Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kentucky Green Living Fair - 2014

This past weekend Andrea and I attended the Kentucky Green Living Fair in Somerset, KY. The fair is organized by Sustainable Kentucky, and is in just its second year. We attended the fair last year as well, and I'm pleased to see that it grown.. With 18 workshops, approximately 60 vendors, live music throughout the day, and more than 1,800 attendees I think its safe to say that the fair was a huge success.

My focus for the fair was, of course, attending workshops. I did, however, attend fewer than normal. This was partly due to the fact that I had already previously attended some of the workshops, either at last years fair, or heard the instructor speak on a similar topic at another event. Still, I attended four workshops, one of which lasted nearly two hours.

One complaint I had last year was that there was not enough time for the workshops. By the time one workshop ended, there was already a line outside the door of people waiting to get in for the next. This was not a problem this year. I suspect it was due to several factors, including larger classrooms, the fact that the entire event was inside, and hour long slots for the workshops to allow time in between.


Forest Gardening and Ecological Design - Micah Wiles of Cedar Creek Farm

I had attended a workshop on Forest Gardening at the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair, so had some idea of what to expect. Unfortunately I think that many of those attending were expecting something different, and several ended up leaving before the workshop ended. At one point there were only fifteen people left, although this number kept changing as people would leave and different people would enter. It was distracting for those of us who stayed the entire time, and I'm sure had to be for the instructor as well.

I really enjoyed the workshop. The instructor was very knowledgeable in the subject. I learned several things, but more importantly, I now have more of an interest in learning more. I'm sure that forest gardening will be going onto my list of subjects to research further.

Winter Gardening - Cathy Reymeyer of Mother of a Hubbard

I've attended workshop in the past on winter gardening and/or season extension, but have never really been that interested. I had not originally plan to attend this workshop, but did so at the urging of a friend who was planning to attend. In hindsight I'm glad that I did.

Winter gardening is obviously a popular subject, as the workshop was held in, what I believe was, the largest of the classrooms, and was still packed, with people standing at the back of the room. The information given about building a low-cost low-tunnel will definitely be useful. Perhaps what I most enjoyed, though, was that the instructor took the time to really explain some key concepts, such as the reason behind increased sugar production of plants for cold tolerance.

Growing Our Own Food & Farm Financing - Michelle Howell & Rona Roberts

I really wasn't sure what to expect from this workshop. I was hoping it would be filled with practical information, but I was unfortunately disappointed. Instead, the focus was on the slow money movement, as it can apply to homesteading, gardening, etc. This was explained through several real life examples. I ended up enjoying the workshop, much more than I would have expected,though,  and may do some additional research into the slow money movement.

Composting Toilets - Micah Wiles of Cedar Creek Farm

I was beyond excited when I saw that a workshop on composting toilets was on the schedule. This is something I have been interested in for quite some time, and actually intend to experiment with this year.

When the workshop began the instructor explained that he was not an expert on the subject, but does use a composting toilet at home. He has an outhouse which is used for most of the year, but also uses a basic bucket toilet during the winter months to avoid braving the cold to get to the outhouse.

Most of the focus of the workshop was on using a bucket toilet, with some discussion of designs that could allow for an inside toilet with outside collection, as well as ideas for urine separation. Commercial composting toilets were not discussed in detail, which was fine with me, since I plan to begin with the bucket system anyway.

I didn't really learn much from this workshop that I didn't already know. A couple of books, The Humanure Handbook and Holy Shit were recommended, both of which I've read. It was still nice, though, to hear a first hand account from someone who is currently using a bucket toilet. It was also nice to see that there is sufficient demand for information on the topic that a workshop was offered at the fair. This makes me hopeful that composting toilet use may become more common.

I didn't actually spend much time browsing the vendors at the fair this year. I spent one of my breaks looking for food and eating lunch. My later, longer, break was primarily spent talking with Dan Adams from Earthineer. He had requested some time with me to discuss some ideas for the site, and I'm always more than happy to spend my time doing that. My last workshop ended before time for the fair to close, but Andrea was also finished, so we left early and had dinner with friends, who were also attending the fair.

Andrea did spend more time looking at the vendors, and picked up a few items. She also helped out at the booth where the Field to Fork Festival was being promoted. She did attend a couple of workshops, one on Medicinal Teas and another on Permaculture in Practice, as well as participating in a seed swap.

All in all it was a wonderful day. I was very happy to see so many people come out to the fair. I hope it is a sign of increasing interest in sustainability in the area. I'm already looking forward to next year's event, even though the 2014 event season is just getting underway. With the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC coming up in April, and then the Field to Fork Festival in May it is shaping up to be a spring filled with learning opportunities.

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