The Pioneer Place in Wasola: Family offers up homesteading courses and homegrown goodness
Those traveling down Highway 95 in the Wasola area may have noticed Michael “Goose” and Gillian Fitzpatrick’s farm. The attractive property is accented by a hand-built cedar-trimmed farm stand featuring homegrown organic vegetables, fresh herbs and bright, colorful flowers grown on the family’s farm, along with Gillian’s homemade baked goods made with wholesome ingredients in the family’s wood-fired oven and other goodies that change with the seasons. Attractive chalkboard signs hang on the walls, describing the day’s offerings and provide pricing information, along with details on how to complete the payment, which is done on an honor system. A stocked firewood stand is also located nearby, offering neighbors the option to purchase wood throughout the year.
As attractive as the farm’s entrance is, the real treasure can be found down the dirt driveway leading to the family’s four bedroom, off-grid home overlooking Glade Top Trail.
The family calls the property “The Pioneer Place,” a nod to their mindful journey to a simpler, slower and more fulfilling life. The Fitzpatricks moved to Wasola from their former home in Maine in 2018 and since then have worked to build their vision of living simply and educating others in the process. Today The Pioneer Place offers a multitude of learning opportunities for those interested in incorporating a simpler, pioneer-inspired life and various sustainability skills.
In addition to classes that teach butchering animals, preparedness living and natural health and wellness, the Fitzpatricks have expanded the educational opportunities at The Pioneer Place to include a micro-homestead, an area that has various displays of homesteading practices where guests can attend classes, stay overnight or for a weekend and learn as they stay.
From the expensive ‘American Dream’ to a small bungalow cabin and debt-free life
Although the couple and their children are now enjoying a simpler life in Ozark County, two decades ago Goose and Gillian were living on America’s northeastern coast with a much more hectic life.
“My husband and I met during college and got married just over 20 years ago, on April 28th, 2001,” Gillian told the Times during an interview last week. “We went on to have two biological children, parented eight foster children, adopted four children internationally with special needs, and we just welcomed our first grandson to the family.”
Gillian said after their wedding, the couple quickly settled into a normal routine that centered around their careers and living a fairly traditional life.
“We were living ‘the American Dream.’ Goose was building high-end homes on the coast of Maine, and I was working for a mutual fund company based out of Boston in management,” she said. “We had a nice, large subdivision home, new vehicles, expensive clothes, rental property . . . and half a million dollars in debt.”
Gillian said the family was never late on their payments, had great credit scores and had pride in working tirelessly for the nice things they’ve accumulated. But soon after Gillian gave birth to their children, the couple found that their priorities began to change.
“We realized we were slaves to our payments . . . slaves to our jobs,” Gillian said. “Scripture tells us the borrower is slave to the lender, and we were living proof.”
In a leap of faith, Gillian quit her job with the mutual fund company and became a stay-at-home mother to their two children. The couple sold everything they possibly could and downsized their large home into a smaller bungalow-style house in Goose’s hometown in northern Maine near the Canadian border.
But after selling their home and many other items, the Fitzpatricks were still left with $66,000 in consumer debt. They decided they were done with the weight of the debt and focused intensely on getting out from underneath it. Their hard work paid off, and in 33 months the family had wiped out the $66,000 and were officially debt-free other than their mortgage.
They were free from making the many monthly payments they once had made, and the family realized their future was wide open to change however they wished.
A scripture-led change in diet and family
Around the same time the Fitzpatricks became debt-free, their biological children began having health issues. Goose and Gillian took the children to several doctors throughout Maine looking for answers but had little success.
“We began researching on our own and discovered healing diets . . . how our ancestors would have healed their families. We tried several [different diets] and found the Makers Diet, which focused on what Scripture tells us about food, and the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Diet) to be the best for overall healing,” she said.
The whole family began following the new diets, and they soon saw dramatic results.
“We saw all aspects of our health improve. Our children’s health issues were going away. We continued to work with doctors [to treat the health issues] but found the best health begins with our diets,” Gillian said.
