Attending the Mother Earth News Fair was an experience like none I’ve ever had. If you love to learn about homesteading, farming, natural healthcare, healthy eating, green living, raising animals, artisan crafts, and much, much more then you need to put this on your bucket list! Visit the website and find an event near you. You’ll be so happy that you did!
Be prepared to learn, and have a game plan as to what you want to see, the lectures you want to attend and take a notepad so you can jot down information. This isn’t your typical fair…like a state fair or something similar. It’s a series of suppliers, lectures and demonstrations put on by professionals, experts, authors and passionate individuals who take their area of interest very seriously. They want to share their knowledge and experience with the public to spread awareness and learning. It can be difficult to get it all in, so a bit of planning will make your experience all that you want it to be.
My experience was particularly exciting because not only did I get to meet authors, farmers and people that I admire in the Mother Earth News community, but I also had the pleasure of meeting Taylor Miller, my editor at Ogden Publications and my fellow writers, Shannon Cole of Country Girl in the Village, and Melissa Caughey of Tilly’s Nest who also writes for Keeping Backyard Bees and our sister site Community Chickens. Melissa presented several lectures including Backyard Chickens 101 for Families; Gardening with Chickens; and Kids and Chickens. She was also available for signing with her new book A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens. I’ve had the pleasure of reading this book and recommend it to anyone interested in keeping backyard chickens. (Read my book review here!)
The Fair Begins!
I began the day enjoying a delicious Farm-to-Table breakfast in the VIP Room provided by Mother Earth News and Ogden Publications. The breakfast included a decadent blueberry French toast bake, savory shredded potatoes and a tomato and egg dish. There was also muffins, fresh fruit and an infused water of mint and lime. It was a wonderful way to start the day.
I spent most of my time at the fair in the in The Livestock Conservancy Stage Stage.
My goal was to learn as much as I could while there about goats, sheep and alpaca, as we plan on venturing into additional fiber animals in the near future.
How to Milk a Goat, Make Raw Milk Cheese and Stay Out of Jail presented by Elizabeth Rich
My first lecture on Saturday at the Mother Earth News Fair was the How to Milk a Goat, Make Raw Milk Cheese and Stay Out of Jail presented by Elizabeth Rich. We have 4 Nubian goats in milk right now at Iron Oak Farm, so I was particularly interested in what she had to say.
Being a lawyer, Ms. Rich’s knowledge of the raw milk laws were extensive, valuable and well credited. I also learned a bunch of cheese making tricks that I’m excited to try, like using the whey from the day before as a culture for butter and other cheeses. She also showed how to use everyday household items to make cheesemaking easier, such as using a salad spinner to remove extra whey from curds and a recycled frosting containers as a small cheese mold. I’ve already ordered my flora danica cheese culture to try her cheve’ recipe.
Beauty of Essential Oils presented by Claire Orner of Quiet Creek Herb Farm
Claire’s personality is infectious. Her lecture was very personal and genuine. I also enjoyed the interactive aspect, as she went through the beneficial properties of each essential oil, the audience was given a swab to smell and pass around.
Her lecture on the use of essential oils was so inspiring that I visited her booth after the lecture and purchased some of her oils.
To purchase essential oils from Quiet Creek Herb Farm, visit their site.
Stewardship and Shepherding of Rare Sheep Breeds presented by Brian Larson
Mr. Larson is a member of the National Lincoln Sheep Breeders Association. The Lincoln sheep is a rare, dual-purpose breed known for its heavy build, long wavy fleece and gentle disposition.
Mr. Larson’s respect of the breed, his passion and integrity for what he does comes in his use of language, long time experience with the breed and his quiet humbleness. Mr. Larson wasn’t interested in painting an idyllic picture of raising sheep, his lecture was honest, genuine and told from the perspective of someone who’s been around sheep his whole life. I could have listened to him all day.
His main point was centered around the responsibilities that come with raising a rare breed, not just to the individual animals but to the breed standard as well. He definitely raised my awareness and respect levels for those who are trying to bring these rare breeds back to life.
