Expo Recap

heirloom squashThe 2nd Annual National Heirloom Expo was  a wonderful event, and a successful one too. The expo folks estimate the crowd at 14,000 attendees. I'd say for a midweek event in it's second year, that's impressive. I'd like to thank The Petaluma Seed Bank, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for all their hard work. Mounting an event like this is not easy. As a vendor, I'm happy to say, I had no problems. Speaking of vendors, there was quite a variety. There were seed  companies, pure food companies, people working in social justice, gardeners, farmers, activists, artists, and innovative people of all kinds, all working to make a difference locally, and for the planet. I was truly in awe. Than there were prepared food vendors serving up crepes, grass fed beef burgers, vegan and vegetarian fare, pad thai, and organic grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough that were sublime. I had the Wild West version, which featured this delicious sauerkraut. Yum.

Location, location, location they say in real estate, and for event planning, it's just as important. The Sonoma County Fairgrounds handled this event with ease. It's an expansive property, clean and comfortable, with plenty of horse stalls, corrals, a race track, complete with a full service building with bleacher seating, and nice exhibition halls. A large parking lot is right there, and easy access to the freeway, and downtown Santa Rosa.

Speaking of Santa Rosa, it's a great place. Nice people, a thriving, walkable downtown with independent shops and delicious food and coffee. There's a mall downtown in case you need something Apple. Much like the rest of Sonoma County, it's a great place to spend a week, or a lifetime. There's wine country, a beautiful, rugged coast, and a forest that surrounds the Russian River. Combine all of that with this event, and you have a nice option for a vacation.

As far as heirloom varieties go, The Hall of Flowers was the place to see them.  Quite abundant as you can see from my photos below. Since I was by myself, I didn't have a chance to attend any of the speaker events. Overall, I did hear great feedback from a lot of people. If there was one complaint, it was that there was sensory overload. Considering we live in digital, wired world, sensory overload experienced in real time is new or forgotten experience I suppose.

A couple of personal highlights;

  • I had the opportunity to inform two people about the dangers of GMOs. They had never heard of them. (I had one of my t-shirts on with 100% GMO Free on the front, which raised the question in their mind.) The first was was a senior citizen who was not happy when she found out what they are. She is a resident of CA, and I was happy to inform her that she could vote Yes on Prop 37, the ballot initiative to require GMO labeling on food products. The second was a young girl who was about 8 or 9. I was talking to a couple of people, and she hung around until I was finished.  She was intent on asking her question. I love the juxtaposition of ages here, along with the reaction and response that I got. The elder reacted with righteous indignation, and her response was to take action by placing a vote. The wisdom and experience of life on a micro level. The young girl was curious, and was intent on satisfying it. To me, that's the wonder of youth that gets worn away as we become adults. In the end, the response from both about GMOs was why is this happening? Indeed.
  • A teacher stopped by to admire my photographs of sunflowers. We had a nice discussion of sunflowers, and photography. As the conversation flowed,  she told me she was teaching her class about sunflowers. I brought some Hopi Dye Sunflower seeds to give away as promo. For a number of reasons, that didn't happen. What did happen though is I gave her a large packet of the seeds I had. She was thrilled. She also liked the Sunflowers 2013 calendar I had for sale, so I gave her a copy of that to share with her class. She was so grateful, and so was I knowing that my work was going to be used in some way to inspire young minds. Education is paramount to the evolution of society. The way education and teachers are viewed today to me is awful. I saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate an appreciation education, and the people who chose to make it their life's work.
  • I meet Cindy Scott and Stephen Scott of Terrior Seeds. They will be Slow Food USA delegates to the Salone del Gusto Terra Madre, which I will be covering as press. We compared flights to Italy. Slow Food International made their arrangements. I made my own. As it turns out, We're leaving the same day, on the same airline and leaving for the flight to Italy from the same airport. They are from Arizona, I'm from New Jersey. I know the flight they are on, I almost booked the same flight. I look forward to meeting up with them in Turin, Italy. Oh, and those green pear tomatoes from their catalogue are a must have for me in 2013.

These are just a few of many interactions I had. Quite honestly, the three days are a big, fascinating blur. So many interesting people, with great stories and information to share. I could've spent a week listening and learning.

