By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President, Illinois Renewable Energy Association
While renewable energy is an important part of the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair with exhibits and workshops, visitors this year seemed excited by what the presenters had to tell them about self-sufficiency. Sessions about gardening, animal care and lifestyles were well attended.
Many people were focused on what they can do in their own lives and seemed less interested in what they can buy to go green.
Despite having to move as a result of the heavy rain, a good-sized crowd attended Linda Conroy’s “Lessons from Cuba: Sustainability in Action.” She stressed that people there grow fruit in their yards and freely share their bounty with neighbors and tourists; that farmers are high on the Cuban socioeconomic scale; and that a knowledge of herbs for healing is prized.
Conroy’s “Choosing Herbal Remedies for Sustainability” was praised as valuable. Nancy Gouch expended on natural remedies with “Nature’s holistic fist aid kit,” about which many positive comments were heard.
Through relating his own history, John Barnhart’s ”Organic Farming: Dream to Reality” encouraged those who want to try organic gardening but were concerned about how difficult it might be (Barnhart assured them it isn’t).
Mary Eberle suggested that those with little room for gardening consider “Growing Vegetables in Small Places,” such as in square-foot gardens and window boxes. She also helped them consider “Urban Fruit Gleaning and Foraging” for free, delicious food.
Caron Wenzel taught her audience how to save seeds from their prize vegetables, maintain heritage plant varieties, and spend little doing it.
Sherry Piros’ and Lin Vogl’s reprise of their ever-popular “Food Independence” drew a large crowd as Vogl discussed her experiences with canning, Piros expounded on her love for drying foods, and both presented tips on freezing. Both admitted to not being professionally trained in the art, but have engaged in it for years, as our grandmothers had. Much of the audience stayed after the session to ask questions and share their own experiences.
Lin Vogl also shared tips about raising chickens based on her own experiences. A lively presentation supported by props including rat wire: “Do not use chicken wire to keep out predators. Raccoons will destroy it. I know — I have a pet raccoon,” and a chicken waterer that she demonstrated how to set up to not leak. The star of the show was a live 4-month-old chicken named “Kitty” who purrs and coos — the progeny of the late Mr. Peabody. After the session, a friend told her he and his wife were not yet ready to raise chickens, and thanked her for her clear explanation of what is included in chicken care.
Jeff Ludwig discussed “The Honey Bee’s Life and Its Home.” His audience included several who were already raising them, but wanted more information. Christine Wagener explained “What’s Up with Honey Bees?” clarifying mysterious hive collapses.
Tad Vogl spent an entire day teaching how to make a rain barrel “from food-grade barrels” to save water and money on bills and water the garden free. Although no one was pressured to buy a barrel (at a bargain price), more than 30 satisfied visitors went home with a new one.
Still other workshops stressed self-sufficiency to engender a sense of independence and pride.
Major fair sponsors were the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Freedom Field and The Rock River Times.
Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Aug. 24-30, 2011, issue