The Mother Earth News Fair Returns to Pennsylvania

October 1, 2014

The 2014 Mother Earth News Fair that took place in Seven Springs, PA a couple weekends ago was a great event and I walked away with many new ideas and techniques to try out in the garden and to share with you here on the Veggie Gardening Tips website!

Normally the downside of a fall gardening event is that you’re inspired to grow and enthused about gardening at precisely the time that nature is telling you that it’s time to shut things down for the winter. This Mother Earth News Fair was different because I walked away with so many things that I am excited about and can apply right now, in spite of the falling temperatures out in the garden.

Mushrooms; from Edibles to Medicinal and More

Smugtown MushroomsThe biggest highlight of the conference for me was how much I learned about mushrooms… from new cultivation techniques, to some great sources for fungi supplies, and unique strains of mushroom spawn that I picked up during the fair. I attended a couple of awesome presentations by Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain and picked up a couple of indoor mushroom kits from Smugtown Mushrooms, one Blue Oyster species and a Reishi strain that are both happily fruiting already.

In addition to the info on cultivating fungi there was also a focus on the edible and medicinal aspects of mushrooms with workshops held that provided new insights on ways to utilize fungi in the kitchen as well as in the medicine cabinet. I purchased some mushroom extracts, and more importantly learned some simple techniques to make my own medicinal mushroom-based products to take advantage of the healthful properties of fungi. Expect to see a more in-depth post about mushrooms here in the near future.

Fermented Food Workshops and Products

Another topic that I relished during the workshops and while visiting the market vendors on hand at the fair was that of fermentation. There was a “Lacto-Fermentation” presentation by Michael Fermentation WorkshopSchwartz, John Moody gave a talk on “The Beauty of Traditional Brew: Kombucha, Jun and other traditional fermented drinks,” Linda Conroy discussed “Herbs and Fermentation for Digestive Health,” and a kid’s workshop entitled “Fermentation! It’s Freaky Fun” was presented by Hannah Kincaid and Jennifer Kongs.

I was able to sample some delicious fermented vegetables made by Jennifer of Fab Ferments, my favorites were her Kim Chi and the fermented cabbage and seaweed mix, which will be the next thing that I try fermenting in my own kitchen. A friendly face that I thought I recognized turned out to be Lori Stahl, a fellow beekeeper and member of the Backyard Fruit Growers Group. She was selling her honey products and promoting a new book; “Making Your Own Wine at Home: Creative Recipes for Making Grape, Fruit, and Herb Wines.”

Taking Care of Honeybees and Other Pollinators

Beehive ProductsAlso featured during the Mother Earth News Fair was lots of information on the care of honeybees along with techniques for attracting beneficial pollinating insects. Wayne Robins spoke on “The Importance of Pollinators,” Judy Thaler held children’s workshops on “Butterflies,” and Lisa Ziegler gave a presentation on “Restoring Pollinators.”

For the beekeepers attending the fair there were workshops held for beginners such as “So You Want to Be a Beekeeper,” and more advanced sessions by Kim Flottum on “Let Your Honeybees Pay Their Way,” and another by Shane Gebauer about “Is Your Hive Ready for Winter.” Then there were plenty of vendors offering products of the hive, and Bee Supply Companies such as Mann Lake and Brushy Mountain on hand offering beekeeping equipment and providing regional reps to answer questions about beekeeping.

Seeds, Seed Saving, and Seed Starting

Of course my interest in seeds led me to the seed saving and seed starting workshops, not to mention the stands that were set up by Botanical InterestsPetra of Fruition Seeds and Johnny’s Seeds. Every time I walked past Botanical Interests display they handed me a couple packets of seeds and then later during the fair I did stop inside their tent and took advantage of their special fair offering of any seed packet for only one dollar apiece!

It was great to see and spend time with my friends Matthew Goldfarb and Petra Page-Mann of Fruition Seeds who I first met at Native Seed SEARCH’s Seed School last winter. I sat in on Petra’s engaging presentation titled “Advanced Seed Saving and Vegetable Breeding for the Home Gardener and Farmer” and learned about some of the new seed varieties that they have created. Unfortunately I missed Lisa Ziegler’s workshop on “Easy Seed Starting,” but I did have an opportunity to talk with her and plan to write more about her system for starting vegetable, flower, and herb seeds here soon.

More Highlights from the 2014 Mother Earth News Fair

John MoodyOther highlights of the fair for me included a two part workshop by John Moody; “Six Inches of Soil in Six Months and 600,000 Bugs” that outlined his success in building soil and attracting an army of beneficial insects onto a barren landscape. I spoke with Niki Jabbour who was a presenter at the fair and has a new book out; “Groundbreaking Food Gardens,” which just happens to include a bee-friendly edible garden design based on my own landscape which is a haven for honeybees, vegetables, native plants, and beneficial insects.

I don’t have chickens but was fascinated by Victoria Redhed Miller’s presentation; “Poultry Unplugged: Free- Ranging Poultry off the Grid or Anywhere Else. “Off-Grid” seemed to be a common theme and I was impressed with the many speakers and fair attendees who are living, gardening, mushrooming, and raising livestock independent of the power grid that most of us rely on.

To sum the weekend up this was a great event and if you ever have an opportunity to attend a Mother Earth News Fair I recommend that you take Mother Earth News Stageadvantage of it. Thanks to Brandy and everyone at Mother Earth News for the press pass and all of the usual hospitality that they provided. I’m already looking forward to the fair returning to Seven Springs, PA next year. If that’s too far for you to travel don’t despair because they are adding new fairs to a list of locations for 2015 that has grown to include; Asheville, North Carolina, Albany, Oregon, West Bend, Wisconsin, Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, and Topeka, Kansas.

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