Tuesday, November 12

The Fair

Last year we went to the Mother Earth News Fair in PA and we loved it. The weather was great and even though we had the kids with us, we were still able to learn a great deal and participate.
This year, this past September, we went again. And we don't think we will be going again for a few years. This is entirely because of the kids. Plain and simple. I love them, but when it comes to staying with us, sitting quietly, listening, and not having temper tantrum meltdowns, they just don't have it in them.
We took in as much as possible and spent most of our time at the outside displays and the vendors. There were a lot more vendors this year than last year which was great since that is where we spent most of our time learning. I gathered a big collection of business cards and literature to read later since the kids didn't want to stand still for too long. I found myself quickly asking of the vendor had a website as I was being dragged away by an impatient 4 year old.
We enjoyed the poultry tent very much - they had such a wonderful variety on display and the owners were there to answer questions and take the bird, or bunny, out of the cage for the kids to pet. I thought that tent was very well set up and easy to navigate.   
We spent a lot of time at the outdoor animal exhibits and everyone was very nice about the kids wanting to pet the goats, alpacas, lamas, sheep and pigs. They all had their products on display and the whole tent was very informative. The little man was especially interested in the wool spinning demonstration and the life cycles of goats chart.
Despite the fantastic array of lectures and workshops, we were not able to take in more than one or two. We did get to see Darrell Frey of Three Sisters Farm talk about their wonderful permaculture set up. We set up camp in the back of the lecture hall which was unofficially zoned 'the people with kids and strollers' section. We got a lot out of his talk and his slide shows were great. Janet McKee was speaking with Darrell Frey and their presentations were great together.
This is where I started to notice a difference between the 2012 fair and the 2013 fair.
The 2012 fair was fantastic. We learned so much, enjoyed as much as we could, and the energy of so many like-minded people in the same place as electrifying. I felt that I was really part of something special and that I wasn't just some strange person doing strange homesteading things. There were other people like me. Lots of people. For the most part, people were considerate, understanding and very tolerant of the kids making some fuss, and there were a lot of other people there with kids. And not just with the kids - people in general were considerate of each other. I came away with a great feeling of fellowship and encouragement.
The 2013 fair was different. We still learned a lot and had a great time. But the energy was missing. I didn't feel very connected to my fellow fair-attendees this year. I can't put my finger on exactly why but this year it seems that people were a lot less tolerant of kids and of other people in general. People were pushy and a little rude. This was most apparent when it came to the lectures. People with kids tried to keep them quiet, as we did last year, but the problem I saw was not with kids making noise during speaker presentations. The problem was that people would constantly be getting up and moving around during the talks. They would come in right in the middle, sit down, listen for a few minutes, and then disrupt the talk again to get up and leave. This happened during the entire presentation from Darrell Frey. When Janet McKee was speaking, some of the younger guys in the audience started yelling that 'this talk was supposed to be about permaculture!' People were disruptive and rude.
Granted, we did not see more than one or two presentations, but while talking with other fair goers, this was pretty much the way of it in a lot of lectures.
Also, this year there were what I call chair warmers. A person would show up at 10am to a certain lecture hall and get a seat right up front. They would then 'sit through the 10am presentation, stay seated for the 11:30 presentation and then the 1pm presentation, which is the one they wanted to see in the first place. The 1pm presentation was usually a very popular one and seating was at a premium. I am not sure if this is rude or just good planning, but the people with the 10am and 11:30am presentations must not have appreciated it.
I came away from this years fair with a lot of knowledge, a lot of literature, a lot of vendor crafts, but not a great sense of belonging. This year the fair was a much more diverse group of people, which is great in that more people are getting into sustainability, but the vibe was different because of it.
I am not discouraged - we are not going to give up on things because of some bad apples. We got some great ideas for our property and we are looking forward to putting some of the permaculture ideas we picked up from Darrell Frey into practice.
Things will work out.

Roy and the little girl checking out the honey bee display

The little man in the kids butterfly tent

One of many great outdoor exhibits

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