Mother Earth News Fair
Our FAIRS bring living wisely to life with hands-on workshops in organic gardening, country skills, renewable energy and more.

Salatin Family Models Non-Industrial Farming

With the 2019 FAIR season now in the rearview mirror, we are full speed ahead on 2020 planning. That includes the first EVER on-farm FAIR experience! Advance passes for the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR at Polyface Farm will be available for purchase on the FAIR website later this month, and they will include “earlybird” discounts. Check back the week of Nov. 11.

Further down in this posting are a few images featuring some of the “points of interest” that attendees will experience at this one-of-a-kind event along with captions written by Joel Salatin. First, here is a little history on the farm:

In 1961, William and Lucille Salatin moved their young family to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, purchasing the most worn-out, eroded, abused farm in the area near Staunton. Using nature as a pattern, they and their children began the healing and innovation that now supports three generations.

Disregarding conventional wisdom, the Salatins planted trees, built huge compost piles, dug ponds, moved cows daily with portable electric fencing, and invented portable sheltering systems to produce all their animals on perennial prairie polycultures.

Today the farm arguably represents America’s premier non-industrial food production oasis. Believing that the Creator’s design is still the best pattern for the biological world, the Salatin family invites like-minded folks to join in the farm’s mission: to develop emotionally, economically, environmentally enhancing agricultural enterprises and facilitate their duplication throughout the world.


Contented salad bar beef cows lounge under a portable shade mobile at Polyface on a hot summer day. The Eggmobiles follow closely behind, enabling laying hens to scatter cow patties and eat fly larvae.  Biological sanitation duplicating nature's bird-herbivore symbiosis is a foundation to health and hygiene.  The guard goose watches for aerial predators.  Polyface models mobile and scalable infrastructure for pasture-based livestock systems throughout its production.


On-farm processing at Polyface offers environmental bio-security (chickens don’t scatter feathers all over public roads) and value-added opportunity in pastured broilers. With simple, low-cost processing infrastructure available today, highly efficient small-scale farmstead production is now possible and profitable. Benchmark throughput is 20 birds per person per hour.


Mobile boiler shelters offer pastured birds a new salad bar, new lounge area, and new bugs every morning.  Vacated squares behind the shelters quickly recuperate in newly fertilized forages. At Polyface benchmark: one person can move 4,500 broilers an hour without any more equipment than a small, customized hand dolly. To date, the farm has never lost a broiler to a hawk.  This model facilitates debt-free embryonic entry and subsequent scaling.


Pastured turkeys enjoy expansive paddocks defined and protected by electrified netting.  The “Gobbledygo” offers mobile shelter and roosts for flocks of 400 birds. Moved every couple of days, the turkeys stack an additional income to broilers, cattle, and laying hens. The multi-enterprises substantially increase income per acre and offer pathogen control through biological diversity.

2020 Mother Earth News Fair at Polyface Farm update!

Sawmill and dining pavilion.

The Mother Earth News Fair team could not be more thrilled to collaborate with the Salatin family on this one-of-a-kind adventure! The FAIR at Polyface Farm will take place July 17-18, 2020. (That’s a Friday/Saturday, by the way.)


On Tuesday, July 9, I had the opportunity to visit Polyface with my colleague and senior producer Robert Riley for a day of strategic planning along with some delicious food and kinship. The day was very productive! The team spent the morning walking the grounds, bouncing ideas around on how we would handle what we anticipate to be a substantial crowd. We connected our experience managing large events with their intimate knowledge of the land, roads, and structures around the farm. By lunch time we had an inspiring, collective vision on what this amazing event would look like.

The legendary egg washing machine.

After lunch, the discussion moved to programming. Ever since our first conversations with Joel and Daniel, we all recognized that hosting the Mother Earth News Fair on a working, living farm would present some unique opportunities to highlight some of the elements and procedures that are critical to the operation (many invented by them and now replicated at farms around the world). Sitting around the kitchen table, we talked about this opportunity to create a mix of traditional “staged” workshop areas combined with “Points of Interest” around the farm. Attendees can expect NEW workshops from both first time and returning speaker-authors as well as unique interactions with active farm operations helmed by Polyface’s legion of interns and apprentices. This is your chance to experience live chicken processing, learn about the carbon shed, view egg mobiles, and discover Polyface Farm exclusives like Rakens (rabbit/chicken hutches) and the “Millennium Feathernet”—Plus so much more!


We will be posting periodic updates about this event here on this blog. Advance registration will be open in October. If you are interested in exhibiting, shoot us an e-mail at If you have ideas about the programming for this unique event or things you would like to see, we want to know! Take a quick three-question survey, which will also register you to win a pair of passes!

Talking though the wagon/shuttle drop off location.

