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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The livestock barn was filled with rare breed animals: chickens, goats, alpacas, and more. Some literally posed for us as we took pictures.
And then there were alpacas.
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.
In the inner sanctum were huddled masses poring over bags of saved seeds.
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.
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. 🙂