Meeting of the Minds: National Heirloom Expo

Find like minded individuals with a passion for heirloom seeds and produce at the National Heirloom Expo.

By Kathy McFarland


Summer 2012

Basket of Peppers

The National Heirloom Expo focuses on bringing home grown produce to the mainstream.

Photo courtesy www.RareSeeds.com

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The Second Annual National Heirloom Exposition is shaping up to be even bigger and better than the first. With home gardeners, farmers, school groups, and the general public all playing key roles in the Expo, it’s once again being called the “World’s Fair” of the heirloom movement.

The first annual National Heirloom Exposition, held last September at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, was a huge success. Jere Gettle, proprietor of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, began with the simple idea of showcasing heirloom foods with a festival. After opening the Seed Bank in Petaluma, California, in 2010, he’s spent considerable time in the area and realized there was a wealth of like-minded people in that agricultural area of the country. Teaming up with Seed Bank manager Paul Wallace, the two began shaping up that first idea into what became the largest heirloom exposition ever held in the United States.

Visitors to the 2011 Expo were treated to educational speakers throughout the three days. Keynote speakers included the world-renowned Dr. Vandana Shiva of India, one of the leaders in the pure food movement; Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology; and internationally recognized chef and author, Alice Waters. Attendees further learned about seed saving, home gardening, market gardening, food politics, and farming from more than 70 acclaimed experts.

The 2011 event was picked up by local, state and national media, creating attention before, during, and after the exposition. Such top names as The Martha Stewart Show even attended and taped a segment for broadcast.  

This year, many seed companies, farmers, and schools are participating and supplying produce to help create the largest-ever display of heirloom produce. Growers are being contracted to grow specifically for the event. Produce will be trucked in from all parts of the country. Event organizers expect to have a display containing more than 4,000 varieties of heirlooms.  

This year's speaker line up will include some of the same excellent speakers, as well as many others who were unavailable last year. One presenter new to the National Heirloom Expo is Percy Schmeiser, a long time Saskatchewan farmer and anti-GMO activist who was sued by Monsanto after his Canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto's Roundup Ready Canola. Monsanto sued Schmeiser, demanding that he pay a technology fee of $15 per acre because he was benefitting from their technology. Schmeiser fought back and launched a $10 million lawsuit against Monsanto, accusing the company of libel, trespass, and contamination of his fields with Roundup Ready. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Nationally known and local bands will perform a wide assortment of historic music. Fly by Night is an acclaimed group of musicians from the bluegrass-drenched Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri. Sourdough Slim, nominated 2009 and 2010 “Entertainer of the Year” by the Western Music Association, was a favorite performer last year and will be returning this year. In addition, local ragtime pianist Petaluma Pete will be filling the air with historic tunes on his vintage piano.  

As with any exposition, food is a prominent component; the National Heirloom Exposition is no exception. Food vendors provide a wide array of traditional, ethnic, cultural, and pure foods. Local, and not-so-local chefs hold food tastings and food demonstrations throughout the three day event.

More than just an expo of heirloom foods, the National Heirloom Exposition also features heritage poultry and livestock. The American Poultry Association will judge many rare and exotic breeds of poultry, and The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy will help to sponsor livestock exhibits and contests that will include many historic, heritage and pure breeds.  

The National Heirloom Exposition will also include one of the world's greatest trade shows for the heirloom seed and food industry. More than 200 leading companies of the pure food movement will celebrate historic agriculture, horticulture, and food traditions. Expo attendees will have the opportunity to browse tools, rare and unusual plants, paper goods, farm supplies, organic garden supplies, garden art and photography, and specialty foods. 

Jere and Emilee Gettle, of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, work extensively to educate people about a better, safer food supply and fight genetically modified food. To that end, they support school gardens and educational projects. Educating children about pure food takes center stage at the National Heirloom Expo where all kids age 17 and under are admitted free. In addition, event organizers are again planning for a full day of children's activities that are both educational and fun: exhibits geared toward children, potato sack races, art wall, seed packet and seed ball making, and much more. Once again, all event profits are donated to various school gardens and real food education programs. 

Everyone is invited to enjoy the largest exhibition of heirloom produce in history, savor summer's bounty from the farms of all 50 states, taste hundreds of traditional foods, and be a part of culinary and agricultural history.