Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

April 13, 2013

ONLINE STORY: First Earth Expo a success

By AMANDA LOVIZA VICKERY
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW —

The Barren County Cooperative Extension Service's first-ever Earth Expo drew an enthusiastic crowd Saturday morning.

With a wide range of Earth-related exhibits, vendors and educational resources, as well as the last Bounty of the Barrens Farmers Market winter market sale, there was plenty to do for all ages during the Earth Expo. Children competed to see how many water droplets they could get to stay on a penny, home owners learned how to assess their home's energy efficiency and green-minded community members learned about skills including tower gardening, raising honey bees, water purification and composting.

Kyle Kinslow, a sophomore involved in 4-H, volunteered to spend the morning teaching children about water molecule cohesion and surface tension through a Water Olympics exhibit.

“Most of the kids enjoyed it, and some adults too,” Kinslow said.

It was a fun learning experience for those who stopped by the exhibit, and the 4-H students were able to share knowledge they've gained through their activities in the organization.

“We learn stuff every day,” Kinslow said.

Lauren Hack came down to Glasgow from Louisville to share information about the non-profit she is involved in, WaterStep. WaterStep makes and delivers water purifiers to those who don't have access to clean water, from Kentucky to India. The small devices run only on salt and a 12-volt battery, and can make enough clean water to sustain a community. It may be harder for people in Barren County to become active with the Louisville-based organization, but Hack said they like to reach out to anyone who may already be going on a trip to an area that doesn't have enough access to clean water, and might be able to take a water purifier with them. WaterStep trains volunteers in how to set up the purifier system.

“We're trying to empower ordinary people to take water purifiers to communities who need them,” Hack said.

At Glasgow physician Christy South's booth, community members learned how to get a garden started anywhere, even their laundry room. South started tower gardening last year, she said, and she loves it. The tower garden is just a few feet tall, with 20 spaces where a plant can be grown. Inside the tower runs a system based on hydroponics and aeroponics, which allows plants to be grown organically without soil. The tower can be kept indoors or outside, and can grow just about anything that isn't a tree or a root, South said. She has grown spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, okra and a variety of others. Without the need for soil, tower gardening eliminates a lot of the hassle of outdoor gardening as well as the need for pesticides and other chemicals to create the perfect soil.

“It's a green way to grow,” South said.

South's family ate from her tower garden all year last year, she said, and she got a second one this year. It has been growing in her laundry room. For a busy professional, it works well, South said, and even her young children can help maintain the garden.

“It's been really fun,” South said.

South's medical practice partners with the company that makes tower gardens, so anyone in the community can order the system through South and it will be delivered to their home, she said. Visitors to her booth were really interested in the concept of tower gardening, South said, and several people put in orders.

“People have been very curious,” South said.

With the help of Beverly Miller, senior extension associate at the University of Kentucky and an architect, community home owners learned where to go to find resources to evaluate the energy efficiency of their home and improve it. UK's online assessments allow a home or business owner to type in information about their property, and find out how they rank in energy efficiency.

“It shows people where they're doing poorly, and depending on where you fall in that, you can see how you can do better,” Miller said.

Miller talked to community members about energy management, and gave tips about how to save energy and save money. Keeping appliances plugged in when not in use is one of the most common forms of energy waste, she said.

“I want to get them to think about energy management,” Miller said.

Paula Tarry, extension agent for 4-H youth development, said the Earth Expo got a great crowd, and the extension agents were excited about all the different vendors that came together to showcase the Earth.

“We think that everybody should appreciate our environment and this is a way for them to see different ways to do that that they maybe hadn't thought of,” Tarry said.

They'll look at evaluations of the event, Tarry said, but she thinks it is likely the extension office will continue to host the Earth Expo annually.