SANTA CRUZ -- Those who don't have expert-farmer grandparents to teach them about resourceful ecological living have a great resource in the Santa Cruz Reskilling Expo.
The nonprofit expo held its tenth, thrice-annual event Sunday at the Museum of Art & History in downtown Santa Cruz, drawing hundreds to workshops on local food sovereignty, plant breeding, chicken raising, rain water harvesting, medicinal herb use, fruit tree grafting, sauerkraut making and more.
The event included several food displays courtesy of TimeBank Santa Cruz, a group of people who practice experiential and participatory learning by exchanging services.
One TimeBank member showed a "cooking box," a simple wooden box insulated with a blanket that finished cooking some polenta and kept it warm, with little energy expenditure. Nearby, another woman displayed several types of dried fruit she made with the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project.
Kar Fraser of Santa Cruz offered samples of bread she had made with local, organic ingredients. She said she gets two hours of credit for baking bread for TimeBank. Sometimes, she gets a massage or housework in exchange, she said.
"I really love TimeBank; it's such a neat idea," she said. "I like the chance to meet people and I really appreciate localism. I think it's healthy to get to know your neighbors."
Fraser said she purposely doesn't own a car and doesn't want to buy food that has to be trucked long distances
Whitney Smith of Live Oak brought her rescue hen, Penny, to the event, along with some information about backyard chicken keeping.
Penny, a reddish chicken that pecked around happily in a cage in the museum foyer, not seeming to mind the modern art hanging around, was rescued from a Turlock factory where she spent her first three years in a shoebox-sized "lay box," Smith said. She adopted her from the Santa Cruz-based Center for Animal Protection and Education.
Penny is a friendly, loving chicken who likes to come in the house and sit on her lap, she said. And she lays about one egg per day.
Smith was conferring with another woman who keeps chickens, Pam Carrico of Peaceful Valley Farms, and they laughed together, saying the patient Penny would make a great therapy chicken.
All around the museum's ground floor, people stood in small groups, sharing ideas about reskilling. Two women near Penny's area were talking about where to buy locally grown wheat and rice.
The Santa Cruz Reskilling Expo defines reskilling, in part, as reviving skills known 50 to 75 years ago that give the community a wealth of shared knowledge of how to do, make and tend things oneself. It also brings the production of food, water, energy and essential goods closer to home.
Pia Kamala, who just moved to Santa Cruz from Colorado, said she thought the whole event was awesome.
"It's really inspiring," she said. "It just seems like this area is a hotbed for locavore, organic farming."
The group holds all-day symposiums in winter, spring and summer. For information, visit www.reskillingexpo.org.
Follow Sentinel reporter Cathy Kelly on Twitter at Twitter.com/cathykelly9