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Rite of spring

Delaney O'Neal of Clarendon Hills laughs as she feeds dandelions to a goat Sunday afternoon at the Green Earth Institute's 8th annual Green Earth Fair in Naperville. The fair featured a number of educational activities for children to teach them about the environment and farming. Jeff Cagle / For Sun-Times Media
Delaney O'Neal of Clarendon Hills laughs as she feeds dandelions to a goat Sunday afternoon at the Green Earth Institute's 8th annual Green Earth Fair in Naperville. The fair featured a number of educational activities for children to teach them about the environment and farming. Jeff Cagle / For Sun-Times Media

Nature is resilient. That much is evident on the McDonald Farm.

The south Naperville property, home to the Green Earth Institute’s organic farming operation, is a busy place these days. All is new anew there every spring, but after this year’s particularly prolonged winter, the fecund fields feel particularly vibrant. Crews are cultivating, transplanting and, yes, weeding already in the fields where vegetables are raised for members of the institute’s community-supported agriculture program.

The farm should be fully teeming with green by the time visitors arrive for the 11th annual Green Earth Fair. Set for 12:30 to 5 p.m. May 4, the event offers a peek at eco-friendly farm practices that can be translated readily into household habits.

This year’s theme, Celebrating Sustainability, will spotlight green living with help from presentations, demonstrations, tours, food, music and plenty of kids’ activities.

Among the nine speakers will be Ken Roseboro, editor of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, who will talk about genetically modified foods; Dr. Philippa Norman, discussing the importance of vegetables in a healthy diet; and Dave Gorman, who will relate his experience adapting his Downers Grove home to greener functioning.

“We’re talking about things we can all do at home,” said Steve Tiwald, the Green Earth Institute’s executive director.

The eco-fair, which draws 1,000 to 1,500 visitors every year, will also include three tours of the property, each focusing on a different aspect of the 60-acre farm; about 40 exhibitors; two chefs demonstrating dishes that celebrate locally raised vegetables; and 15 musical acts.

“I wish I could just park myself in front of the music stand all afternoon. The music is so good,” Tiwald said.

A plant sale again will offer organically raised vegetable seedlings and native landscaping plants, and the Kids’ Garden will give young fair-goers a chance to explore the soil for tiny critters, make bird feeders, learn about healthy foods and, of course, plant seeds. The children’s parade will return at 3 p.m.

“That’s a favorite,” Tiwald said of the procession, which features instruments the parade participants have just fashioned using empty coffee cans and other recycled materials. The musical parade will be led by Ruby the Redbird, one of local resident Carolyn Finzer’s eco-inspired alter egos, and six musicians from Madison Junior High School also will take part, providing musical backbone for the marchers’ melodies.

More information, including a full schedule of the afternoon’s activities and attractions, can be found at greenearthinstitute.org.

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