Each year as crops grow at the Green Earth Institute in Naperville so, it seems, does interest in the nonprofit's mission of educating the public about environmental sustainability and nutritional health.
Rain barrels are so trendy there are contests for decorating them, solar panels no longer seem completely futuristic and "CSA" might be a household term for some who love their shares of fresh vegetables from community-supported agriculture.
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If you goWhat: Green Earth Fair
When: 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 4
Where: McDonald Farm, 10S404 Knoch Knolls Road, Naperville
Cost: Free admission; suggested $5 donation for on-site parking
Info: greenearthinstitute.org or (630) 664-5681
"It's interesting to me to see how much more recognition there is these days about the importance of sustainability," said Steve Tiwald, founder and executive director of the Green Earth Institute. "There's a lot more awareness of issues of environmental stewardship and our responsibility to future generations as we use resources today. I'm happy to see that."
He's also happy to see attendance at the institute's annual Green Earth Fair has grown since the event started in 2003 as a simple open house. This year's fair is scheduled for 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at McDonald Farm, 10S404 Knoch Knolls Road, Naperville.
The event will be centered on the theme of "Celebrating Sustainability," as speakers discuss organic gardens, fruit trees, solar panels, native landscaping, health benefits of vegetables and the dangers of genetically altered foods. There will be farm tours, kids activities and food for sale while 15 musical artists will volunteer their time to perform throughout the afternoon.
"We'll have cooking demos throughout the afternoon for showing how people can cook farm-fresh vegetables," Tiwald said. "It's grown quite a bit over the years."
The setting for the fair will be the 49 acres of tillable farmland the Green Earth Institute leases from The Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit that took over the south Naperville farm when late owner Lenore McDonald donated it to ensure it would not be sold to housing developers.
Visitors can get acquainted with the farm by taking one of three themed tours offered during the fair.
At 1:15 p.m., Brook McDonald, president and CEO of The Conservation Foundation, will give a tour of renewable energy at the farm.
"I give a tour of the organic farm and talk about the methods that we use to grow organically," Tiwald said, and his tour takes place at 2:30 p.m.
The last tour will show eco-friendly farm features beginning at 3:45 p.m.
Another popular element of the Green Earth Fair is its two types of children's activities. One type -- the muddy knees and dirty laundry-inducing type -- allows kids to plant seeds, explore a compost heap for critters, make bird feeders and learn about healthy foods in the kids' garden. The other type focuses on music and recycling, as kids can make their own instruments from recycled materials before putting them to use in a parade.
"We'll have the children's musical parade at 3 p.m. and that's always a hit because the kids parade around the grounds with these musical instruments they have made and it's led by a costumed character," Tiwald said. "This year, Ruby Redbird will be leading the children's parade."
Ruby Redbird is actually Carolyn Finzer, known around Naperville for dressing up as anything and everything -- a tree, a pioneer, a butterfly, a pumpkin, a Barbie doll. She'll be leading a group of percussionists from the Madison Junior High School band who will play a cadence while kids experiment with their recycled instruments.
Visitors can attend the Green Earth Fair for free, but organizers are suggesting a $5 donation for on-site parking.