Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2012 Mother Earth News Fair - Seven Springs

The Mother Earth News Fair was held this year on September 21-23 in Seven Springs, PA. The fair is in its third year, and we have attended the Seven Springs event all three years. The fair has improved each year, and this was the best one yet.

In case you're not familiar with the fair, it is organized by the Mother Earth News Magazine. The first fair was at Seven Springs in 2010. In 2011 a second event was added in Puyallup, WA. The Seven Springs fair is held at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in southwest Pennsylvania, approximately 60 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. This year's fair offered more than 200 workshops, spread across three days, and over 250 exhibitors and vendors.


The Seven Springs Mountain Resort is a wonderful location. The area is very scenic, and I think is a much better setting for this type of fair than a city setting would be. Some of the workshops and exhibitors are located inside, while the rest are outside. This can, at times, present a problem when attending back to back workshops that are located far apart. The rooms at the resort are nice, but expensive. Many people stay in the surrounding communities to save money, although I like the convenience of being on site. One additional complaint I have hard about the venue is the cost of food. One of the restaurants in the resort had a $30 dinner buffet one night. While it seems that they had plenty of customers, it seems to me a $30 meal doesn't exactly fit in with the theme of the fair.


The fair offers an amazing variety of workshops. There were 13 different "stages" at the fair and 15 different hour-long time slots. When deciding on the workshops to attend I found there were multiple workshops I was interested in during each time slot. This is especially impressive since I had already taken some of the workshops during the previous years. In fact, there was one time slot during which I had already taken three of the offered workshops, and there were still two I was interested in. Andrea and I attended 13 workshops each, as we both ended up skipping a couple.

Workshops that I attended:

  • Off-Grid Living
  • Forest Garden Design
  • Retooling for Tomorrow
  • Biochar
  • Choosing Organic Fertilizer for Building Soil Fertility
  • A Homesteader's Hindsight
  • Energy Performance of Natural Buildings
  • Ordinary Tools, Extraordinary Results
  • Hoeing the Long Row
  • Integrating Woodlot Management Into Your Farm Plan
  • Bioshelter Design and Management
  • Sustainable Living Simplified
I'll also be doing another post in which I provide more detail on each of the workshops that I attended.


The fair offers the biggest variety of exhibitors and vendors that I have ever seen assembled together in one location. For those interested in livestock there is the animal husbandry tent which is filled with  chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, and alpacas, as well as vendors selling fiber and other products. For the farmer and homesteader there are many vendors selling tools, ranging from hand tools to tractors and portable saw mills. Gardeners will find several companies selling seeds and gardening supplies. I recall seeing at least five different publishers, which, in addition to the huge Mother Earth News Bookstore, provide a great selection of books. There were many other types of exhibitors and vendors, beyond those I've mentioned.

Andrea and I certainly took full advantage of having access to so many great vendors. Between the two of us we bought 6 books, more than 20 packs of seeds, 5 varieties of garlic, a calendar, some dog treats, a lotion bar, and a solar oven. I'll be doing another post discussing the booths I visited and items purchased from the vendors.

Overall Impression

The Mother Earth News fair is an incredible value. A three day pass was priced at $35, and could be purchased for even less at times. Travel, lodging, and food were the biggest costs for us, although even with those expenses I believe the event to be well worth the cost. 

As previously mentioned, I believe this year's fair was the best one yet. Several changes were made this year, all of which I think were beneficial. The time between workshops was increased from 15 to 30 minutes which made it a bit easier to get from one workshop to the next, although some workshops  filled up well before the start time, often making it hard to get a seat even with the extra time. Another great change was expanding the event to three days. The extra day allowed more workshops to be offered, and allowed some to be offered more than once. The exhibit hall and outside vendor area were also open for an extra hour before and after the workshops, which made it easier to look around without having to miss out on the workshops. Even with that extra time, however, I found it difficult to spend as much time looking and talking to exhibitors as I would have liked. 

We will definitely be attending the Mother Earth News Fair again next year. Assuming the schedule says the same, we will be attending the Seven Springs event as usual. However, Cheryl Long, Editor in Chief of Mother Earth News Magazine indicated that the Seven Springs event may be moved to the Summer to make room for an event in Kansas City in the fall. If this is the case I'm not sure which event Andrea and I will choose to attend. I'd love to attend both, but we're also considering going to the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Custer, WI in June.

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