June 21, 2018
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Common Ground Country Fair to celebrate rural living this weekend

Bridget Brown | BDN
Bridget Brown | BDN
Chloe Bell-Smith, 7, of Orono and her mother Isis Bell-Smith play in the children's activities area at the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity in Sept. 2010. The event, held by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners’ Association, will take place Friday Sept. 23 through Sunday, Sept. 25.
By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

UNITY, Maine — It’s the biggest birthday party in town, and you can be sure the cake is 100 percent organic.

Tens of thousands of folks will descend on Unity this weekend for the 35th annual Common Ground Country Fair. The event is held by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners’ Association, which also is celebrating its 40th birthday this year, and the group is marking both dates with a special focus on Maine agriculture.

“I hope [attendees] enjoy themselves and learn something,” fair director Jim Ahearne said Monday afternoon. “That’s the really neat thing about the Common Ground Fair. There’s so much to do here … On our schedule, we have over 700 unique events. You can’t take it all in. It’s impossible. Don’t even try. But do come for all three days.”

From home beer-making to beekeeping; from mushroom foraging to feasting on Maine-grown organic food; from border collie demonstrations to the infamous Harry S. Truman Manure Pitching Contest, there is something on the schedule for almost everyone.

Ahearne said that the three keynote speakers are all current or former MOFGA officials, adding that in other years the speakers primarily have come from outside the organization.

Early MOFGA president Mort Mather of Wells will speak at 11 a.m. Friday on the beginnings of the organic movement in Maine and how practitioners have gone from being considered “hippie-weirdo-freaks” to being leaders in the state’s agricultural landscape.

Current executive director Russell Libby will discuss at 11 a.m. Saturday how to build an abundant local food system that brings together farmers, fishermen, seed companies, natural food stores, chefs and others in Maine.

And board president Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm in Harborside will take on recent criticisms of the organic movement at 11 a.m. Sunday in a speech titled, “It’s a cute movement, but can it feed the world?”

Ahearne said that the fair also will have a strong focus on how to take political, economic and environmental action on global climate change — particularly regarding how change would affect agriculture.

Those interested in the matter can learn more about it during a public policy teach-in on climate change held at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Spotlight Stage tent. Panelists will include Unity College President Stephen Mulkey, Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and longtime MPBN meteorologist Lou McNally.

“The idea behind it is to illuminate solutions to the climate crisis,” Ahearne said.

After the teach-in, fair-goers will be invited to participate in a large-group photograph to support a worldwide rally initiated by 350.org, a grass-roots movement that demands solutions to climate change problems.

Attendees can minimize their own carbon footprint, too, Ahearne said. Fair officials are encouraging fair-goers to carpool and those interested may search for ride share opportunities at www.gomaine.org.

There also is a $2 admissions discount for anyone who rides a bike to the fair.

With 60,000 people expected over the three-day event, every little bit helps, Ahearne said.

For information about the Common Ground Country Fair, which will begin at 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and last until the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 25, visit www.mofga.org.

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