After the summer travels and county fairs abate, it's time to celebrate the harvest.
For heirloom fruit, veggie and livestock lovers - or food lovers in general - the National Heirloom Exposition is "The Place" to gather. Advertised as the world's largest pure food fair, this remarkable gathering is fueled by those trying to reinvent the food system. It's known as the "World's Fair" of the heirloom industry.
The first time I went to this festival, the big draw for me was to hear Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Foods, in what was a mesmerizing and powerful speech. Little did I know that I would end up returning for each of the following days to partake of the knowledge offered up by an astonishingly intelligent group of people who are walking the walk and making farming better (along with making better food).
And isn't it appropriate for this to take place just down the road from Baker's Seeds in Petaluma (a major sponsor of the event) and in Santa Rosa, the home of that great seedsman and plant breeder Luther Burbank? (You have to think that he's be proud to see this event happen in his own home town).
This year's headliner is the electrifying food, seed and anti-GMO activist Vandana Shiva who is the most public face of the international effort to save seeds. (She'll also be speaking, along with agro-ecology expert Miguel Altieri, at the Soil Not Oil Conference in Richmond on Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-5.)
At past expo's, I've ended up spending much of my time at the Demeter USA Biodynamic lounge which offers free biodynamic farming classes from the very best experts. But there's so much to see and learn (and eat) - this is truly a cornucopia of an event.
DEMETER CLASSES - HIGHLIGHTS
• The Future of Biodynamic Cannabis with Jim Fulmer and panelists (Tues. at 3:15 pm)
• Drought and Resilience (Wed. at 3:15)
• Biodynamic Preps session with Luke Frey of Frey Vineyards, the first winery to have certified biodynamic vines in the U.S. (Wed. at 5:15)
• A session with Daphne Amory, a biodynamic consultant who is the vineyard consultant for a number of Sonoma's biodynamic wineries (Thurs. at 2:15)
There are also dozens of other speakers during the three day event. Click here for the speaker schedule.
Highlights I plan to check out are:
• Bryan Welch on B Corporations (a new social responsibility certification program) (Tues. at 4 pm)
• Food activist Andrew Kimbrell, from the Center for Food Safety, on "Creating a New Food Future" (Thurs. at 5 pm)
• Filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia (Symphony of the Soil, The Future of Food) showing clips from the film in progress Agrarian Elders, a documentary about 2 dozen of the leading founding fathers of the organic farming movement in America (Wed. at 2 pm)
• A panel on water with local food and farming advocates (Wed. at 3 pm)
• Historian Libby O'Connell on her book The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites (Thurs. at 2 pm)
• A photographic project focused on Monsanto from Mathieu Asselin (Thurs. at 6 pm)
Of course, the expo has more than a 100 exhibitors, great displays (the display hall is a mind-baggling display of biodiversity) and lots of, would you believe it, amazing food and drinks. Don't miss it!