Heirloom Expo Celebrates Sustainable Living, Real Food

The National Heirloom Expo and World’s Pure Food Fair, features the world’s most extensive collection of heirloom fruits and vegetables -- over 4,000 varieties, 100 plus speakers, 300 vendors, and 150 exhibitors, will take place Tuesday through Thursday, September 10-12 from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.  

All profits from the Heirloom Expo are donated to The School Garden Network, a non-profit located in Santa Rosa with a mission to “grow healthy students, families, schools, and communities through garden-based education.” Since 2003 the School Garden Network has “awarded $260,000 in grant funding to 60 local schools” and helped seven schools affected by recent wildfires and flooding events, according to their website.

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After its inception in 2011, the Heirloom Expo has grown to become a world-renowned pure food festival.  As the largest event of its kind, thousands will travel to Santa Rosa from around the world this week, and visitors will rub shoulders with industry leaders and the brightest minds in the sustainable, real food movement.

The Heirloom Expo is a family-friendly event with activities and educational opportunities, and the Kids’ Pavilion is open all three days for youngsters to explore.  The Cool Bean Swap is a chance to learn about the importance of saving seeds and is a great hands-on experience. Heirloom Expo representative Lisa was excited to announce a new living soil exhibit and invited all to explore the inner workings of soil ecology.

The International Heirloom Conference is held all three days at the Expo and features a list of high profile speakers, including Dr. Vandana Shiva, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Jeffrey Smith, Rachel Parent, Zen Honeycutt, Ocean Robbins, Joseph Simcox, and many more. 

Dr. Vandana Shiva will be familiar to many Sonoma State students, as she has featured in several documentaries.  Her willingness to speak truth to power and her activism protecting farmers in India and alerting the world to the dangers associated with chemically-intensive agriculture has made her a star in the realm of pure food, as well as a noted opponent of the biotech industry.  Dr. Vandana Shiva will speak at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, and her speech is titled “Seeds of Freedom: Why We Need to Save and Spread Patent-Free Non-GMO Seed.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is the son of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, and his work as an environmental activist and attorney documenting the links associated with glyphosate exposure and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma led to the groundbreaking verdicts that have awarded over $300 million so far, with thousands of more lawsuits remaining.  Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. will be featured in a roundtable discussion on Wednesday, September 11 at 11:30 a.m. with Dr. Vandana Shiva and Bob McFarland, moderated by Mary Jacob.

The Heirloom Expo is the creation of the Gettle family and the Baker Creek Seed Company, and the annual event highlights sustainable farmers, chefs and activists while celebrating heirloom crops, seeds and foods.  The Expo has become the premier non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) event of the year.

Mendocino County led the nation by becoming the first County to ban the planting of genetically modified organisms, also known as GMO’s, in 2004.  Sonoma County voters followed suit in 2016 with the passing of Measure M, which prohibited the planting of genetically modified crops in unincorporated Sonoma County.  The leadership exhibited by voters in these counties makes the area the perfect home for the Heirloom Expo, as the festival celebrates non-GMO activism.

The Heirloom Expo includes a Giant Pumpkin Contest, a gorgeous collection of flowers in the Dahlia Show with cash prizes awarded in several categories, an International Seed Swap and Seed Circus, live music all day long, and a collection of halls filled with discussions, round-tables, and exhibits.

The vendor hall has sustainable products throughout, and the booths are lined with customers perusing the goods.  Mossy Falls Farm is a longtime supporter of the Expo, their booth features organic essential oils, and they said, “this is our favorite event of the year.  The team that puts this on does an amazing job, and everyone that participates this week, from exhibitors to patrons, we’re all on a mission to change the world, to make it a safer, healthier place for all families.”

Jessica M. visits the Heirloom Expo every year and said, ”I love all the varieties of seeds, the amazing food and organic products, and my family comes to learn about gardening and to meet new friends.”

 Admission is free for ages 17 and under. Tickets are available at the gate. One Day Pass $15, Three Day Pass $30. For more information, visit TheHeirloomExpo.com, and don’t forget to take a picture in front of the gigantic squash tower.