Now, onto some projects that I became aware of, and will featuring in future posts.

The Agtivists – This a indiegogo.com project with a funding deadline of September 30, 2013. Zofia Hausman is the film maker behind the project.

From the indiegogo.com page; The Agtivists is a feature length documentary that shadows the work of four American pioneers who are leading the way in the fight for our food freedom.

I will have featured post this weekend about this film.

For now, please check out the indiegogo,com projcet page, and if so inclined, please contribute.

Ceres Project – This is a fascinating story of food and community building. This story is so organic on many levels. More to come about this wonderful organization.

Valley Girl Foodstuffs – They are a social purpose business, (YES!) and they work with Sonoma Valley Teen Services. The teens they work with learn about the food system from the farm, to the kitchen, to the market. During this process, the teens develop skills that they can use as a platform for growth. And, can I just say, the flavor profiles and the ingredients here are top notch. Just saying, sweet and spicy papaya mustard.

Seed Matters– I'm excited by this new initiative funded by the Clif Bar Family Foundation. The major components are conserving crop diversity, protect farmer's roles and rights as seed innovators and seed stewards, and reinvigorate public seed research and education. Hear that Monsanto.

The Community Seed Toolkit will provide a nice resource to local people to learn about seed stewardship. Matthew Dillion is the curator for Seed Matters, and was the founding director of the Organic Seed Alliance, which I am a big fan. I've been on their distribution list for a number of years. I have confidence that Seed Matters will grow into top resource for organic farming. The site goes live in October, and I will be following this program closely.

That's a smal snippet of my experience over the three days of the event. Since I was flying solo for this event, I didn't get out and about as much as I would've liked. Perhaps that was for the best. Too much of anything will always be too much.

I had samples of my t-shirts on display. I got a lot of positive feedback, which is exciting. My favorite moment with the t-shirts occurred when a woman was admiring the Candy Roaster Winter Squash shirt. She was smiling, laughing to herself, and shaking her head. Of course I had to ask her if she knew about that squash. She did. It turns out her aunt raves about how "oh so good it is, and laments that she can't find them around anymore like she used to." This woman couldn't wait to tell her aunt that she saw her beloved heirloom variety on a t-shirt, at this national heirloom variety expo. And, that the t-shirt was part of a program to raise awareness about heirloom varieties of plants. A moment to savor, among so many.

Here are some random photos form the Hall of Flowers. I had about 7 minutes left on a half hour dinner break to try to capture this immense display of abundant varieties. Alas, no captions.

heirloom vegetables

heirloom varities

Expo Preview

expo photoAs you might know, I will be a vendor at the 2nd National Annual Heirloom Expo. I'm probably very excited, but I'm too tired to notice. I've been pushing it to get ready, and with three weeks to go, I'm happy to say, I won't be rushing around like the people I deal with in my corporate day job. About the expo;

The National Heirloom Exposition is a not-for-profit event centered around the pure food movement, heirloom vegetables, and anti-GMO activism. Our inaugural event held mid-September 2011 in Santa Rosa, California drew more than 10,000 people from around the country and beyond. With more than 70 speakers and 250 natural food vendors, the event was the largest gathering in pure food history! The Heirloom Expo has gained incredible interest among home growers, farmers, school groups and the general public–so much so that it is being called the “World’s Fair of the pure food movement”!

The three day schedule of speakers alone is worth the price of admission. There will demonstrations  exhibits, and of course vendors. I'm listed as vendor under Magic Hat Media, my soon to be corporate name. I'm proud to be a part of this.

My goal is to introduce myself to the everyone I can. I am my best asset. It's what sets me apart from everyone else, and it's the same for you. Your talent in what you chose to do is an extension of who you are. No need to hide behind it, and no need to be obnoxiously pretentious about it either.

I want to grow my audience. As luck would have it, I will be at the Salone del Gusto Terra Madre by Slow Food International as press five weeks later. This presents an organic opportunity for me to entice the crowd to join at this event in Turin, Italy. Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food Movement is a speaker at the Expo, so there should be a buzz going on about this event.

I will have some books for sale, three different calendars of my photographs and some photographs. I was hoping to make some hats to sell, however they fell off the radar screen. They may still happen, but if they don't, they don't.

