A Message of Hope in Difficult Times – The National Heirloom Exposition Continues to Inspire

Crowded around the Seed Swap at the 2015 National Heirloom Exposition. Photo by Christopher Fisher.
Crowded around the Seed Swap at the 2015 National Heirloom Exposition. Photo by Christopher Fisher.

The speaker schedule at the National Heirloom Exposition has always featured among the most remarkable lineups of practical, inspirational, and educational presenters assembled anywhere, and the 2015 lineup was no exception. With speakers in three different venues you sometimes you have to make some difficult choices, and it’s impossible to see everyone you’d like.

Connie and I sat down to listen to the fiery oratory of Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumer Association, and I immediately became enthralled by his presentation, “Regenerative Organic Agriculture: Reversing Climate Change and Rural Poverty.”

Unfortunately for me I completely missed Bob McFarland of the California Grange and his talk on grassroots activism and advocacy. There’s something of a Grange Renaissance going on out here in the West, in support of family farmers, and McFarland and the local Granges have been helping show the way.

Luckily the Expo takes place in an area that’s awash in talented, truly innovative farmers, growers and food system advocates who are already growing the elements of a sustainable food and ag system. So, in between presentations you can bump into an amazing array of folks to talk to about what you’ve been missing elsewhere.

In the space of just a few minutes’ time on Thursday I saw or spoke with Zeno Swijtink of Slow Food Russian River, Evan Wiig of the Farmer’s Guild, Gowan Batist of Fortunate Farm, Elizabeth & Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm, Tiffany Renee of the Petaluma Grange, Jess Flood of Bloomfield Organics and her partner, serial innovator Nick Papadopolous, founder of CropMobster.

Masters of permaculture and bio intensive farming, Toby Hemenway and John Jeavons, respectively – among the most popular educators in their fields to be found anywhere – hosted workshops on successive days.

There were seed talks galore, addressing the subject from a variety of practical as well as policy angles. What to plant here in the North Bay soon, how to save seeds, and how to use heirloom varieties as troubleshooting tools were among the many topics.

A presence at each Heirloom Expo thus far, either remotely or in person, seed activist, environmentalist and sage Vandana Shiva is clearly an inspiration to many of the people who organized and attended this year’s event.

This year Shiva was featured prominently three evenings in a row, speaking primarily on the topics of seed sovereignty and the burgeoning effort worldwide to support small-scale farmers who use agro-ecological methods as a means of increasing crop yields and soil health, while mitigating the effects of climate change.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *