No matter what your reasons for going, Storey editor Deb Burns shares eight revelations you can expect when attending a Mother Earth News Fair.

For me, as a Storey editor, a Mother Earth News Fair is a wonderland, where our books (past, present, and future) come to life in the form of workshops, and our readers roam around sampling them. That’s because Storey and Mother Earth News (MEN) are publishing soul mates, sharing values and priorities and, most of all, an enormous, vibrant audience of optimistic, engaged do-ers.

Here are some tips for enjoying the next MEN Fair.

1. Prepare for a crowd. MEN publisher Bryan Welch says that the first year of each fair he warns local authorities to expect big crowds, and each time they probably roll their eyes and think, “Right. Twenty-five hippies around a campfire.” Until experiencing it, everyone underestimates the appeal of the Fair. In Asheville, NC, 4-lane traffic was jammed for miles, and planes at the nearby airport were backed up waiting for their crews and passengers. Plan accordingly!

2.  Chicken in! The interest in raising chickens is insatiable. Jeannette Beranger of The Livestock Conservancy guides you toward the best breeds for your situation in “Pickin’ Chickens”; Jessi Bloom shows how to make a chicken garden.  No chickens yet?  You can win a starter kit including a flock of Dominiques.  Already have chickens? Next step: rabbits, goats, and/or honey bees.

3.  Explore your heritage — breeds, that is.  At The Livestock Conservancy’s booth you’ll meet traditional livestock breeds that farmers have developed over millennia. Visit the animals to clear your head whenever you’re overdosing on new information.

Guinea hogs Mother Earth News Fair

Guinea hogs snooze at the MEN Fair in Asheville, NC. Photo by Sarah Armour.

4. Green cars are here.  Ford and others make them.  The price is slowly coming down.  The vehicles work. What’s missing?  Customer awareness and demand.  We don’t even know what we want in a green car. Consider taking a crash course in electric vehicles and other transportation alternatives — a MEN priority.

5.  Sample and snack. Every MEN Fair has a different flavor because every region is unique. In Puyallup will you explore the amazing bounty of the Pacific Northwest — sustainably harvested wild seafood, ancient grains, natural jerky, fungi, sea salts — or chocolate from the Amazon?

6.  Snag your seats early for Joel. Joel Salatin draws a crowd whether he’s talking about electric fencing or butchering a chicken. He speaks regularly at MEN Fairs, but you never step into the same river twice with Salatin — he is continually evolving and his talk “Heretics Unite” will be provocative and profound.

7. There’s a bookstore! The heart of the fair is the bookstore with stacks of both new releases and classics on every aspect of sustainable living. Dozens of authors are on hand, giving workshops, signing books, and meeting their readers.

8. The best part: chats with strangers. Find out what the person next to you is into. In Asheville I asked a Tennessee couple about their goal. “I just want to live at home,” said the man. He described their luscious tomatoes, their clean water, their woods full of turkeys and songbirds — and his job as a truck driver, on the road 300 days a year.

Storey and Timber Authors at Pennsylvania Mother Earth News Fair

Several Storey and Timber authors pictured here at the last September’s MEN Fair in Pennsylvania are among those presenting in Washington, including Paul Scheckel (standing, left), Stephanie Tourles (standing, second from left), Sherri Brooks Vinton (standing, center), and Jessi Bloom (seated, right).

If that’s your dream, too — a peaceful, self-reliant, grounded, wholesome life, connected to the land and the soil and the seasons — there’s no better first step than through the fairground gate into the wonderland of a Mother Earth News Fair.

Deborah Burns

Deborah Burns has been an editor at Storey Publishing for more than 25 years. When not working on books about farming, animals, bees, and birds,… See Bio

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