Ten Reasons You Gotta Go the National Heirloom Exposition this September.
1. “Heirloom” means more than just tomatoes and your grandma’s cameo. Heirloom foods, which can be anything from watermelons to pork, are foods that your grandmother’s grandmother might remember. Meaning food that was cultivated before large-scale agriculture began growing food based on the needs of industry (faster growing, easier to harvest, more pest resistant, better looking rather than better tasting). There is a groundswell of advocates of these more genetically diverse foods which have been all but lost.
2. The gourd and squash tower. It’s the biggest tower of gourds and squashes in the world. Probably the only one, too. But hey, it’s big.
3. The buzz: Bees are a hot commodity at the Expo, because they’re the ones who kindly pollinate our produce and produce honey. Hives have been struggling in the last few years, so its worth stopping by the bee trailer to say thanks.
4. Seeds, seeds, seeds: The Expo is hosted by the folks behind Baker Creek Seeds, who have carefully collected more than 1,500 rare heirloom seeds to help repopulate historic varieties of apples, melons, peaches, gourds, tomatoes.
5. Know your GMO: Genetically modified foods are a hot-button issue at the Expo. Whatever your stance on seed-saving, industrialized agriculture and corporations “patenting” crops, listening to the passion of farmers, activists and gardeners will convince you to, at the very least, think about what you’re eating.
6. Overalls and prairie dresses: You don’t have to live on a farm to make an agricultural fashion statement. Dress the part, with plenty of ruffly long skirts, well-worn boots, patched overalls and trucker hats with tractor-pride for sale.
7. Join the Grange: California has more than 100 local granges, many of which are experiencing a renaissance with young farmers and passionate eaters. Sonoma and Sebastopol both have active granges with educational programs, food swaps, CSA drop-offs and even a hoe-down or two. You can win a free membership at the Sebastopol Grange booth. And get some ag-ucation.
8. Eat: We’ve been to many a festival and event in the Bay Area, and this is one of the best line-ups of local food vendors. Among our favorites: Fork Catering, Backyard, Petaluma Pie and more. Plenty of organic, vegan options, along with sustainably raised meats.
9. Kids Love It: No rides, no midway barkers, no cheap plastic toys. Instead, the Heirloom Expo has good, old-fashioned fun. On Wednesday, Sept. 10,. beginning at 9:30am, early entry is available for schools, homeschoolers and kids. Among the fun, art projects, potato sack races, seed ball making, a dunk tank and a scavenger hunt. All three days are kid-friendly, with lots of see and do, live music and animals to pet.
10. Learn: Although most folks just wander around the fairgrounds, the Expo’s mission is to educate and connect people passionate about their food systems. More than 125 speakers, both local and national, run throughout all three days.
The National Heirloom Exposition at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
Entry is $10 at the gate. The event runs through Thursday, Sept. 11.