Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2013 Mother Earth News Fair - Seven Springs

This was our fourth year attending the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA. The fair itself hasn't changed much since last year, so I will not repeat what I said about the event before in the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair - Seven Springs post.

Like last year the fair was a three day event. The organizers kept a couple of the key improvements from last year, which I feel improve the overall experience. These changes include expanding the exhibitor hours beyond the times that workshops are in session as well as allowing thirty minutes between workshops. This does make for long days, especially on Saturday, but I prefer the longer days to trying to pack it into a shorter period and constantly feeling rushed.


There were fourteen different "stages" this year, most of which hosted workshops during each of the fifteen time slots, for a total of more than 200 workshops. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately, depending on your view, some of the workshops were offered multiple times, resulting in far fewer than 200 different options to choose from. It looks like there were close to 160 different workshops, with four of them being two parters.

I expect that for most people having 160 different workshops to choose from was plenty. However, I found that many of the workshops had been offered previously, and I had already attended several of them at past fairs. I was able to put together a fairly full schedule, although only a few of them were ones I was particularly excited about.

I initially planned to attend fourteen workshops, but only ended up going to twelve of them, four on Friday, three on Saturday, and five on Sunday. Andrea also attended twelve workshops.

Workshops that I attended:

  • The Homeowner's Energy Handbook: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Sources
  • Certified Natural Grown
  • Small Stories, Big Changes
  • What If: Homesteading as a Way of Life
  • Top Bar Hives: It's All About the Wax
  • Foam- and Fossil Fuel-Free Building
  • Forest Diagnosis
  • Small Farm, Big Exposure
  • How to Walk Away from Civilization
  • Heat Your Home with Solar Energy
  • Earth, Straw, and Wood: Build a Mortgage-Free Natural Cottage
  • Conduct a Home Energy Audit
Workshops that Andrea attended:
  • Hands-On Healing Remedies
  • Building a Natural First-Aid Kit
  • Herbal Balance
  • Herbs for Longevity and Well-Being
  • Six Inches of Soil in Six Months
  • Primary Poultry Healthcare
  • Put 'em Up: Fruits
  • Planting by the Moon
  • Herbal Medicine Making 101
  • Growing and Grinding Grains
  • Employing the Family Flock
  • Choosing Herbal Remedies for Sustainability
I will be posting summaries of the workshops I attended in the near future, so be on the lookout for that if you'd like to hear more about any of them.

Much like the workshops, I found that there were a lot of exhibitors that had been at the fair in previous years. While I did stop by a couple of those booths, if I had something specific to look for or to as about, I skipped many that I had visited before. The result was that I didn't spend as much time at the exhibitor booths as I have in the past.

The only exhibitor that I purchased anything from was Enon Valley Garlic, which I made it a point to visit first thing, before they sold out of Stull, which is a variety of garlic I missed out on last year by dropping by their booth too late. Andrea did purchase several items, including a few books, some soaps for a friend, and some seeds. Other exhibitors that I talked with include:
  • Bee Thinking - I stopped by to ask them about Warre hives and how they compare to top bar hives.
  • CobraHead - I stopped by to look at the broadfork they had on display.
  • Gardener's Workshop Farm - This booth had several items that we looked at, including Atlas Nitrile Gardening Gloves, a heat mat, and a trake.
  • Natural Cottage Project - I wasn't able to catch one of their demonstrations, but did chat with someone at the booth for a few minutes about cob building, and local workshops.
  • Kunz Engineering - I was very excited to see Kunz Engineering at the fair, as I have been wanting to look at their AcrEase mowers for some time. I was very impressed, and if I were buying a new mower today would most likely buy one of their products.
  • DR Power - I stopped by the DR booth to ask them about their 3-Point trimmer for mowing fence lines. I was able to get some info, but neither of the salesmen working the book seemed all that interested in talking with me.
  • Yurts of America - I mostly stopped by this booth just to be able to see the inside of a yurt. I have a friend who would like to buy one, so I glanced at the literature, but since no prices were included I didn't bother picking any up.
Of course I also dropped by the Earthineer booth a couple of times. Unlike previous events, I was able to make time in my schedule this year to stick around the booth for a couple of hours and help out, while Dan and Don were presenting the DIY Solar Panel workshop. It was great meeting people interested in the site, and answering their questions. It was also nice getting to talk with Leah a bit, although we stayed too busy for much chatting. I am hopeful that I'll be able to help out at the booth at future events.

While the fair was overall very enjoyable, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows this year. In fact, Saturday was just the opposite. I knew the forecast was calling for rain, so I went prepared with a jacket that sheds rain, and a wide brimmed hat. On the way to my third workshop, I found Andrea and left her the jacket, since I was planning to go back inside after that workshop. Of course this is when it really started to rain. Fortunately I had a good seat near the center of the tent, but even that wasn't enough to keep me dry once the wind picked up. Not only that, but by the time the workshop ended there was a steady flow of water running between the seats, and puddles on the outside that were deep enough that my socks got wet while walking through one. Even though the rain had slacked down a bit by the time I left the workshop, it was raining still hard enough that I was drenched by the time I made it back inside. I had to go to the room and change clothes before doing anything else. Andrea managed to stick it out, and make it to the rest of her scheduled workshops, all of which were outside. Of course the organizers of the fair had no way of anticipating such heavy rains, so the blame can't be placed on them. However, I do hope that they do a better job in the future of locating outdoor tents, so that, in the event of rain, water isn't literally being funneled into them.

The other complaint that I have is that there seemed to be more disturbance of the workshops from nearby booths this year. I'm guessing that some exhibitors were given instructions regarding "quiet times" because the Wood-Mizer folks did not interrupt any of the workshops I attended at the Renewable Energy stage, even though they had multiple portable sawmills set up around the tent, and ran them frequently between workshops. The tents near the Kunz Engineering booth weren't so lucky, however. One of the workshops I attended was interrupted by a demo of one of the mowers, which thankfully didn't last very long. There were also several stages that were close enough to booths that people shopping at those booths were, at times, loud enough to be heard over the speakers. The worst of these was the Mother Earth Living stage, which was located in the middle of the exhibit hall. Andrea attended several workshops on this stage the first day, but then started avoiding it due to the distractions. 

It is very likely that we will not go back to this event again next year. This is partly because of the lack of new workshops that we are interested in. Mostly, though, this is because it has been announced that a new event is being added to the 2014 schedule in Asheville, NC. Not only is Asheville a much shorter drive for us, but it has several other advantages as well. We expect the trip to be less expensive, due to a wider range of lodging and dining options. I'm also hopeful that there will be several new workshops to choose from, led by locals from the area. Lastly, the Asheville event is schedule for April, which is early enough in the year that we could still do another event in late summer or the fall.

If you have never attended a Mother Earth News Fair event, I highly recommend doing so. It seems that the Seven Springs event is the largest, which I suppose makes sense because it is also the oldest. While I have no experience with the events at the other locations, I am confident that either would be worth attending.

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