The Mother Earth News Fair, held at the Puyallup Fair grounds on June 4-5, was a huge success according to most vendors and attendees.
“Fantastic!” said Brandy Ernzen, public information officer for Mother Earth News, when asked how she thought the festival was unfolding. “There are a lot of families attending.”
“It’s been great,” said Kelda Miller, Director of Sustainable Puyallup. “We’ve had a lot of people come by, and they’re really passionate about learning how to live on the planet in a simpler, more sustainable way.”
Miller’s organization supports the development of community vegetable gardens and helping our area create a more sustainable lifestyle, particularly through the implementation of permacultural practices.
Sustainability was the key word at the Fair, and fully reflected the themes of the 40-year old magazine that organized the festival and its 3 million readers, most notably, organic garden, “green” transportation and building construction, back-to-the-land homesteading, and preservation of the natural world.
Several thousand visitors came to the Mother Earth News Fair (MEN-F) during its two-day run in Puyallup, the first of three such events nationwide this summer, and close to 200 vendors were happy to receive them.
“Business has been great,’ said the counter gal for the Ballad Brothers BBQ stand. “We had lines, and I haven’t seen lines at any festival in five years!”
Besides good chow, attendees swarmed many of the solar energy companies showing their wares, which were humming in the hot, luscious sunshine.
Foremost were perhaps the displays of electric cars, which featured the highly touted Tesla Roadster, a state-of-the-art electric vehicle made by a high-tech ensemble of engineers and venture capitalists based in Silicon Valley. The Roadster, with a $109,000 price tag, looks snazzy, runs fast, and has one-thousand pounds of batteries to give it the unsurpassed cruising range of nearly 300 miles.
“I just drove it 3,000 miles and it was totally sweet,” said Chad Schwitters, a board member of Plug-In America, an organization that promotes the use of electric cars. In addition to the Roadster, Chad and his crew also presented a Nissan Leaf, which goes for only $32,000, but has just a 100-mile range between recharges.
Plug-In America also offered a big surprise – an old 1960s-vintage Volkswagen “Karmen Ghia” in pristine condition, but completely retro-fitted with an electric motor and battery packs.
Next to the electric cars were several solar energy companies, showcasing their hot water heaters and photo-voltaic electricity generation systems.
Silk Road Solar had a constant throng around its exhibit of a highly-touted solar hot water design that owner Ray Lamb claims produces up to 160 degrees of hot water even in the middle of a western Washington winter. Lam says that his use of specially-tuned filaments comprised of copper, aluminum and other metals are sensitive to the infra-red and ultra-violet waves of solar energy that pierces through our cloudy skies and can generate copious amounts of heat.
Some disagree with Lam, such as Bob Bonnell of Graham, a founding member of the North West Solar Group. Also, the staff at South Sound Solar were skeptical that any solar hot water system could generate enough heat in its system during a wintry day to prevent the unit from freezing during a very cold night.
“They will have to drain the unit before the water freezes, or use the traditional dual system of a glycol antifreeze solution to capture the solar energy and then transfer it to a hot water tank,” said one South Sound staffer.
However, other vendors at the MEN Fair, such as Dave Jennings of Rainier Renewable Energy in Seattle, confirmed that Lam’s equipment performs as advertised, and in fact, he too, is utilizing similar metallurgic composites to achieve the same effects.
Other solar companies at the Fair were Brad Burkhartzmeyer’s Sun Eye’s Solar from Tacoma, regional powerhouse Sunelco, and North West Wind and Solar.
Another feature of the Fair were numerous workshops covering topics as diverse as vegetative roofing designs and mud-oven bread baking, and depending on the topic the crowds ranged from light to heavy.
“There are only 685,000 people in the United States who list ‘agriculture’ as their primary occupation,” said Richard Nash, illustrating the need to have more people grow their own food. Nash is a farmer who assisted Kristina Hubbard, Executive Director of the Organic Seed Alliance, in their presentation on the dangers of foods and seeds utilizing Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
Many of the vendors were local and regional, and demonstrated how vibrant the theme of self-reliance and sustainability resonates here in western Washington. Half a dozen organic and heirloom seed companies were selling their products, including Virtual Farm Seed Company, a new outfit from the Bremerton area that specializes in procuring seeds from local farmers.
“We’re always looking for more local seed-growers,” said Virtual Farm’s Anne Kleekamp, adding that the “response has been great” from folks spending time at her booth.
One of the most delightful booths visually was Native Forest Remedies, an apothecary-like display housed in antique wooden cabinets. Presented by owner Cynthia King, a Lumbee Indian, King is originally from North Carolina but is now relocated to the medicinally-rich forests near Silverton, Oregon where she wild-crafts her potions, creams and herbs.
“These herbal products can help balance your internal systems,” Cyndy said. “They have very high oxygen contents, and can either stimulate the brain neurons for health, or calm and center you.”
Cynthia said her herbal sprays can fight infections, while other products can overcome jet lag or help ADHA sufferers with the energies to better focus their attention.
A particularly valuable booth for increasing public awareness of the availability of healthy foods was the display from Organic Valley dairy products. Organic Valley is a cooperative of thirty-two organic dairy farmers in Washington and Oregon, and they sell their full line of milk, butter and cheese in local establishments such as Fred Meyer and Marlene’s health food stores.
After a day of wandering about such diverse organic wholeness, I pondered what the Fair was really all about – good health, emergency preparedness, sovereign living? When I posed the question to a vendor of herbal health products, she completely identified, in my view, the zeitgeist of the Mother Earth News Fair.
“It’s a fair for modern hippies,” she said.
Addendum: Shortly after this story was posted, Brandy Ernzen from Mother Earth News sent us the following:
“We had about 8,000 attendees and 163 exhibitors over the two days. In addition, we had volunteers from 13 states and the District of Columbia who donated about 640 hours to help the event. They did everything from take tickets to sort trash, all with smiles on their faces. We definitely couldn’t have done it without them.
”Many exhibitors donated items, from original works of art, honeycombs, homemade candles and books to a day with a local cheesemaker to benefit the Organic Seed Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit. Our attendees were incredibly generous: The auction garnered more than $5,000 for OSA!
”According to Andrew Perkins, our event director, ‘Our goal with these events is to create something that both appeals to our national audience as well as is relevant for folks from the region, and we felt like we succeeded. We met foodies from New York, gardeners from Oregon and alpaca breeders from right down the road.’
”I personally was so impressed with our entire community – volunteers, attendees, speakers, exhibitors, you name it. Everyone I ran into was very friendly and had a genuine passion for the topics we covered.
”While we don’t have anything solidified at this time, I expect that we will return to the area in 2012.”
© 2011 The Mountain News – WA
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