5 Questions for Dawn Combs

Dawn Combs

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Common sense.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

My (my husband disagrees and says "his") Ford F-150.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Gardening with my family.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

The woods just after a spring rain.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Don't borrow trouble.

Dawn Combs is an ethnobotanist with more than 20 years of experience in her field. She is the owner of the herbal health farm Mockingbird Meadows, is a contributor for Mother Earth Living, and the author of Heal Local: 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Health Care Conceiving Healthy Babies: An Herbal Guide to Support Preconception, Pregnancy, and Lactation. Books by This Speaker:Conceiving Healthy Babies. For more on Dawn check out!

5 Questions for Rosemary Gladstar

Rosemary Gladstar

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

Love and kindness (it's really one!)

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Seeds, because they multiply and grow on forever.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Being in nature. And friends and family.  Being with friends and family in nature is the best of all.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

The smell of the woodlands in the fall, or maybe even more, a garden on a summer afternoon.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

I'd have to think about this...I've received some very good advice throughout my life....

Rosemary Gladstar has been studying and teaching about herbs for more than 40 years. She is an educator, activist and entrepreneur, serving as director of the Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center, the International Herb Symposium, and the Women’s Herbal Conference. Gladstar is the founding president of United Plant Savers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of native American herbs. She was the original formulator for Traditional Medicinal Herbal teas and currently leads herbal educational adventures around the world. She is the author of many books, including Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health and Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, as well as Herbal Healing for Women. She lives in East Barre, Vermont. For more on Rosemary check out!

5 Questions for Howard Garrett

Howard Garrett

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?


What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Trees by Woods.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Traveling and learning new things.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

Almond verbena.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Read more widely.

Howard Garrett is recognized as one of the leaders in the research, education, and promotion of natural organic products and practices. Garrett was born in Pittsburg, Texas, graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1965, received a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University in 1969 and served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves from 1970 to 1977. He has extensive experience in natural organic gardening, landscape contracting, greenhouse growing, golf course planning and maintenance, and organic product development. Garrett provides state-of-the-art advice on natural organic gardening, landscaping, pet health, composting, pest control, and how to enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Books by This Speaker:The Organic Manual. For more on Howard check out!

5 Questions for Shawn and Beth Dougherty


What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

A determined and unwavering faith in the essential goodness of Creation!

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

Shawn loves his Stihl chainsaws, and Beth is a big fan of her Hoss wheelhoe.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Shawn:  Playing basketball with my kids (some of whom aren't kids anymore!)  Beth:  well, today it was blue speedwell along the path to the barn at six a.m. under a limpid sunrise.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

Fresh whole wheat bread just out of the oven, and new-grazed clover under a hot summer sun.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

"Have courage, this too shall pass . . ."  It applies to everything, from a dry spell of weather or an infestation of bean beetles to a bad case of poison ivy or a bout of discouragement.

Shawn and Beth Dougherty farm 45 acres of steep, rocky land in eastern Ohio, where they raise beef and dairy cattle, pigs, sheep, and various poultry, and run a small community dairy, Two Sisters Creamery. They write and teach on the topic of small-scale intensive grass-based farming and sustainable food production. Their farming practices develop from the conviction that truly sustainable farming is not dependent on purchased, off-farm inputs, but builds its fertility and productivity through good management of sunlight, soil, precipitation, plants, and animals. For more on Shawn and Beth check out!

5 Questions for Claudia Lucero

Claudia Lucero

What's the one thing that's a must in this world?

If I look past food, water and sleep...books! When I think of something I use everyday and that has made a huge impact on my life it's definitely books. I fell in love with a neighborhood library that I could walk to as a young kid. Books opened up my world then and they still do.

What is the best purchase you've ever made?

My home. It's not grand but it was a goal once I paid off my student loans, allows me to grow food, host people, a comfortable home office and security in an insane Portland, Oregon housing and rental market! Oh and I could finally get a dog, our Chihuahua, Lil' Mama.

What brings you the greatest joy?

Learning, creating and sharing. It's been very consistent in my life. Whether with my family growing up, in the non profit organizations where I've worked, or in my work now as a cheesemaking teacher and author. I'm happiest while making something but the key piece seems to be that I share it.

What's your favorite smell in the whole world?

The blend of charred tomatoes and peppers mingled with fresh corn masa.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

Meet people where they are.

Claudia Lucero enjoys getting new cheesemakers started with Urban Cheesecraft and her D.I.Y. Cheese Kits. She has partnered with Williams-Sonoma on custom cheesemaking kits and recently wrote the book One-Hour Cheese, which shows beginners how to make 16 fresh cheeses via step-by-step photos. The book is found where books are sold and the kits can be found on For more on Claudia check out!

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