Thousands of people of all demographics interested in living more sustainably, making household products for themselves and embracing industries related to nature and the environment made their way to the first day of the Mother Earth News Fair on Saturday.
From playing with baby goats, to learning to make fermented sodas, to watching sheepdog demonstrations, to tasting craft spirits, the event co-hosted by Mother Earth News and the Frederick News-Post at the Frederick County Fairgrounds had something for everyone. For the first time, the annual FiberFest and The UnCapped Podcast also joined the fair this year, creating an expansive event with over 170 exhibitors.
Hundreds of people gathered to learn how to make their own fermented ginger soda from Rachel Armistead of The Sweet Farm in Frederick. Many of the attendees already had experience with fermenting drinks and food, but Armistead said fermented soda is a good way to get started learning the craft.
The farmer cautioned the soda isn’t a health tonic, but it can be a healthier alternative to store-bought sodas because makers can control the amount and type of sugar used in it.
There were dozens of other workshops and demonstrations at the event, including informational talks on bee-keeping, composting, making kimchi, growing mushrooms and homesteading, among many other topics.
Several companies at the fair sold Cannabidiol or CBD products, which are made from a cannabis compound found in hemp. CBD doesn’t contain the psychotropic properties found in marijuana that cause intoxication and can help combat inflammation throughout the body, according to advocates of its use.
Cheryl Tucker, a sales representative with Agora CBD, said the product can help treat arthritis, gut problems, insomnia and more. Medicinal CBD use has gained popularity in recent years, with many holistic health proponents jumping on the trend.
Nancy Starkey, owner of Trial & Error Acres in Mount Airy, and West Friendship resident A.J. Hesketh-Tutton, wowed FiberFest crowds with their sheepdog demonstrations. It was the first time the festival featured such a demonstration, according to Starkey.
Six border collies who regularly compete in local sheepdog trials showed off their skills, expertly herding sheep through a course of obstacles.
“It’s a lifelong process,” Starkey said of learning to train sheepdogs. “We work in partnership with the dogs but adding the sheep as the third species in the mix really can make things challenging.”
Starkey, who turned to the sport after realizing her border collie yearned to try it, told the audience about the practicalities of having dogs on farms.
“Imagine your sheep or your cattle are way at the end of the pasture,” she said. “Your dog can bring them back to you and put them in the barn for you.”
Phillip Tompkins, representing Rent The Chicken at the fair, said his company offers a way for people interested in raising their own poultry a chance to try it out before committing to buying the equipment and the animals. The rental program is especially popular as an educational opportunity, said Tompkins.
“There’s a generation gap,” he said. “Our grandparents and great-grandparents probably had chickens and they knew how to take care of them. But today’s younger generation, they may have never even been on a farm, let alone held a chicken. By us providing everything they need as a turn-key solution, you can try it out and know that you’ve got support.”
The company delivers renters two or four egg-laying hens, a coop, feed and food and water dishes for six months at a time. At the end of the six months, the renters can opt to adopt the chickens, or they can return the hens at any time. The hatchling program allows people to hatch baby chickens and keep them for two weeks, at which point the chicks can be adopted or returned to the farm.
Tompkins said the company has sold out of rental chickens in many locations, but its Hagerstown farm still has some available.
The fair will continue on through Sunday evening, rain or shine.