tower2Last week was once again the glorious time of year where our county fair grounds are filled with piles of squash, long haired sheep, and weird shaped tomatoes.

People from all over come to gaze at the wonders that the National Heirloom Exposition has to offer, and to hear leaders in the sustainable food industry speak. Unlike any other fair you’ve been too, this “World’s Pure Foods Fair” is a celebration of heirloom produce and livestock, and I make sure to attend every year.

theifmakingThis year was hot, but the 100-degrees didn’t keep thousands of people away from this not-for-profit event. I started my day off with checking out the heirloom animals. I loved learning about the American Guinea Hogs, and how they were once a staple on the homestead to keep a safe zone around the house free from snakes. Now, they are critically rare, like many heirloom animals.

IMG_0448The Sebastopol Goose, with its fancy backwards feathers, made me wonder about what evolutionary benefit that feature gave it, other than obviously always being appropriately dressed for a wedding.

IMG_0461Always a favorite, the Hall of Flowers is transformed into rows and rows of produce displays, with the giant squash and gourd tower looming in the middle. As I wandered between the tables looking at all the different colors, shapes, textures and sizes of tomatoes, melons and squash, I am always overwhelmed at just how many different varieties there are. This year, I was really inspire by the Blue Gold Berries cherry tomatoes and the Galeux D’Eysines pumpkin, and hope to grow them in my homestead garden next year.

tacosAfter sampling about 8 different types of watermelons, and hearing Toby Hemingway’s inspiring talk on building community with urban permaculture principles, I wandered though the food vendors. There are no fried oreos or the like at this fair, only local or organic vendors who take pride in their products. After picking up a wood fired pizza or a pork belly taco, fair goers sat in the shade and listened to bluegrass music while discussing all the amazing things they were inspired by.

IMG_0473New this year was the fair’s dahlia show. It was literally impossible for me to pick out my favorite, but the bright red and curvy “Ms. Scarlett” is certainly close. I left the hall overwhelmed by all the beauty and wanted to plant every single variety in my garden!

cinnamonMy last stop was the vendor hall, where I wandered around tasting chocolates, perusing books, and talking with heirloom seed vendors. I bought a mint colored coffee mug from a ceramicist visiting from New Mexico, and we chatted about the other heirloom festival that Baker Creek Seed Co. puts on in the Spring in Missouri. I also couldn’t resist bringing home 6 saffron crocus bulbs- after all, they don’t need summer water! After a delightful conversation with a seed collector from Guatemala about amaranth, I headed home full of inspiration!

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