Chatting with James Duft, Mother Earth News Fair Planner and Programming Manager

Reader Contribution by Staff
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We sat down with James Duft, the ever-busy MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair Planner and Programming Manager. All the incredible speakers, awesome workshops, hands-on and how-to that gets scheduled for the fairs are brought to you, in part, via the hard work and coordination of our Fair Planner. Between planning farm tours, bread-baking workshops and sheep dog training expositions, we managed to ask James for some inside info about this year’s three upcoming MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fairs.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS: How many fairs will be held this year? Where will they be?

Thanks to the success of the first MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair, which drew about 10,000 people to the Seven Springs Mountain Resort outside Pittsburgh, Penn., we will be hosting three Fairs in 2011. The first is at Puyallup Fairgrounds in Puyallup, Wash., just south of Seattle, on June 4 and 5. The second is in San Rafael, Cal., at the Marin County Fairground on September 3 through 5. The third will be on September 24 and 25 — our second annual Seven Springs event.

MEN: What will be new and exciting at the Fair in Puyallup? Any changes since the first?

Although we began to work toward it on the first Fair, our experiences with that Fair showed us the value in truly involving the local community that surrounds a Fair’s location. Rather than predetermining what programming content we’ll feature at this Fair, we are working with local community groups in a wide variety of fields. From regional heritage livestock to local green building practices, we are involving local schools, farmers, sustainability groups, government agencies and community organizations, and letting them tell us what the important local issues are and what people in their region want to learn about.

We’re backing up that information via online surveys, the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair website and social media, and with target-specific ads in the magazine. We’re inviting all the MOTHER EARTH NEWS audience members in the entire area to get involved — by submitting questions via Facebook or volunteering on the day of, and anything in between. We hope to create truly engaging programming that helps improve people’s ability to live self-sufficient lifestyles. 

MEN: Can kids come to the fair? 

Children are absolutely welcome and encouraged to attend, as are readers, fans and simple-living enthusiasts of any age. The children’s tent will include family-friendly programming all day, including ice cream making with Organic Valley and bug identification with Ann Larkin Hansen. Children will also enjoy sheepdog herding demonstrations, horses, goat and other livestock, and much more. The pigs in the photo were one cute, cuddly animal attraction at last year’s Fair.

MEN: Can you give us a general outline of the weekend’s schedule for the Puyallup Fair?

In Washington, we’ll be open on Saturday, June 4 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Sunday, June 5, the Fair is open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.. On both days, we’ll have approximately 160 presentations, each of which will last about 45 minutes. Presentations will break for keynote speakers, such as Joel Salatin and Dan Chiras.

Some  presentations will be repeated, to enable more guests to see the programs they are most interested in. (One of our greatest complaints from the first Fair was that there was too much wonderful programming for people to get to everything they wanted to see.) Some of the presentations include “Bioshelter Design and Management,” “Making Cheese at Home” and “Seed Basics: What is F1, OP, PVP?”

The Fair’s complete schedule will be released at the end of March for Washington. Along with the many daily presentations, guests can enjoy natural building demos, an antique tractor retrospective, draft horses, sheep dog demos and many more exciting events.

MEN: What are some highlights and speakers that are unique to this event?

Our Fair is truly focused on community. The extraordinary amount of expertise, wisdom, community and kindness in Washington State and throughout the entire Northwest region is enabling us to showcase a broad range of self-sufficiency skills — not to mention have tons of fun — at our second Fair. The same has been true in our planning for all three upcoming events.  

One speaker I’m especially pumped about is Mark A. Kastel. He’ll be talking about “Protecting What We Have Built — The Agribusiness Takeover of the Good Food Movement.”

We’ll also be getting out and touring in the area. We are currently working on putting together a farm tour with the local Tilth groups for the Friday before the event begins.

MEN: Will attendees get a chance to interact with the editors and staff of MOTHER EARTH NEWS?

Yes, several of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff members will attend the Fair, among them publisher Bryan Welch, who will deliver a keynote speech; editor in chief Cheryl Long, and managing editor John Rockhold will also be giving presentations.

MEN: Where’s the best place for our reader to find out more about the fair and to buy tickets to attend?

Our MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair site has information about speakers, scheduling, and a place to buy tickets for this year’s events. Plus, keep checking back to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair blog for updates and to check out videos from last year’s Fair in Seven Springs.