Hank and I got back yesterday from Monticello’s 6th annual Heritage Harvest Festival, held Saturday near Charlottesville, Va. We attend a lot of festivals, and they never get old—they just keep getting better and better with more people participating and engaging the world of sustainable farming/gardening/living.
Friday night Hank spoke with Alexis Ziegler from the Living Energy Farm on “Sustainable Fossil Fuel Free Farmsteading” in the beautiful Woodland Pavilion to a full room. What struck me is how many people, young and old, who are interested, asking really intelligent questions, and wanting to implement ways to reduce energy consumption and employ animals to help them do it.
Later that night, we had the distinct pleasure of listening to Joel Salatin speak, who gave an all-new talk that really got our juices flowing. He contrasted Thomas Jefferson’s failures in farming to present-day farming and all the wonderful things we have at our disposal that they didn’t have back in the 1700s and 1800s—like compost and plastic water pipes. His take-home point was this: Whatever is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly first. His hilarious analogy was the image of an infant child struggling to take its first step—teetering on the edge of a table trying to pull itself up with all the grandparents and parents around cheering the baby on and cooing and applauding the effort after the baby crashed back down on the ground on its diaper. He said that if we were to yell at the baby and say “If that’s the best you can do, you better just quit walking now!” that would be ridiculous. Farming, like learning to walk, is a process that must be learned through trials and error. We can’t quit if one thing doesn’t succeed—the quest for better ways and more innovative solutions should always be embraced in our daily lives. That made me feel much better about my utter gardening failures in Kansas and gave me the fuel to keep at it and not throw in the towel. Same goes for organizing the barn.
Saturday, the festival’s main event, was a melting pot of activity from demonstrations on 18th century crafts and skills, to heirloom food tastings (melons, peppers, tomatoes), lectures from experts, chef demonstrations, and the most exciting vendors from across the country. Ogden Publications, who was the event’s presenting sponsor, had folks there representing the magazines and selling subscriptions. GRIT was flying off the table, as was Mother Earth News, thanks to the affable Heidi Hunt and Brandy Ernzen.
With the beautiful grounds of Monticello enveloping the event held on the West Lawn in front of Jefferson’s famed residence, a clear-blue sky overhead, and a crisp fall breeze in the air, it felt as though there was no better way to spend a September Saturday. Check out monticello.org for more info about this event, or better yet, plan to attend the Mother Earth News Fair this coming weekend in Seven Springs, Pa., for a similar vibe—Joel Salatin will be speaking, along with Temple Grandin!