Thirty some years ago in Anderson Valley the Simple Living Fair made its debut at the Boonville Fairgrounds. The driving force then was a group of back-to-the-land refugees from urban venues who had the desire and hope to make this agricultural work relevant; cooperating with and respecting nature; and moving a lot of dirt. This summer at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville on July 31st and August 1st the Anderson Valley Foodshed has organized a retrospective and brand new version called the NOT So Simple Living Fair.
There is an attempt here to represent a heap of history. This fair is not just a record of the woes and victories of a handful of new settlers coming back to the land. It is about the pioneering people who came here after 1850 who stayed in one place and made this place their life. But the people part of this historical legacy really goes back more than 10,000 years to a full landscape of plants and animals. And luckily for us here in Mendocino County, this same place resembles that place of the long indigenous stewardship.
Missing are almost all the salmon and the old growth redwoods are now a shorn carpet, yet the spirit of the land, river, and sea still abides for many of us — largely as it did for the very first settlers here. Newcomers who replaced the natives must have shouted Eureka! when they found places like Anderson Valley, but in a very ancient human trade off, those first settlers lost some essential natural and human resources including the indigenous people whose culture demonstrated the much-touted goal of the balance of man and nature.
This Not So Simple event says to me that the new settlers are us and our families. And we are part of this history for better and worse, but this event also implies a path toward successful stewardship.
We will be processing acorns and grinding apples (if the Gravensteins cooperate). We will be teaching how to ferment all kinds of things including beer and wine making. Solar energy will be featured by people who live with and energize with it. Masa will be made, as well as tortillas and salsa. Blacksmithing, sheep dog training, herbal medicine, hunting, beekeeping, alternative building methods, farming, gardening, local grain growing, animal husbandry, and home wood milling are just a sampling of the hands-on workshops and ongoing demonstrations that will be featured. There will be local foods, barbecued lambs, salsa, tortilla, and bread making. We will celebrate, dancing with Pura Vida on Saturday evening, and hear the narratives of some key farming families. We will share information, compare notes, and mostly reaffirm that the dream of living not only on the land, but with the land is a possible dream, and maybe it might be our only hope.