31 through July 28 at the Cooperative Extension of Niagara County headquarters, 4487 Lake Ave., Town of Lockport.

Class size is limited and you must preregister for any of the classes you wish to take by calling 433-8839, Ext. 231 or emailing

Here’s the class lineup:

Introduction to Yogurt and Butter: March 31. $10

Back-to-basic recipes you can fit into your busy schedule.

Backyard Poultry: April 7. $15

Basics of chicken keeping, including choosing the right breed and incubating eggs at home. Instructional materials included.

Wonderful Weaving: April 21. $20

Learn to weave a reed basket. Materials included in the price.

The Art of Herbology: May 5. $20

Create an herbal salve that can relax you and you can take home. Materials included.

Organic Gardening Basics: May 19. $10

Learn how to plan, plant and care for a garden that will provide fresh, healthy food for your family.

Fruit Jam: June 2. $10

Learn the proper equipment to use for home canning as well how to prepare fruit jam. Instructional materials included.

Tree and Shrub Pruning: June 16. $10

Composting: June 30. $10

Keep food, garden and lawn waste out of landfills and learn how to use the end results to improve the soil in your garden or flower beds.

Homemade Soap: July 14. $15

Make a batch of milk-based soap that you will take home with you. Supplies included.

Sourdough bread: July 28. $10

Black Cat Bakery will teach you how to get started. Supplies included.


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon

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