The Asheville Experience and 6 Awesome Products from the Mother Earth News Fair

A couple weeks ago, I had the great opportunity to visit Asheville, North Carolina with Muli Lahav, VP of Marketing of HomeBiogas.  Asheville is a beautiful city nestled in the mountains, enveloped by nature, and supported by a backbone of progressive, creative, good-natured people.  It’s known for its vibrant arts scene, historic architecture and exceptional culinary delights. With a free day on the front end of the trip we were fortunate enough to dip our toes in all of it. 


We were invited to take a tour of the French Broad River Academy, a middle school for girls located in the heart of the River Arts district. It combines experiential learning on the river with rigorous academic curriculum in the classrooms. Our brief introduction to the HomeBiogas system was welcomed by engaging students, one of whom volunteered her time with us at the Mother Earth News Fair.  The River Arts District is a sight to behold with unique and eclectic graffiti art covering every building in the area.


Following our school tour, and just around the corner, we began our culinary adventure.  First stop was lunch at 12 Bones Smokehouse, recommended as one of the best places for barbeque in the region and for very good reason!  The down-home dishes were cooked to perfection, different sauces were all delightful and there was plenty of great reading material written on the walls.

Second stop was Curaté, an exquisite tapas bar with authentic dishes that embodied the essence of Spain. The executive chef, Katie Button, was recently nominated for best chef in the Southeast, which is rightly deserved based on the robust flavor and presentation of her dishes.


The Mother Earth News Fair was our primary destination.  Located just minutes from downtown Asheville, this fair was a convergence of experts in sustainability, highly respected presenters, and attendees from all walks including farmers, environmental advocates, homesteaders and people wanting to become more self-reliant. 



The numerous attendees kept us very busy in our booth so we were unable to catch any of the presentations in their entirety, but there were so many different stages with such a variety of classes it would have been hard to choose anyway.

Topics ran the gamut from renewable energy, natural health, and sustainable agriculture to modern homesteading and animal husbandry.  Interesting presenters like Rob Greenfield, an adventurer, activist, humanitarian, and “dude making a difference”, shared their wisdom.  And, many hands-on activities and demonstrations throughout the fair including natural building, blacksmithing, basket weaving, and fermenting made it fun for the whole family.

In addition to educational experiences, there were a myriad of local companies and small businesses exhibiting their unique products and services.  It was nice to see so many gathered in one place with the goals of lightening our impact on the environment. Here are six of my top ten favorite environmentally responsible products from the fair:


  1. The Sun Oven – A well-insulated solar powered oven that can bake, boil and steam foods at temperatures up to 400o F in addition to dehydrating foods at lower temperatures. We love them for their environmental benefits as well as the philanthropic efforts of their president, Paul Munsen, in villages in South Africa and other places in need.

2. Dryer balls from Poplar Hill Alpacas – Use these all-natural balls instead of dryer sheet and keep harmful chemicals off your clothes while reducing the drying time and/or temperature.  It decreases the use of fossil fuels and saves money. 


3. Nancy Basket’s Kudzu Kabin Designs makes paper and a variety of woody handicrafts, like my beautiful hat, from kudzu!  Her creative work turns an invasive and destructive species into a useful and valuable resource. And the rate of growth of these aggressive vines makes this type of work incredibly sustainable.  Kudos to Kudzu Kabins!

4. EarthKind botanical pest prevention products.  We love them for so many reasons. Not only do their products encourage people to reduce their use of toxic chemicals, but they also eliminate pest problems responsibly without harming the animals. If that weren’t enough, their manufacturing footprint is 98% carbon free and they strive to maintain a 20% handi-capable workforce. To top it off, the stuff actually smells good! Seriously… like, I would wear it on my neck kind of good. 
Annalise, our volunteer from French Broad River Academy, with EarthKind products

5. Clyde’s Garden Planner – This handy sliding chart gives even the most novice gardener all the information we need to start our own garden.  The environmental and health benefits of growing food locally are too numerous to list here… we’ll save that for another post. Clyde’s chart is great because it’s so informative and easy to use. Simply slide the red line to the date of your average first fall or last spring frost of the year, and the guide will give you first and last planting dates, best companion plants, expected harvest dates, sun requirements, planting depths, and more for 21 common vegetables!! 



6. Bees Wax Wraps from Conover Farms – These sustainable bees wax wraps are made from organic cotton and all natural bees wax from the farm’s apiary.  They are a reusable and sustainable alternative to aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and form fitting to almost any container.  They’re simply awesome… and that’s a wrap!