Enjoying a happier and healthier way forward with their change in diet, the Fitzpatricks soon found another calling that dramatically changed their lifestyle.
“Scripture tells us to care for widows and orphans. So we opened our home to eight foster children. Each child that entered our family ate as we ate. Healthy organic vegetables, good-quality clean meats, healthy oils, homegrown eggs, homemade probiotics, bone broth and the like,” Gillian said.
The foster children, much like the Fitzpatricks and their biological children, thrived on the new, healthy way of eating. After all eight foster children left their home and were reunited with their biological families, the Fitzpatricks found themselves wanting to continue to offer care.
“We went on to adopt four children internationally, three children with Down syndrome and one who was non-verbal with a seizure disorder. We worked with an amazing [pediatric medical doctor] with a strong faith and a knowledge of natural approaches,” Gillian said. “She watched as our children were healed from any issues with diet. When we told her studies had shown that living off-grid would help our son with his seizure disorder, she was the first to encourage us on that road.”
Goose and Gillian felt led to follow through with their research and see how a simpler life, living off-grid, would impact their family.
In their attempt to build an off-grid life in Maine, the family had to “jump through many hoops” and go “through a lot of red tape and regulations.” But finally, in 2015, the Fitzpatricks achieved success and moved to a 7-acre off-grid homestead where they began to grow their own food and transition into the life they’d imagined.
“[We knew that] living off-grid would not only help our son but would also make us less dependent on an ever-so-fragile electric grid and economic- and food-distribution systems,” she said. “And homesteading would allow us to grow the foods we knew were key to [our family’s] health.
Their son hasn’t had a grand mal seizure since they made the change, Gillian said.
Choosing a life in Ozark County
As much as the Fitzpatricks had loved their life in Maine, they say they soon began to see many changes within the state that made them uncomfortable as residents there.
“We were both born and raised there, as were many generations of our ancestors, but it was no longer a safe place to raise a family,” Gillian said. “We looked at every state to see which one had the laws that would allow us to live in a way that was safest for our family: allowing us to build a traditional home but without the wiring and artificial lighting that are harmful to our son, allowing us to grow food and herbs year-round that will heal our family, allowing us to be as independent and self-sustaining as possible. A place where folks had a strong faith and a strong sense of community.”
The Fitzpatricks decided that their future was in the Midwest.
“Missouri was by far the best state in the country when held to our list of needs, and Ozark County was by far the best county in Missouri for our family,” Gillian said.
In 2018, three years after they’d moved onto their 7-acre property in Maine, the family packed up and prepared to move again.
“We converted a school bus, loaded our animals on a trailer, sold our home and moved our family and farm to raw land in Wasola,” Gillian said, explaining that the Ozark County property had no buildings, well, roadway or other improvements when they purchased it. “Goose, being a carpenter, built our beautiful four-bedroom home overlooking Glade Top Trail with the help of our oldest son, Mikey. I got our gardens going, and our oldest daughter, McKenna, tended the animals. The littles enjoyed being outside without the harsh winters that also impacted their health.”
The family’s Wasola farm now includes homegrown fruits, herbs, vegetables and trees, all grown according to the “Back to Eden” method, “a biblical approach to growing food using the Father’s original design,” Gillian says.
The family also keeps chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese for meat and eggs. Donkeys, who are often used to protect livestock from predators, are on the farm for animal protection and possible future transportation. Goats provide milk, and guard dogs help keep unwanted human and animal visitors away.
The family has continued to refine their vision for their future here in the Ozarks.
“Goose and Mikey are talented carpenters, but our goal is to have them only work off the farm part-time. With our home and farm established, we wanted to make a way to earn what little money we need on our land and to help our neighbors become more self-sustaining… to help them return to the old ways,” Gillian said.
The result is The Pioneer Place.
“It’s a heritage education center,” Gillian explained. “The heart of The Pioneer Place is a pioneer-style cabin that has been built sustainably from pallets, utility-grade lumber and wood from our land. It is here where we hold our classes, courses and coaching.”
