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.
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.
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.