National Heirloom Exposition

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Both children and adults enjoy the amazing selection of fruits and vegetables on display at the National Heirloom Exposition.
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Chef Ray Duey always draws a large crowd as he demonstrates his fruit and vegetable carvings throughout the the Expo.
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Mac Condill of The Great Pumpkin Patch transports a wide variety of cucurbits from his farm in Arthur, Illinois, to create the giant squash tower each year.
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Youth is an important part of the National Heirloom Expo and even have their own “kids’ day” at the event. The Expo staff helps children learn as they have a good time with various activities.
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Jere, Emilee, Sasha, and Malia Gettle comprise just one of the many families that come out to enjoy the fun and excitement of the National Heirloom Expo.

The 5th annual National Heirloom Exposition is coming soon and will be the center of attention in Santa Rosa, California. What began as a small idea by Baker Creek owner Jere Gettle and Petaluma Seed Bank manager Paul Wallace has developed into a very impressive event that annually draws upwards of 20,000 participants. Originally conceived in 2011 to create awareness on issues surrounding “pure food,” the Expo now focuses on the preservation of heirloom foods without genetic modification.

Located at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa on September 8, 9, and 10, the event has become known as the “World’s Fair of Pure Food.” The fairground streets and pavilion aisles will be filled with pure food enthusiasts, talented home gardeners, farmers, garden artists, school groups and leaders in the food industry.

In the tradition of fairs of the past, the National Heirloom Expo encourages competition among participants. Pumpkin growers may enter their huge squashes in the Giant Pumpkin Contest in which last year’s winner tipped the scales at 1,427 pounds. Tomato growers may compete for the honor of growing the largest tomatoes.

Competition is not limited to foods. The Expo is also temporary home to a large number of heritage animals. Many types of poultry will be judged in the The American Poultry Association and American Bantam Association sanctioned poultry show. Livestock judging will be done by Jeannette Bringer of The Livestock Conservancy with criteria of perfection or standards. While not a sanctioned show, an American Rabbit Breeders Association certified judge will award ribbons, trophies, and cash prizes for the favored bunnies. The American Kunekune Pig Association will sponsor a sanctioned show. Roosters are known for their crowing. A noisy competition is the Rooster Crowing Contest in which roosters compete to see which can crow the most times in 5 minutes.

The exhibit hall allows for hours of pleasant browsing among the displays of thousands of varieties of heirloom fruits and vegetables.

The most popular display is the giant pumpkin tower. This impressive pyramid of squash is created annually by Mac Condill of The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, Illinois. It is so fantastic that a similar one has even graced the White House grounds. For visitors who are not big on cucurbits, perhaps they will find more interesting the many varieties of heirloom fruits on display. There are many different types of apples other than the common Granny Smith or Jonathan of which most of us are so familiar. Visitors accustomed to seeing only red, round tomatoes will delight in the many yellow, orange, pink, green, blue, and purple hued tomatoes.

In addition to fruit and vegetable exhibits, some of the most innovative minds will be showcasing items of interest to inspire others without expectation of selling anything. Exhibitors will span from backyard gardeners, seasoned organic commercial growers, as well as forgotten craftsmen, not-for-profit organizations and leaders in the “Green Tech” industry.

Education continues to be a major focus of the National Heirloom Exposition. In addition to all of the presentations and exhibits designed for adults, children are a significant part of the event. One entire day of the Expo is devoted to educational and fun events for children of all ages. From outdoor games and activities, to music, to tastings, to movies, etc., children will be actively entertained for the entire day. School groups will fill a portion of the exhibit hall with their school garden projects that will be judged for prizes.

Traditional music is a mainstay attraction at the Expo. While visitors won’t hear modern rock, rap, heavy metal, or other contemporary music; their ears will be filled with some of the country’s top-notch bluegrass, gospel, and folk music on the outdoor stage.

The National Heirloom Exposition has earned the moniker of “The World’s Fair of Pure Food” for good reason. Featuring a food court and dining area with picnic tables, all kinds of natural food will be available. A roster of celebrity chefs will demonstrate their culinary skills and present great new kitchen tricks adaptable for the home cook. Local culinarians will participate in the new “Next Great Chefs of America” contest in which they battle for the chance to win scholarship money, gifts and more.

The 5th annual National Heirloom Exposition will feature a wide array of natural vendors from across the country and beyond. Hundreds of vendors will showcase products pertaining to natural food, gardening, sustainability, green living, homesteading and much more. Unlike any other trade show in the world, National Heirloom Expo vendors epitomize the pure food movement both in their diversity and in the sustainability of their approach, with many of them offering innovative ideas and leading-edge products. Shoppers will find everything from heirloom seed varieties to produce, live plants, organic garden products, clothing, household products, and craft items.

Adult education is just as important as youth education at the National Heirloom Exposition. An impressive line up of nationally and internationally recognized speakers will include Dr. Vandana Shiva, internationally renowned author, philosopher, environmentalist, and founder of Navdanya , a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of seeds. Jeremy Seifert, director of the film GMO/OMG looks at the way GMOs affect our children, the health of our planet and freedom of choice. He teaches that we are human guinea pigs as we unknowingly consume genetically engineered food on a daily basis. Seifert advocates that we still have time to heal the planet, feed the world, and live sustainably. Mark Smallwood, Executive Director of Rodale Institute has focused his efforts on training a new generation of organic farmers. He has expanded research efforts at Rodale Institute to explore the connection between soil, food and health. Sara Patterson is a teenage farmer and entrepreneur who runs Red Acre Farm, a small sustainable family farm near Cedar City in southern Utah. She eats and advocates that everyone should have access to locally grown foods year round. She teaches that striving to do it “bigger and more” is taking a toll on the earth and its people. Zen Honeycutt is founder and director of Moms Across America, a national coalition of unstoppable moms committed to empower missions to educate themselves about GMOs and related pesticides, get GMOs labeled and offer non-GMO and organic foods.

The National Heirloom Exposition has has continued to grow and attract interest around the world as like-minded people come together to share information about pure foods, sustainable living, organic growing, and so many other topics relevant to adults, children, and future generations.

Kathy McFarland is a former English teacher and life-long gardener who likes to travel, read, write, and do almost anything outdoors. She loves to relax on her front porch swing and enjoy the view of her farm in the Missouri Ozarks.

Mother Earth Gardener
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