Goose leads butchering courses throughout the year for various animals including chickens, goats/sheep, deer and beef. Class attendees can bring deceased animals or field-dressed deer to the farm, and Goose will walk students through the process of butchering the animal. Guests are asked to bring their own packaging materials and cooler.
“Having learned beside his father, who worked as a butcher, Goose has been processing his own animals for over 30 years,” Gillian said. “We will teach [class attendees] how to skin, butcher and make specific cuts. We will help them package and label the meat. The customer will leave with the meat packaged and labeled in their cooler.”
The courses range from $10 for chickens to $40 for deer.
Students must be age 16 and older. Private classes are available, and the Fitzpatricks say they have flexible scheduling for the courses. The courses are for personal education only, and are not meant for those seeking licensing or certification of any kind.
The Pioneer Place’s preparation class covers all aspects of modern pioneer and preparedness living, including inexpensive building techniques, living without refrigeration, Back-to-Eden gardening practices, food storage, sanitation, gray-water systems, water filtration, off-grid laundry practices, cooking over an open fire, self-defense and more.
“It’s where folks can learn the old ways. So no matter what is happening around us, we will all be able to meet our families’ basic needs,” Gillian said. “Being prepared is truly not about being ‘preppers.’ Those approaches simply aren’t realistic. It’s about remembering the ways of our great-grandparents. From how to grow and preserve food to how to handle purifying water and sanitation…from doing laundry without electricity to cooking meals over an open fire.”
Gillian says the class also covers how to easily store bulk foods and how to collect rain water.
“Folks will leave with inexpensive and realistic options to apply at home to make sure that, no matter what happens, their families will be taken care of,” she said.
The cost for the two-hour class is $10 per person. For those unable to afford the class, the Fitzpatricks also offer a free half-hour tour.
Those seeking longer, in-depth training can call about day-long or weekend-long stays and courses.
Health and wellness coaching
With years of practice in healthy eating and more natural wellness, Gillian is excited to offer holistic health and wellness coaching.
“I have a Bachelor of Science degree and a certificate in natural health and herbalism, but it’s the ways and the hands-on learning obtained from the journey the Father has had us on over the years that has been the best education,” she said. “[It’s] a returning to the ways of our great-grandmothers, how they applied biblical truths, and how they cared for and healed their families.”
Gillian says the courses will focus on healing diets, homemade probiotics, healing herbs, stress reduction, financial simplicity and other wellness topics.
“During a coaching session, we will listen to the client in all areas and encourage them on a path to health and wellness. We will meet twice a month and walk beside the client as they make the necessary changes to bring about overall wellness, simplicity and peace in all areas of their lives,” she said.
“In a world that seems to be spinning out of control, it’s time to look at the ancient paths, and walk in them, and find rest for our souls,” she said.
Roadside farm stands
For those more interested in obtaining fresh and healthy foods, the family’s roadside farm stands offer up a bounty of good eats.
“At The Pioneer Place we have three honor-system farm stands and a mini greenhouse that is open in the spring for seedlings,” Gillian said. “We have a farm stand where we sell veggies, herbs, crafts and occasionally a healthy version of a traditional fried pie. And there’s a firewood stand where folks can come load up a section of firewood from the stand and place their money in the cash box. These stands are monitored by cameras, and in over a year, we’ve only had one person choose to steal. We’re truly thankful to be around such honest folks.”
The Fitzpatricks also have a “Blessings Box” in the farm stand with free food for those in need.
“Folks can leave nonperishable items or take what they need. [It’s] food given in the name of our Messiah,” Gillian said.
Find out more
For more information about The Pioneer Place farm, classes and other offerings, call Goose and Gillian, 417-543-0877, or visit https://fitzpatrickfamilyfarm.home.blog/.
The Pioneer Place is closed Saturdays when the family observes the Sabbath.
“When we moved to Ozark County, our hope was to be a blessing to so many who have blessed and welcomed us here with such kindness. We hope to simply give back and be a positive part of this beautiful community,” Gillian said.