National Heirloom Expo draws crowds at Sonoma County Fairgrounds

Meg McConahey, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The goal of the National Heirloom Expo is to change the way people see and grow fruits and vegetables.

Shiny, uniform, smooth and common are out. Old varieties that at one time would have been considered homely and unworthy of a spot in the supermarket produce section are venerated by the thousands of growers, home gardeners and vendors pouring into the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa this week for the seventh annual harvest event.

They come from throughout the United States and around the world to admire odd squash, have their pictures taken in front of towers of vegetables, buy organic heirloom seeds and other gardening supplies, and listen to talks from more than 100 speakers, including environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

The Kennedy family scion appeared Tuesday night on a panel discussion about the controversial weed killer glyphosate, commercially sold as Roundup and determined to be carcinogenic.

“This is to preserve our vegetable heritage and pass it on to the next generation. If we don’t do it, no one will,” said David Johansen, one of 300 farmers who grow plants to supply to Baker Creek Seed. The Missouri-based seed company is a leader in the global movement to preserve disappearing heritage varieties and the force behind the expo, now in its seventh year.

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