You can visit his Facebook Page here: Larson Lincoln Longwool Sheep
I enjoyed a lunch of mango, chickpea and spinach Panini with a curried lentil soup and an iced mint green tea. Delicious!
Medicinal Mushrooms presented by Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain Farm
I highly encourage you all to visit Tradd Carter’s website mushroommountian.com. Mr. Cotter offers an abundance of information about using and growing mushrooms. He also has a section on identifying and lots of information on ordering mushrooms to grow.
Mr. Cotter’s presentation was enthusiastic, exciting and awakening. I never realized that mushrooms could be so powerful against fighting diseases like cancer, viruses, bacteria and even other problem fungi. Mushrooms can even be used as insecticides!
Tradd Cotter has a genuine passion for sharing the power of mushrooms with the world. You can tell he genuinely wants to help people and the planet through the use of mushrooms. Very inspiring!
One of the best parts of attending the Mother Earth News Fair was hearing Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm speak. He, along with David Schafer of Featherman Equipment presented the chicken processing demonstration. Both gentlemen were such a joy to watch and made the process of chicken slaughtering, plucking and butchering easily attainable to anyone who might be interested.
I’ve followed Mr. Salatin in his work to support the small farmer. I’ve read two of his many published books; Folks This Ain’t Normal and Everything I Want to do is Illegal. I couldn’t wait to attend his lecture. Not only to hear him speak, but his instructions on chicken processing was one that I truly needed to hear because of logistics. We’ve had a hard time processing our birds in the past. It was wonderful to see this process live and be able to take notes and learn from someone who truly understands bird anatomy.
One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Salatin during the demonstration was that “No one should kill animals everyday”. This quote was referring to the practice of factory farms who employ workers to slaughter animals most days on the job. He discussed how this repetitive practice goes against our human emotional makeup, how it is desensitizing for the employee and an overall unhealthy situation. Another example of Mr. Salatin’s integrity and his obvious respect for people and animals.
David Schafer was also part of the demonstration. Mr. Scafer is president of the APPPA The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association. If you feel strongly about moving away from factory farming then consider giving them your support and becoming a member.
Alpaca 101: All you need to know about alpacas presented by Alicia Rocco of Spring Valley Farm
This lecture was particularly interesting because we might be adding alpacas to our farm in the near future.
Ms Rocco is a Natropathic Doctor, and I love her natural approach to caring for her herd. She was honest and informative about raising these majestic creatures and not only did I learn an abundance about raising alpacas, but also picked up some tips that could be applied to our goat herd as well. Her lecture was inspiring and encouraging.
To view some of the natural products that Ms. Rocco offers visit her shop at Natural Approach Farm Store.
The vendor area of the Mother Earth News Fair was a homesteaders shopping paradise!
There was so much to see, it was almost difficult to get it all in. I did make sure that I visited the Mountain Rose Herbs stand where I snagged one of these awesome complimentary totes and tasted delicious free samples of herbal tea!
There were so many talented artisans both selling and demonstrating; soap makers, spinners of yarn, broom makers, wood carvers and much, much more!
I purchased several essential oils from Claire Orner of Quiet Creek Herb Farm and two varieties of seed garlic from Fruition Seeds…They gave me some pointers for why our garlic comes back smaller every year. “Eat the small ones, plant the big ones.” Seems simple enough!
I also purchased 10 oz of Shetland roving from Diamond D Sheep. I can’t wait to spin this beautiful, natural fiber into yarn!
I tasted my first taste of buckwheat honey from Patz Maple and Honey Farms and learned a bit more about different honeys from around the world.
I was happy that I also saw my first live example of a top bar hive from Bee Thinking.
A little side adventure that I was involved during the trip was was finding and photographing the elusive Wisconsin pelican, native to the marshes of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.
We woke early to catch a few shots of this native inland Pelican.
Overall the trip was one I’ll never forget! I look forward to attending additional Mother Earth News Fairs in the future and I hope you will too!