Field Trip: Heirloom Expo 2014 Review

This year’s Heirloom Expo was particularly delicious because I had the chance to give a lecture on my favorite subject: small-space biointensive gardening for urban gardeners. The rest of the time, however, was spent blissing out on gorgeous displays of seeds, melons and squashes, and rare breed livestock. Let’s take a tour:

The Heirloom Expo is a yearly event in Santa Rosa, CA at the Sonoma County Fair Grounds. Now in its fourth year, the festival is running on strong legs. Gardenerds from all over the country come to commune with insightful speakers discussing everything from gray water systems to permaculture, from seed saving to homesteading.

Abundance is everywhere at the Heirloom Expo

Abundance is everywhere at the Heirloom Expo

The fairgrounds were decorated with hundreds of different varieties of winter squash, which had been lovingly grown by several farmers in the area. One couldn’t help but wonder what they do with all of them at the end.

The Biodynamic Lounge showcased innovative concepts for sustainable farming/gardening.

The Biodynamic Lounge showcased innovative concepts for sustainable farming/gardening.

Demeter sponsors the Biodynamic Lounge each year, hosting experts in the field and demonstration gardens like these. One of the principles of biodynamics includes inoculating the soil with herbal preparations that have been fermented inside cow horns.

Water catchment was a hot topic, given the CA drought.

Water catchment was a hot topic, given the CA drought.

Gray water systems and rain barrels, bioswales and infiltration pits are all ideas we can implement in our own yards to help keep water on site, instead of having it run down the street to the sewer.

Helpful hints on gray water systems

Helpful hints on gray water systems

The show stopper of the event is the Hall of Flowers, which houses thousands of vegetable and fruit varieties on display. The sheer numbers are mind-boggling. Within this warehouse you’d find a gaggle of Rare Fruit Growers, meeting to share samples of their latest harvest: vintage apples, tropical fruits, unusual finds from around the world.

Hall of Flowers goes on and on. Gorgeous specimens, one after the other.

Hall of Flowers goes on and on. Gorgeous specimens, one after the other.

And what would a fair be without a Giant Pumpkin Contest?

And what would a fair be without a Giant Pumpkin Contest?

The winning Giant Pumpkin weighed in over 1,100 pounds. Another participant took his pumpkin outside (with the help of a forklift) and carved it after the contest was over.

With all the activity going on and classes to attend, it took awhile to get to the livestock barn. Finally, on day 3, we were able to take in the wonderment.

Joshua Farms showcased their sheep. Women were sitting close by spinning wool and knitting cozies.

Joshua Farm showcased their sheep. Women were sitting close by spinning wool and knitting cozies.

The livestock barn was filled with rare breed animals: chickens, goats, alpacas, and more. Some literally posed for us as we took pictures.

This is a miniature chicken, about 8" tall at the most. What a looker!

This is a miniature chicken, about 8″ tall at the most. What a looker!

This Frizzle chicken looked like it had gone to bed with wet hair.

This Frizzle chicken looked like it had gone to bed with wet hair.

Some type of Malay chicken I believe. Long-legged and quirky.

Some type of Malay chicken I believe. Long-legged and quirky.

And then there were alpacas.

Cute, fuzzy alpacas. This one recently shorn.

Cute, fuzzy alpacas. This one recently shorn.

Just outside the livestock barn was a seed exchange, where gardenerds could bring their saved seeds and exchange them for another gardenerd’s treasured seed.

Who can pass up a seed swap?

Who can pass up a seed swap?

Baker Creek gave away seeds in hopes that people would return next year with their grown-out saved seeds to share.

Baker Creek gave away seeds in hopes that people would return next year with their grown-out saved seeds to share.

In the inner sanctum were huddled masses poring over bags of saved seeds.

Bring your seeds for next year's swap

Bring your seeds for next year’s swap

I was lucky enough to be invited to a VIP party for the speakers, where I was able to grab another photo (not unlike the one taken 2 years ago) with Jere Gettle, founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

Jere Gettle and Gardenerd

Jere Gettle and Gardenerd in dappled shade

When the whole thing was over, every gardeners creative well was thoroughly filled. We packed up our treasures (seeds, t-shirts, hand made soaps, compost tea supplies and some starter cultures for cheese making to name a few) and headed home. Vendors and guests were walking off with the decorations by the cart-full. I may have “borrowed” a Turban Squash on the way out of the Fairgrounds myself. I’ll bring the seeds back next year after I grow them out. 🙂

Turks Cap or Turban Squash is a beautiful keepsake from the event.

Turks Cap or Turban Squash is a beautiful keepsake from the event.

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2 Responses to Field Trip: Heirloom Expo 2014 Review

  1. Jack Chapman says:

    Thanks for sharing! I have to say you guys rock. You have the best variety
    of heirloom seeds I’ve seen. Everything I grew this year came up beautifully.
    I have already been planning for next year and am looking forward to trying
    new plants. Thanks for all you do!

  2. Thanks for the great pictures and notes. Loved it. I adore Baker creek and their philosophy. I get my seeds from them every year!

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