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For the Birds

I covered the Natural Products Expo for Baltimore magazine this past September. Here’s my piece from the November issue.

The scents of ginseng and pine complement the faint sound of chimes as all manner of nature-lovers converge on the Baltimore Convention Center for the three-day Natural Products Expo.

More than 20,000 members of the natural products industry mill among 1,450 exhibits, staffed by people who have come from as far away as London, hawking everything from naturally made toothbrushes to organic baby food. There are ample samples of herbal tea and ginseng soda. On one stage, an eco-friendly bartender shows how to mix drinks using only raw ingredients, including fresh juices and egg whites.

Patch Adams, the doctor who prescribes humor as medicine and was portrayed by Robin Williams in the 1998 film bearing his name, is here, as is Laurie David, the environmentalist, author, and ex-wife of HBO funny man Larry David.

“Would you like to try some granola?” asks Dina Houser, the founder of Ola! granola. The Connecticut mother of three stands inside a booth displaying her three signature granola mixes. Nearby, two birds who somehow snuck into the Convention Center, offer their own testimonial, hungrily pecking up leftover samples of Houser’s oaty wares.

The feathered freeloaders seem to have happened upon the most bird-friendly crowd in town, as no one seems intent in chasing them out. Even the four-legged proprietors of a service-animal booth a few yards away don’t seem to mind. A golden Labrador passing by looks on with apparent acceptance, echoing the laid-back vibes of the attendees strolling by with tote bags in their hand and canvas lanyards dangling from their necks.

Originally published in Baltimore magazine.

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