SEVEN SPRINGS, Pa. - Interested in composting, organic vegetable gardening or natural home remedies? How about preserving produce, raising chickens, making soap or keeping bees?
These and more than 240 other topics will be covered at the fourth-annual Mother Earth News Fair, a family friendly cornucopia of sustainable living topics scheduled for Friday through Sept. 22 on the grounds of Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands.
"Even before there was Earth Day," there was Mother Earth News, said Mother Earth News Fair spokesperson Brandy Ernzen, noting the magazine launched in early 1970 at the outset of the Back to the Land Movement in North America.
Attendees can taste dozens of heirloom tomato varieties at the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange booth.
Today, the publication reaches an audience of more than 3 million worldwide, and hosts three annual fairs: the original Seven Springs event - now in its fourth year - plus one in Puyallup, Wash., outside Seattle in June and its newest fair, which will be Oct. 12-13 in Lawrence, Kan.
The Mother Earth News Fair provides people with hands-on workshops and demonstrations to teach them principles of leading healthy, self-reliant and eco-friendly lives.
"Essentially, we try to bring the magazine to life," Ernzen said.
Topics range from raising alpacas, pigs or heritage cattle, to growing herbs and organic vegetables, to do-it-yourself solar panels. Presenters include nationally known experts such as actor and activist Ed Begley Jr., Evergreen Institute director Dan Chiras, and HGTV Green Home host Jeff Wilson; as well as regional powerhouses in the farming and natural living sectors including keynote speaker Joe King of Freedom Farms in Butler, Pa.; Pennsylvania Dutch kitchen gardening expert William Woys Weaver; and Shenandoah Valley, Va. farmer Joel Salatin.
In addition to the myriad workshops, the fair will have dozens of vendors and exhibits, including a medicinal herb display and an heirloom seed display; livestock demonstrations; local and organic food options; and children's activities.
Families are encouraged to attend - admission is free for children 17 and under.
"There's livestock you don't usually see at the county fair, like alpacas, llamas and heritage breed sheep and goats" with unusual wool and horns, Ernzen said. There are gardening workshops for children and nature demonstrations, including insect and worm activities.
Seven Springs, she said, is an ideal location for the fair because of its beautiful setting, vast capacity for indoor and outdoor exhibits and workshops and lodging and restaurant facilities. In addition, Seven Springs' environmental initiatives fit well with the Mother Earth News mission.
"We do a lot of greening here at the resort: water conservation, energy conservation, recycling and waste reduction," said Seven Springs spokeswoman Anna Weltz.
"It is a perfect fit," added CEO Eric Mauck, "as it echoes our commitment to developing sustainable, forward-thinking practices and our responsibility to conserve our natural resources."
Weltz said the fair is one of a diverse slate of events and festivals at the resort - and one of her personal favorites.
"It's always fun to see new and returning guests come and participate and learn new things that can make a profound effect on your life as well as on the environment," she said.
Last year, 15,000 people attended the event, Ernzen said. Wheeling resident and natural living proponent Kelly Reindel-Swan, her husband, P.J., and their three children, ages 6 and under, were among them.
"We primarily went because of our interest in the workshop topics and because it was quite affordable," said Reindel-Swan, a Mother Earth News reader. "We attended some excellent workshops on natural medicine/remedies, raising chickens, fermenting - and we've since made some incredible real sauerkraut - amongst others."
She noted many of the workshops were "overflowing with people," and the presenters "were incredibly knowledgeable, well informed and prepared." They hope to return when their children are a little older, she said.
Daily and weekend passes are available by going to www.7springs.com/motherearthnewsfair or calling (800) 234-3368. The fair hours are noon to 7 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 22.