As a chef for 30 years, Matt Millea has been to his share of farmer's markets and produce stands.
All of that is small potatoes compared to what greeted the Big Sur resident Tuesday at the Sonoma County Fairgounds in Santa Rosa.
"It's like a beauty pageant for gnarly old vegetables!" Millea said.
National Heirloom Exposition
The National Heirloom Exposition has been called many things, including a gardener's delight, a learning faire and a forum for anti-GMO activism.
But at it's edible heart, the event, which continues today and Thursday, is an inspiration, especially for newbies such as Millea.
"I'm blown away," he said. "I've been going to farmer's markets since I started cooking, and there are varieties of things here I haven't seen anywhere."
The expo features 4,000 varieties of produce on display, more than 350 food vendors and a slew of speakers on topics ranging from "Whole Farm Planning for On-Farm Fertility," to "Seed Saving 101."
A full schedule of speakers and events can be found at <a href="http://www.theheirloomexpo.com/">www.theheirloomexpo.com</a>.
Nancy Webb, an amateur gardener from Davis, said the expo was "like having 1,000 catalogs in real life. It gives you a lot of ideas."
Retired doctors Susan Piernan and her husband, David Benefiel, who own Paradox Farms outside Sebastopol, brought bags to fill with seeds. The couple also made an impromptu purchase of two Golden Penciled Hamburg chickens.