9/17/2012

National Heirloom Exposition Santa Rosa

Great sculpture of Green Man, the ancient gardener image.
Like I promised in the last blog post, I've been away at the 2nd annual National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa, California. It was even better than last year in many ways. Over 100 national and international speakers (including me) but more importantly, many of the long time movers and shakers in the organic, local foods movements. One speaker, who I didn't get to hear, was Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Foods International. He is passionate about encouraging local farmers to produce food for the local market. I'd heard him speak when I was at the first Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy in 2005.
Carlo Petrini, founder Slow Foods
Actually I didn't get to hear any of the speakers besides my own program. This year I had to do the entire festival by myself. Finding farm sitters for a week is difficult, so Josh had to stay home and tend the goats, chickens and other farm details.

Each of the 3 days of the Expo I left for Santa Rosa at 6:30 a.m., drove for an hour in backed-up traffic (think 3 car lengths for every 5 minutes). I'd restock the booth with books and Nail Fungus Soak, then would be at the booth until 9:00 p.m. and head back to American Canyon where I was staying with friends, Eddie and Greg. That's a lot of time standing on concrete! By the end of it, my throat had given out from talking to customers all day, my feet hurt and I was ready for it to be over.

Some of the folks from Baker Creek Seed gave me a break so I could walk around for about 20 minutes and take some photos. That's all I got to see of the event. Here are some views for you. It was truly amazing, with about 14,000 people attending.

View from my booth in one of the buildings.
The Expo is held at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds. If you've ever been to a State Fair somewhere, it was that big, just without the carnival.
Early in the day, plant markets on the right, more markets on the left.
The Fly by Night band.
There were 3 performance stages on the grounds, with musical groups playing continuously throughout the day. In addition, there were numerous other groups that set up spontaneously under shade trees and played for a few hours. The music was good, the variety excellent.
Lots of music on every corner.
There was an amazing amount of things for kids to do. Many area high schools and junior high kids had made displays and there were about 40 or 50 groups and exhibits of those. One day of the Expo was Kids Day and all day long school buses were driving up and unloading hundreds of kids. That was the best day because the kids were so excited and found so much to learn about.
One tiny section of the rows and rows of school garden displays.
Kids of all ages found lots of activities aimed specifically at them.
There were heirloom breed animal displays, animal petting areas for kids, even a "Dunk Monsanto Man" booth where kids (and adults) could try to knock Monsanto Man into the water. It was publicity for the Proposition 37 that California is voting on this November, which provides guidelines for food producers to list all of the ingredients on packaging, including whether ingredients include Genetically Modified Organisms.
Monsanto Man gets dunked was a popular attraction.
Kid pitching at Monsanto Man.
But the really, really big attraction was the Great Hall where all of the heirloom varieties were displayed.
One tiny corner of the Great Hall. This is just a portion of the squash displays.
Heirloom watermelon tastings were popular.
Every day there were watermelon tastings, tomato tastings, and more. Notice in the left, background of the photo above. That is a giant display of just heirloom squash varieties in a little mountain!
Lots of shady picnic areas are scattered about the grounds, each with musicians playing.
Just a few of the hundred or so heirloom tomato varieties.
There were about a dozen seed companies with booths, lots of garden tools, garden art, wooden chicken coops for sale and such a wide variety of food available in the food courts that I actually lost count. Everything from Indian, Thai, Southern Soul food, barbecue, vegan, vegetarian, organic beef, locally made ice cream, French crepes, organic shakes, and much, much more.

Overall it was a fantastic Expo. I shouldn't have done it by myself, I won't try it again, but I'm glad I was there. I wish all of you could have been there, too!

1 comment:

Yvonne Jenkin said...

The Expo sounds wonderful. If you need a booth minder next year send me a message. I would love to have an excuse to attend! I worked the SLC Farmers market for years as a CSA helper and I miss it!

Thank you for sharing.