An Heirloom Seed Extravaganza

Imagine a delicious cross between an old-timey county fair, a farmers market, and a three-day intensive workshop with some of the best minds in gardening, seed preservation, healthy living, and sustainability.  Throw in some entertainment, kids’ activities, vendors, food, friendship, and magic, and you have The National Heirloom Exposition.

Imagine a delicious cross between an old-timey county fair, a farmers market, and a three-day intensive workshop with some of the best minds in gardening, seed preservation, healthy living, and sustainability.  Throw in some entertainment, kids’ activities, vendors, food, friendship, and magic, and you have The National Heirloom Exposition.

A group of heirloom enthusiasts started this one-of-a-kind event in 2011 to bring greater awareness to the history, preservation, and cultivation of varieties free from genetic modification. It features an expo hall filled with beautiful displays of heirloom fruits and vegetables for exhibition and tasting, as well as the iconic and very wild Tower of Squash, always the centerpiece of the event.

2023 marks the Expo’s 10th anniversary and also the first year it is being held in Ventura. Expo draws a national audience, but at its heart it’s a local event meant to elevate the rich agricultural history and amazing local food culture of the Central Coast region.

There are tomato tastings of hundreds of varieties of tomatoes, fruit carvers, many varieties of heirloom squash and rare melons, all scoped out by the Expo’s advance team that harvests and brings everything to Ventura.

“The whole reason for the National Heirloom expo,” says Michelle Johnson, of Baker Creek Seeds, “is to bring a greater awareness to the incredible diversity of heirloom and open pollinated varieties… These are seeds that can be saved and shared and grown and will grow true to type year after year. Nobody owns these seeds.”

The more than 30 speakers this year will include Indy Srinath, urban farmer and host of the Nat Geo series “Farm Dreams,” anti-GMO activists Jeffrey Smith and Rachel Parent, food historian David Shields, permaculture expert Larry Santoyo, urban gardener Wendi Phan, local food pioneer Steve Sprinkel. In all, more than 30 national, international, and local speakers are scheduled to present on a wide range of topics, from seed saving and small-space gardening to permaculture and pollinators.

What’s especially cool is that, on the last day, the the entirely non-profit event turns into a gigantic farmers market.

Other activities include a seed swap from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Donations are encouraged but not required, and open-pollinated and heirloom seeds are preferred. There will be many kinds of fruits and vegetables available for tasting, as well as a giant pumpkin growing contest, fruit carving, demonstrations, exhibits, and many other opportunities to explore and enjoy new ideas and exciting and unusual varieties.

And stroll the streets of the fairgrounds to enjoy music, entertainment, and healthy food from local vendors.

The National Heirloom Expo has been called the “World’s Fair of Pure Food,” and the only way to believe it is to see it for yourself.

As Michelle says, “The other thing that’s different about heirloom and open pollinated seeds is that their genetics are stable…you know if you plant Granny Cantrell’s tomato and save that seed, you know that the next year you’ll get Granny Cantrell’s tomato again, just the same….the seeds have been sort of genetically proofed over hundreds of years.”

Tickets and more info here.

Comments(1)

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Kay Deaver

10 months ago

So much to learn. I can hardly wait.

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