Some of Mother Earth News’ earliest “Mothers” — whose roots go back to the 1970s and 1980s — got together this past Sunday at the Mother Earth News Fair, which was held at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher.
Hosted by Bryan Welch, current publisher of the Mother Earth News magazine and CEO of Ogden Publications, nearly two dozen former employees and families met for brunch and to share their recollections from the decades past. I was one of them.
Bob Kornegay, now a master permaculturalist, brought his original hand-drawn illustration of the first comprehensive permaculture project in the country, built at the former Mother Earth News Eco-Village in Henderson County in 1984. “It all came to me in a flash one night,” he recounted. “I spent the entire night drawing. Beach Barrett took it into the editorial offices the next morning and they loved it. The project was on — the first working example of integrated gardening, housing and site design.”
Franklin and Susan Sides, now project leaders of the successful The Lord’s Acre community gardens in Fairview, brought two of their original hand tools used at the Eco-Village’s organic gardens, where interns from across the country came to learn. Susan and Franklin inspired dozens of interns and thousands of the general public with their educational, hands-on workshops in those early years. Franklin compared their original shovel to a brand-new shovel, one polished and sharp; the original was now worn inches shorter from decades of use. He drew a big laugh with, “We still have these because when the magazine moved, these were our ‘severance pay!’”
Kathleen Seebe maintained the legendary Mother Earth News library and resource files, which in the early days meant books — thousands and thousands of books, paper photographs, negatives, slides and more. Commitment to accuracy and facts was a big part of the magazine’s success story, driven by John and Jane Shuttleworth, the original founders of the magazine in 1970. “The library was in the basement of the editorial offices on Stoney Mountain Road in Hendersonville,” Kathleen recounted. “It was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, but when I brought in plants … they loved it under the lights and made it a spectacular library experience!”
Richard Freudenberger, technical editor for the early Mother Earth News and now publisher of BackHome Magazine, recounted those days. “This was before the Internet came along. We had to make phone calls, write letters and buy books for our articles and projects. Many projects were envisioned and simply built from scratch, since all the information so easily available today was not in those days.”
Jade Kornegay, daughter of Bob Kornegay, came to the reunion. She was born at the Eco-Village in the “Low Cost Homestead” that Bob designed and built, as it was called by many. “People ask me what it was like in those early days, but I was a baby,” she explained lightheartedly. “But I do recall walking in the gardens as a toddler.”
Speaking as an original Eco-Village staffer and coordinator, I can say it was wonderful to see so many faces from the early days. I was able to interview a good number of my friends for an upcoming special edition of “Our Southern Community,” the radio series exploring the relationships of energy, environment and economy — not surprisingly, just what we did over 30 years ago! Stay tuned in the next few weeks to hear, in their own words, what those days were like in more detail. And have a few good laughs!
Readers can check out Our Southern Community’s website at www.oursoutherncommunity.org and listen to the radio series on 1350 WZGM, 103.7 WPVM and AshevilleFM.org