Reader Contribution by Rd Copeland
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The first (annual?) MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Texas was an informative, timely, and wildly successful event. At least from my perspective the fair was good for two consecutive banner days. An estimated 30,000 people attended the weekend event in central Texas, coming to Belton from the Rio Grande Valley, Amarillo and Dallas, Austin, Houston and all points in between. Arkansans, New Mexicans, Louisianans and yes, even Oklahomans found their way to central Texas to witness the “Living Wisely” magazine come to life.

The DIY Showcase which myself and Charlie and Laura Blaylock staffed both days was overrun with curious and excited people seeking information to assist them in their quests to go organic, off-grid, and live a self-sufficient life. We demonstrated our Do-It-Yourself gadgets to a massive number of attendees, including a homemade wind generator, an aquaponics system with live plants and fish, a raised bed row cover heated with Christmas lights brought in by Jim and Julie Christie, a portable solar water heater, and a rain catchment/auto watering system for chickens, complete with two live hens.

Did you know that kids love chickens? I can vouch for maybe 20,000 of them who loved the hens I brought for the demo. Little buggers can’t resist a friendly, free-range chicken. Who can?

The MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff working the fair had it buttoned down tight. A thousand miles from home in an unfamiliar location at a venue they’d never seen before and the fair ran smooth as silk. The Bell County Expo staff was equally prepared and professional. Every vendor I spoke with swore they’d be back next year if the fair has a second run, which will most likely happen. Fairgoers moved about the exhibit halls in droves, perusing and often purchasing the hundreds of goods and services offered.

In the brief time I spent shopping I managed to find a huge jug of local honey from Kelley Honey Farms, Chef Flaco’s Salsa, several books in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Bookstore, a couple of T-shirts and bumper stickers from Northern Sun Merchandising, and vegetable seeds from Brim Seed Company and Jung Seeds. Everyone in attendance seemed to enjoy the festive, cooperative and friendly vendors, speakers and staff associated with the event.

Have you ever seen a pet guinea? No? Well you need to get out more. Claude Frazier of Heritage Farm has been raising guineas for 30 years and only twice have any of the thousands and thousands of his birds turned into a pet. Pearl, a gorgeous guinea aptly named, bounced out of the carrier and onto Claude’s arm like a parakeet. A young girl came up to pet the bird and it jumped onto her arm too. A friendly Guinea. That’s the Texas I love.

Out front of the Bell County Expo’s main entrance was a circus of varied devices and attractions. A pickup truck running on wood-fired fuel. Cowboy Solar’s bright and powerful wind generator. A BBQ food truck with a line of hungry folks a mile long (ATTENTION: FOOD TRUCKS near and far! Don’t lose your spot next year by waiting to sign up. Texans are hangry!). Kombucha in all the flavors.

There were so many exciting things to see a high school football game could have broken out and no one would notice. I even got a free lunch! Actually it was a brunch I was late getting to but the good folks from Purina managed to save me a plate until noon. Purina was on hand to roll out their new organic and non-GMO chicken feed at the fair. They offered a pretty good deal in exchange for writing up a couple of blogs about their hen scratch, layer pellets and chick starter. They gave me a handful of free coupons for feed for my flock and asked for my honest opinion of their new, organic feeds. I like it already on principle, hopefully later on due to positive results.

My chickens are all pasture raised, however, this time of year, their food source is limited, so it was a timely gesture from the long-lived feed suppler. Organic, natural grasses, and non-GMO livestock feed sources are the future of food production. You get out of it what you put into it. Give your chickens safe, nutritious feed and they give you safe, nutritious eggs and meat. It ain’t rocket surgery, folks. My presentation on the Grit Stage was an eye-opener to just how many people want to get back to the land, live independently, eat nutritious food and get away from corporate and government malfeasance.

The old school ways of Do-It-Yourself, grow your own, and energy efficiency are back by popular demand. A standing-room-only crowd of well over 300 was waiting for me Sunday morning, so hopefully my topic, “DIY: A Gateway to Off-Grid, Sustainable Living,” helped many of them understand that living a more self-reliant lifestyle isn’t as hard as they may have previously imagined. They had a lot of questions, requests for more information, they signed up for my blog, and bought the “Grit Guide to Homestead DIY Projects” special issue where my homemade wind generator building instructions were published. (NOTE: This summer, the DIY rain catchment/chicken watering system will appear in the Grit magazine regular issue, for any of you who want to build one for your chickens.)

I’m really no expert on one specific topic, however, there are plenty of expert speakers at every MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. Rosemary Gladstar, Dan Chiras, Joel Salatin, Jessi Bloom, Howard Garrett, the Plowshare Institute folks, all of the stage presenters had a wealth of information and experience to share and most events were SRO!

The massive number of people interested in living wisely renewed my hope for Texans to shed the old, feast or famine, oil and gas, big corporation rules mentality. The Lone Star State is so much more than that. I’m convinced sustainable family farms will once again cover the Lone Star State, bringing back our bustling Ag economy and thousands of miles of fertile lands. We just need more sustainable living events and informed folks like the fair provided to help spread the word.

If you couldn’t make the trek to Texas for this year’s fair, try to attend next year’s, or go to one in another location. There are several already on the docket for 2016: Asheville, NC – April 9-10 Albany, OR – June 4-5 West Bend, WI – July 9-10 Seven Springs, PA – September 23-25 Topeka, KS – October 22-23. (Check out the FAIRs website for details.)

Thanks to everyone who made it possible for me to get to where I am today including my family (my Mother, I owe you everything, and sister Cynthia and Virginia who came all the way from Santa Fe, NM, to support me), my friends, farm helpers and volunteers, mentors and inspiring people who care about the planet, their neighbors, the food we eat and the world we leave behind for the next generation.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is your go-to source for all things sustainable, off-grid, DIY, organic growing and farming, cooking and much, much more. Subscribe to the magazine. Go to the fair. Become part of the solution, a part of the future, and you’ll never look back. Y’all come back (to the land) now, ya hear?! Next time bring Mom’nem.

RD Copeland lives in north Texas on his organic, all-natural farm and weekend retreat, The Sunflower. For more information, follow his blog on the Sunflower website Read all of RD’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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