By Lindsay Starr Platt, Correspondent
Last weekend at the Bell County Expo Center, thousands of people from Texas and beyond came to to attend the two-day event, Mother Earth News Fair. With more than a 100 workshops to attend and more than 300 vendor booths to visit, the fair kept the expo center busy, active, and crowded. Mother Earth News, a magazine that has been dedicated to helping readers lead more self-sustaining lives since 1970. Just like the magazine, the event was packed with workshops and exhibitors to teach and inform attendees about rural and sustainable living, to include raising your own food, and using renewable energy.
“I am just flabbergasted, this is beyond our expectations. We had a very decent sell on advance tickets. We have ten stages and hundreds of workshops. Texas will be on the roll for next year,” said Andrew Perkins, director of events, Mother Earth News.
Mother Earth News has fairs in five other states; Oregon, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Kansas. Belton was the premier location for the southwestern region of readers and subscribers to be able to attend the fair.
“We started surveying the crowds today, and many attendees came from eight hours and 100 miles away to be here. We pulled people in from Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and more. It’s great. Our pre-sale for this first year event was one of the largest, if not the largest of all our fairs,” commented Bill Uhler, publisher, general manager, Mother Earth News. “Almost 5,000 pre-sale tickets and over 300 exhibitors. We expect 15,000 to 20,000 people to walk through this weekend.”
Attendees could be seen Saturday squeezing through the crowds and filling seats at the workshops as they absorbed information on how to be more self-sustaining. People with “weekend farms” to those living “off the grid”, in addition to many that were just curious, had the chance to learn and ask about a wide array of topics. Workshops included: permaculture, poultry raising, feral hog populations, canning, beekeeping, and self sustainment “hacks”.
“We drove up here from Beeville. The whole organic farming adventure was the driving force. Self-sustainability is what we want to do on our ranch,” said Gary Gillett. “We are going to a workshop and learn how to milk a cow, manually.”
Children even had the chance to participate in workshops at an interactive stage “Kid’s Treehouse”. On Saturday the little ones had the opportunity to learn about making sauerkraut in a demonstration called “Kids Can Pickle Too”.
“I liked it. It tasted salty and it is smelly,” remarked Claire Schirber, age 8, Minneapolis resident.
“It is fun and messy. It is made by bacteria, good bacteria,” said Karis Ferguson, Bryan resident.
The children each left with a bag of cabbage that would be a batch of sauerkraut in five days.
Some speakers and exhibitors were from all over the country and others were local to help with issues just for this region.
“They wanted local information for local issues. This is the inaugural Texas Mother Earth News event. They wanted some area speakers. I’m a farmer right here in Temple,” said Matt Stephens, speaker. “I’m going to talk about people that want to farm and to control feral hog populations and how to return the surplus. Feral hogs can be a great addition to your food supply.”
Many attendees took advantage of VIP package tickets that gave them a chance to relax in a lounge, front row seating at workshops and included meals. The VIP tickets were welcomed by attendees that travelled far and made the event more like a vacation. Also included in the package, a complimentary subscription to the magazine.
“I thought it was awesome! I am so glad they held this event in Texas. For someone who is just a hobbyist, professional to living off the grid. This fair was just great for the whole spectrum of people, including commercial,” said Sherry Bishop, Houston resident.