National Heirloom Exposition

Every imaginable kind of squash, pumpkin and melon.
Mountains of squash and pumpkins in the demonstration hall.
The last time I felt like I was in a large group of like-minded gardeners was at the Terra Madre Slow Foods Conference in Turin, Italy, back in 2005. That is, until the National Heirloom Exposition this past week. The event brought together seed companies, chefs, foodies, serious gardeners, old hippies, new hippies, WWOOFers and anyone interested in locally grown, organic and sustainable foods. Baker Creek Seed, in Mansfield, MO combined efforts with several local and national organizations to put this conference together. Whole Foods, Inc., Seed Savers, Southern Seed Exchange, several organic farming and organic certification organizations. What I kept hearing as people walked around was, "Everyone here gets it! We're all here for the same reasons!"

There was tomato tastings, rare fruit displays, contests, workshops and demonstrations.

Giant pumpkins were on hand for judging. In fact, I can safely say that between the giant pumpkins, the enormous mountains of pumpkins and squash in the display hall, and the children's pumpkin mazes outdoors, there were literally tons and tons of pumpkins at the Expo!
If you can't read it, it says 1051 pounds!
Each of the 3 days had 3 tracts of speakers every hour from 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. I was nervous about being the first speaker on the very first day, 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. I expected maybe 20 people to show up, considering people were still finding their way around. I'm honored to report, the room was filled, standing room only! The estimate was 250 people, and oddly enough, many were fans of mine from magazine writing, some even said they had all of my books! But, there were about 70 outstanding speakers in all, with enthusiastic audiences and great exchanges of information.
This chef was demonstrating the Thai art of vegetable and fruit carving.
Click on this photo and look at the incredible carved melons.
Besides buildings filled with heirloom vegetables and fruit, other buildings held rare heirloom breeds of sheep, chickens, cattle and goats. You may recall I'm a big fan of State Fairs. This Expo was bigger and better than our own Missouri State Fair (if you remove the Midway-carnival part). The produce displays and the demonstrations were both way better than any State Fair I have attended anywhere!
There were dozens of kinds of heirloom and rare varieties of corn. Enlarge the photo to see 'Bloody Butcher' the red corn on the right, to see how beautiful it is.
This fellow made this bread and pizza oven the first day and it was ready to fire on the third day.
There were ongoing demonstrations every hour. The fellow above made this oven the first day of the Expo, out of a mixture of ground corncobs, concrete and straw. He put the finish on it on the second day and by day three, it was ready for a fire inside to cook a pizza. Demonstrations on soapmaking, weaving, seed saving, and many, many more happened on the hour.
There were lots of activities for kids and the oven guy helped kids of all ages mix the concrete mix and make tiny ovens.
There were 3 pumpkin mazes for kids, and lots of activities for kids.
There was bluegrass and local music going on all day, outside and inside, too. A wide variety of food vendors served really good foods. Mushroom-stuffed crepes, pulled pork, grilled local beef burgers, veggie sandwiches, grilled heirloom tomatoes with local cheese, organic ice cream, the list is much longer but that's all I can remember. Fair goers ate well!
Produce vendors sold local vegetables and fruits, too.
The setting for the Expo was beautiful and surrounded by trees and picnic tables for relaxing and eating meals.
These mushroom kits grow on used coffee grounds!
Inside the vendor building where we were, there was a wide variety of really interesting products. The folks, above, sell a mushroom kit that's so simple to use, we had to have one. The box is filled with ground coffee grounds and mushroom spawn. You simply mist one side of the box with water and the mushrooms grow out the side of the box. When you're done harvesting, begin misting the other side of the box for a second crop of mushrooms!
I was fascinated by the Hudson Valley Seed Co. packets. Every year they hold an art contest and the winners have their artwork on the seed packet that year. They're collectible and inexpensive. What a good idea!
This is the artist who created the paintings for the Heirloom Gardener 2012 calendar.
I liked this vegetable lady, all assembled out of colorful veggies.
It was a successful and interesting trip to Santa Rosa. I'm hoping the group that organized this will do it again next year. I'm just guessing, but I think there must have been about 24,000 people spread over the 3 days. Sure, standing on concrete at our booth with Herbal Nail Soak and my books for 12 hours a day, then driving an hour to get to bed, left me worn to a frazzle. But it was an exceptional event that brought together a lot of people who are interested in the enormous whole foods, organic and local foods movement. There were displays, speakers and vendors from all across the United States, this definitely was not a local event! And it also brought together lots of our Garden Writing Assoc. friends (Felder Rushing, Brent Heath, Kelly Norris and several more). This was my last speaking gig for the year, and a good way to end the speaking tours. I've been on the road between 1 and 3 weeks out of every month for out of state speaking since March and I'm ready to get to be home for awhile.


Doreen Howard said...

Thanks for sharing. I need to go to the expo next year for sure! See you Oct. 17.
Doreen Howard

Kathy said...

This was a great blog about the event. Very good choice of photos to capture the spirit.

Jean Demeter said...

Hey Jim,
Enjoyed meeting you at the "conference" and particularly the panel you were part of.

You've done a great job "covering" the event. I have to say, it was an inspiring and energizing 3 days and beautifully managed as well.

It was a pleasure to be there.

Peace- Jean