Mother Earth News Fair Highlights, Part 2

Reader Contribution by Carole Coates
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There are four more Mother Earth News Fairs coming up this year: Frederick, MD (June 2-3), Albany, OR (Aug. 4-5), Seven Springs, PA (Sept. 14-16), and Topeka, KS (Oct. 13-14). Potential fair-goers will have a challenge deciding between workshops. I certainly did when I attended the Asheville event in April.

With over 100 workshops to choose from and only nine workshop slots over the course of the two-day Mother Earth News Fair, a sustainable living devotee can get frustrated. When I printed out a copy of the schedule and began highlighting the workshops I wanted to attend, I saw that I needed to clone myself. My biggest conundrum was whether to attend new-to-me workshops or revisit some of my favorite speakers and topics. As usual, I did a little of both.

The Old

After seeing Niki Jabbour extol the virtues of year-round vegetable gardening several years ago, I’ve kept my fingers crossed every year that I’d see her name on the agenda again. My wish came true this year, so you can bet I attended both her workshops. I wasn’t disappointed. Niki always inspires me to try new vegetables in the garden. Chickpeas are next on my list. 

Niki Jabbour shares her favorite varieties of vegetables, many of them unusual and intriguing. Photo by Carole Coates

Likewise, I was delighted to listen again to Shawna Coronado (secret gardening hacks—lots of tips on being good to your back in the garden), Jessi Bloom (using permaculture techniques to increase garden resiliency—she makes it understandable and doable), and Alan Muskat (wild food for free—what could be better). There’s always something new to be learned and it never hurts to be reminded of something you learned before and maybe lost sight of in the day to day. 

Jessi Bloom offers practical and easy-to-employ tips on incorporating permaculture techniques to improve garden productivity.  Photo by Carole Coates

Even though I’d heard her before, I learned new gardening hacks this time around from the ever-effervescent Shawna Coronado. Photo by Carole Coates

The New

Clauda Lucero did a fascinating demonstration on making non-dairy cheeses, preparing two right before our eyes and then letting us sample her product. Yum! She generously shared a copy of the basic recipe and gave the audience a number of tips on variations. I can’t wait to try my hand at non-dairy cheese making at home. 

After attending Claudia Lucero’s non-dairy cheese-making workshop, I couldn’t wait to get home and practice myself. Yum! Photo by Carole Coates

I was a little iffy about attending John Wood’s workshop on growing potatoes and sweet potatoes. They’re pretty straightforward crops, after all. What’s to learn? Plenty, as it turns out. Wood’s sharp, energetic, quick-witted presentation was the perfect way to end the weekend. And I’m eager to put these two practices to work: planting potatoes above ground and sweet potato slips in mounds. If I have anywhere near the luck growing these crops as he does, I’ll have enough of both crops to eat throughout the winter and still have plenty to give away to all my family and neighbors. 

I hadn’t planned to grow either potatoes or sweet potatoes this year, but after John Wood’s inspirational talk, I decided add both to this year’s garden. Can’t wait for the results! Photo by Carole Coates

Because of a conflict, I was only able to take in the last part of Lisa Zieglar’s talk on the benefits of growing flowers in the vegetable garden. I won’t let that happen again. She was so engaging, informative, and downright personable that she’ll be tops on my workshop list next time. She had the audience in her thrall. 

But Wait—There’s More!

This year’s fairs feature two relatively new workshop events. Hands-on workshops for an add-on fee of $15.00 each give participants a smaller venue, hands-on experience under the watchful eye of an expert, and a finished product to take home.

What I’ll call “Lunch and Learn” are half-hour mini-workshops during the much-needed lunch break. Most of them are very informal question and answer sessions which give participants a chance to ask burning questions that weren’t addressed in the more formal sessions. Ask a Gardener, chickens, homesteading legal issues, and renewable energy are a few examples of these sessions at this year’s Asheville fair. I checked out a couple of them and was thrilled to see the enthusiastic give and take.

Good luck to future fair attendees as you figure out which workshops you want to attend. There are so many choices, you’ll need it!

Carole Coatesis a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts by following this link.You can also find Carole atLiving On the Diagonalwhere she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

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