The big news is this, I will be launching an awareness program there. In the course of the creative process this summer, an inspiring idea presented itself. It was too good to let pass by. Not everyone wants to garden, and not everyone can. So how do they participate in raising awareness or preserving the heirloom varieties? Participating in farm markets is a great. Educating their children about the wonderful world of heirloom plants is another way. But how they help get the word out to the general public? Well, this program will be one way. That's all I'm going to say about it. I'm keeping it under my hat until the expo. It's the classic storytelling element of a cliff hanger.

Photo courtesy of the 2nd National Annual Heirloom Expo.

Faux Green Olives, A Good Use of Green Tomatoes

green tomatoes and olivesI'm a little busy right now, and unfortunately, the garden has fallen down the list of priorities. I will be a vendor at The 2nd National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, CA, September 11-13, 2012. Shortly after that, I will be part of the international press covering, Salone del Gusto Terra Madre, in Turin, Italy October 25, 2012 - October, 28, 2012. Not to mention the day job, 2 hours commuting everyday, and all the activities associated with life, e.g. laundry. My garden is not located on my property. I have a community garden plot about 10 minutes from my house that I have to haul everything to and fro, including water. Even though I store water there, the water still has to get to the storage container. I need approximately 60 gallons at a time. It's a challenge. Especially with the water and with the heat and flirting with drought here in my corner of southern New Jersey.

Recently, I stopped by just to see what was up. It had rained, or stormed is more like it since rain just doesn't exist with the new weather, so I was off the hook for a bit with watering. When I got there, a branch of a lush Ramapo plant, a New Jersey heirloom, had split from the force of the weight of the green tomatoes. My lack of time contributed since I didn't keep up with securing the new growth to the stake, and than there was the power of the storm.

The tomatoes were too small to fry, and not really enough to pickle. Not one to waste the gift of food, I knew I could do something with them. So, while driving home with the green tomatoes, I thought, when in doubt, roast. From my harvest that day of ripe tomatoes and eggplants, I was going to make a fresh tomato sauce with eggplant, and to that, I would also add the roasted green tomatoes.

I remembered earlier in the day, I had bought some sigi olives, otherwise known as oil cured sicialin olives. They are dry cured black olives that are soaked in oil. The flavor is robust and dense, and they can be very salty. The dry curing intensifies all the flavor as the moisture is removed. They have pits, and for some, the flavor, can be overwhelming. Good, cured olives in tomato sauce is always a favorite of mine with pasta, so now, they were going into the sauce too.

I was all set in my mind until I started to cook. Always one to experiment, I decided to roast the olives with the green tomatoes. I would add  some Italian sunflower oil, which is superb, salt, fresh garlic, some fresh lemon juice, and hope for the best. As you can see by reading this, it worked because I'm sharing it with you.

When I cook, I never measure, that's why I don't bake. So, I can't give you precise amounts here. But here's what I did;

  1. Cut up the tomatoes into quarters, and placed them in a bowl
  2. Removed the pits from the olives, and added the pitted olives to the tomatoes int he bowl
  3. Coat with oil
  4. Sprinkled in some course sea salt, sliced 3 cloves of fresh garlic, and squeezed a fresh lemon into the tomatoes and olives.  I tossed it all together, and let it sit for about 10 minutes while the oven heated up. I used a counter top convection oven at 450
  5. Roasted them for about 12 minutes, removed them, and placed them in a bowl where I tossed them again.

When eaten together, the moisture from the roasted tomatoes, along with the oil, mellows the intense flavor of the dry cured olives while adding a slight tang, that a green olive would have. The textures blend into what one would expect from olives. Hence, faux green olives.

pasta and sauceRight before the pasta was done, I added the mixture with the eggplant, which I french fried, to the tomato sauce, which I tossed with a wonderful organic, Italian glutten freen pasta by BioNataure. I have to say, I was very pleased.

Let them marinate in the refrigerator for a couple days, and the green tomatoes really pick up the olive flavor. It makes a nice tapenade also. I'm so glad  I discovered this. I found another branch spilt from a second Ramapo plant. Can't wait to see a ripe Ramapo will taste like. All in good time. Time right now for me is lacking. Time though is a great equalizer. We all get 24 hours in a day. How we shape it into our own story defines who we are.