Mother Earth News Fair offers attendees a taste of sustainable living

Photo by Hayley Benton
Photo by Josh O’Conner


Mother Earth News Fair offered no shortage of activities, workshops and vendors to educate and entertain attendees over the weekend of April 11 and 12 during the magazine’s second annual event at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center.

The weather was perfect (albeit a bit windy) for the largely outdoor event, and people from all walks of life came out to explore the latest offerings in sustainability, farming, gardening and resiliency. Although official numbers have yet to be tallied, fair director Andrew Perkins estimates that 18,000 people attended this year’s event — an increase over the 16,000 in 2014.

Crowds throughout the weekend were heavy, and a number of workshops were standing room only as the fair progressed throughout Saturday and into Sunday morning.  The event had a definite Asheville twist with a number of local vendors peddling their wares and a food court dominated by local food trucks. National vendors and speakers provided attendees with an idea of developments in the rest of the nation.

The fair was a bit of a marathon event with so much to see and do that the weekend became a blur. The amount of information available was extensive, as was the range of products, books and wares.  Attendees could take a workshop on an unfamiliar topic and leave the fair ready to start a new homesteading adventure. They could also find the supplies to become amateur mycologists, kombucha brewers, quail farmers or hydroponic growers.

Photo by Josh O’Conner

The Mother Earth News Fair distinguished itself from other similar events in the region by serving as a catch-all for people interested in having more control over their lives and more resilient households. The fair wasn’t a farm and garden event, it wasn’t a sustainability event, it wasn’t a food event — it was a marriage of back-to-earth and off-the-grid living techniques offering hopes of a simpler and healthier lifestyle.

The intent of the fair was not to force attendees into a single mindset but to offer them tools to achieve their own version of resilience and sustainability. Phillip Ackerman-Leist highlighted the idea that people need to define their own commitments, goals and ideals in his workshop “A Homesteader’s 20/20 Hindsight: 20 Good Ideas and 20 Not-So-Good Ideas.” He pointed out that homesteading and working toward sustainability can involve a number of trade-offs and tensions. The fair helped attendees navigate some of those issues and provided a better understanding of how a number of homesteading-type ideas could or should be implemented.

Photo by Josh O’Conner

Attendees ran the gamut of preppers, hippies and people looking for patio container gardens. For all the attendees, who each had their own political agendas and nuanced social orientations, the Mother Earth News Fair was an amazingly welcoming opportunity to exchange ideas among diverse people.


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About Josh O'Conner
Josh O’Conner is an urban/land use planner with a passion for urban agriculture. He can be reached at @kalepiracy or @joshoconner on Twitter or e-mailed at

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5 thoughts on “Mother Earth News Fair offers attendees a taste of sustainable living

  1. Don Adkins

    Had a blast! Can’t wait until next year. There was so much I wanted to do, but I ran out of time.

  2. David Sutter

    First time to the Fair and had a wonderful time. Next year I will plan my day better and bring my own vittles. Thank you, Mother Earth News!

  3. Anita H.

    This is an awesome event filled with wonderful positive energy! There were so many workshops and exhibits that it would take way longer than just one weekend to see it all!! My husband and I attended different talks and spent the five hours getting home Sunday night sharing what we learned. This is our second year coming to the Asheville event and will certainly plan to be there next year!!! I have been playing in the dirt in my own yard ever since we got home and can’t wait to try out even more of the ideas we learned. Of course, we may need to build more bookshelves to house the wonderful items we found there as well. Please keep coming back to NC!!

  4. Ashari DiMera

    Planned a lot better this year, arrived earlier, etc. Still so much to do and see and know and touch and feel and taste! Next year will be even better cause I already learned so much!!! Can’t wait.

  5. Becky H.

    Our first Mother Earth fair. It was wonderful! So much to see and do. There was no way we could do everything in two days. Wish we had one more day. Learned a lot, these are my kind of people!

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