It’s gardeners and farmers gone wild at the annual National Heirloom Expo, held Sept. 11-13 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. With hundreds of exhibits, speakers and the annual squash tower this gathering of soil nerds, seed savers, beekeepers, no-tillers and food activists returns to Santa Rosa for the eighth year.

What we love about this gathering are the passionate speakers, exhibitors and vendors who find kinship in this earth-forward, future-thinking, inclusionary event that looks to our agricultural past to create a road toward a more sustainable tomorrow.

 

For example, the potential dangers of herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup and wide use of genetically modified crops have been at the forefront of the Expo’s agenda for years, with speakers warning strongly against the unknown (or unreported) longterm hazards for humans and the planet. With the recent landmark case that awarded $289 million to a groundskeeper to alleged that the weedkiller resulted in his terminal cancer diagnosis, more and more Americans are taking notice. Recently Santa Rosa banned the use of Roundup in city parks. A discussion on Sept. 12 at 7-.m. by consumer activist and author Jeffrey Smith will focus on “How to Heal from GMOs and Roundup”.

Other discussions include Doug and Stacy, Midwestern YouTubers who live on an 11-acre  off-grid compound; Vanessa Harden on how a group of individuals secretly plan flowers, shrubs and veggies in neglected urban spaces; eating a plant-based diet with local nutritionist and Veggie Queen Jill Nussinow along with talks on raising poultry, permaculture and seed-saving.

On Thursday evening, compost connoisseur Jeff Lowenfels will talk about worm poop — aka worm castings — and why every gardener should have some, also explaining the soil food web and how to create have a healthy relationship with fungi. Watch a few of his YouTube videos about what may be the world’s most unsexy subject and you’ll get that he’s truly a, ahem, fungi fun guy.

There’s an entire Kids’ Pavillon with plenty of fun activities for your burgeoning young green thumbs and a demo marketplace helping raise money for local school gardens. Plus, 4,000 varieties of heirloom vegetables, giant pumpkins, a dahlia flower show, fruit carving, globally inspired cuisine, live music, and seed swapping.

All this wholesome, family-friendly fun is $15 for a one day pass and $30 for a three-day pass. Children are free. Details at heirloomexpo.com.