Imagine a giant farmers market where you can shear sheep, drink local beer and pet alpacas. Now imagine it at the Puyallup Fairgrounds – and you have the Mother Earth News Sustainable Living Fair, coming to Puyallup this weekend. The second such fair put on by the national magazine for eco-friendly living, the event features not only national keynote speakers but local farmers and food artisans who’ll be part of the more than 120 hands-on booths.
Unlike many fairs, where visitors walk around exhibits and pick up brochures they’ll probably never use, the Sustainable Living Fair aims at teaching in a tangible way about how to live to protect the Earth.
“One of the cool things is that the exhibitors give visitors the chance to interact with what they do,” says Mother Earth News publisher Bryan Welch. Some of the interactions include trying out home-farming tools, meeting alpacas, shearing sheep and learning how to build solar and rainwater collecting systems.
Mother Earth News, read nationwide by folks wanting tips on everything from veggie gardening to green building, held its inaugural fair last September in Seven Springs, Pa. Its success encouraged three more fairs this year: in Pennsylvania, San Rafael, Calif. and – yes – Puyallup. Welch spent a couple of years there as the editor of the McClatchy-owned Pierce County Herald, and got to know the fairgrounds – and their capacity for large animals, equipment and lots of people.
He also points out that the Puget Sound region has a big Mother Earth News readership.
“We knew folks there would be receptive,” Welch explains. “We’re expecting thousands of visitors.”
Welch himself will give a keynote speech on Saturday morning focusing on his recent book “Beautiful and Abundant,” which emphasizes the need for “a positive vision of the human future,” Welch says.
“We’re preoccupied with obstacles, and we’re not going to prosper if we don’t have a collective vision for a sustainable, beautiful future for our children,” he says. He’ll also take questions from the audience, including topics involving the magazine.
There’ll be some locals exhibiting and demonstrating at the fair. Tacoma farmer Cheryl Ouellette, known at farmers markets as the Pig Lady, will explain her free-range, integrated management system for cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chicken and turkeys. Beekeeper Alisa Shorey, who has hives from Sumner to Graham, will demonstrate her methods, and there’ll be representatives from Olympia-based mushroom farm Fungi Perfecti and Yelm’s Transition Technologies, who will teach about rainwater collection and self-prepared food storage.
Other Washington exhibitors include Port Townsend cheese-maker Michael Vicha and Issaquah-based straw-bale builder Terry Phelan; other workshops include keeping backyard chickens, building a garden from scratch and new models for farming. With a local beer and wine garden, plus ice-cream making and local food vendors, there’ll be plenty of sustenance, and there’s a lineup of singer-songwriters to entertain visitors.
Part of the fair’s mission is to be family-friendly, so there are many activities for kids, including cheese-making and animal petting.
“We focus on cool stuff you can do to be sustainable,” says Welch.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568
Mother Earth News Fair
When: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Puyallup Fairgrounds, 110 Ninth Ave. S.W., Puyallup
Events: Keynote speaker Bryan Welch at 11 a.m. Saturday
Cost: One-day pass: $15 advance ($20 at gate). Weekend pass: $20 advance ($25 at gate). Free for 17 and younger.