Not So Simple Living

by Julie Liebenbaum, July 10, 2013

Not So Simple

Once again, the scenic Anderson Valley gears up for three days of practical DIY skills, fun, music and the building of a community.

Members of the Anderson Valley Foodshed Group have filled dozens of presenter slots for the Not-So-Simple Living Fair in a packed schedule that spans Friday through Sunday, July 26th through 28th at the Boonville Fairgrounds. For the last four years, local homesteaders, farmers and experts in their various fields have been presenting hour and a half long hands-on workshops and demonstrations on topics as diverse as giving seaweed facials to working with draft horses. More than six workshops in six different subject areas will be taking place around the fair grounds simultaneously, as well as ongoing demonstrations, scheduled round table discussions in the “conversation café,” a curated “tool show and tell”, kids activities and various local food and craft vendors. Main topics covered at the fair include homesteading, farming and gardening, animal husbandry, wild food foraging and hunting, food processing, creating shelter and other practical living skills.

More than dirt-pushing & note-taking

Melissa Meader, a founding member of the Valley Trail Coalition and local yoga instructor expressed the current need for the fair. “As human beings, we have increasingly become disconnected from these hands-on skills. The Not-So-Simple Living Fair is a way to not only learn these methods that have been forgotten, but also to experience them.” Melissa points out that she’s attended the last three years of the event, and last year she volunteered to teach a goat milk soap making workshop and lead a roundtable discussion in the conversation cafe. This year she looks forward to being an attendee in order to take advantage of the more than seventy or so workshops.

The event is entirely run by volunteers, organizers and presenters alike. Sophia Bates, a local farmer and event organizer pointed out, “It’s about education for the sake of learning and building skills, not education for profit. It costs less than taking your friend out to lunch, less than half a tank of gas, and you get dinner, and a band.”

According to the event volunteer organizers, the Not-So-Simple Living Fair has embraced the “fair” aspect as well as the educational. This year the kids area is being expanded with more hands-on activities and ongoing demonstrations geared for the whole family, and more vendors have signed up including the Anderson Valley Teen Center with their pedal-powered smoothies. “We’re not just about nose to the grindstone, hammer wielding, dirt pushing and note taking,” says local builder and event volunteer organizer Captain Rainbow. “We’ll dance under the stars and create family style mayhem all weekend long.” According to the local builder and personality, the Friday Night Campout Cabaret draws musicians, story tellers, fire dancers and stilt walkers. This year local Afrolatin band Pura Vida will perform in the redwood grove on Saturday night.

As Angela Dewitt, a longtime valley resident and now a Fair volunteer says, it is the sense of community that keeps attendees coming back. “I came away with a strong appreciation of the diversity of knowledge and experience here in our community.” By sharing the skills that people have mastered throughout their years of gardening, raising animals and building their own homes here in Northern California, a real sense of an expanding family has emerged.

Open networking & shared information

This year’s Sunday Keynote Speaker, Amigo Bob Cantisano of Heaven and Earth Farm, was the founder of the popular 33 year old Eco-Farm Conference held in Pacific Grove, California. That event has inspired thousands of people in the organic farming community as well as many of the Not-So-Simple Living Fair’s organizers.

Darius Richmond, a local business owner and self-taught homesteader expressed views shared by many of last year’s attendees. “This event is incredible. It filled me with information and inspiration. My only regret was there were so many great presenters, it was difficult to choose what to do.” This years offerings have expanded to include a section of the fair dedicated to Homesteading with workshops that will include blacksmithing, engine use and repair, sewing and other practical skills.

The Anderson Valley Foodshed Group has been working toward healthy local food systems for the past 9 years through education, creating farming opportunities and networking. They have published the Mendocino County Local Food Guide, available online and in print, which lists local farms and food producers along with an interactive website which allows users to search for specific foods by region, farm and growing practices. That networking is what inspires the Foodshed Group to sponsor the Not-So-Simple Living Fair. This large group setting is the easiest way to share local farmers and homesteaders hard-earned agricultural skills with one another. The original “Simple Living Fair Handbook,” was used as a blueprint by the small group who organized the first Not-So-Simple Living Fair four years ago. Linda MacElwee, a Navarro Watershed co-ordinator and event organizer says “this new generation of event organizers agreed that making food and shelter by hand is not simple.” So they gave the fair an updated name. Linda says she doesn’t mind all the hard work.” It’s remarkable how 40 years after the first Simple Living Fair, we’re doing this for the joy of it.”

The Not-So-Simple Living Fair is an Anderson Valley Foodshed Production, co-produced with help from KZYX, local community radio www.kzyx.org.

For more information about the Not-So-Simple Living Fair go to www.notsosimple.info or call (707) 895-2949. For information about the Anderson Valley Foodshed Group go to www.mendocinolocalfood.org. For interviews or press passes please contact Julie Liebenbaum at (707) 895-2195 or boonvillegeneralstore@gmail.com.

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