‘Weed Dating’ aims to sow seeds of rural romance at Common Ground fair

Posted Sept. 17, 2012, at 5:43 p.m.

UNITY, Maine — Ah, farming.

The romance of the fields; the beauty of the land. But sometimes it can be lonely at the (garden) plot.

That’s why young orchardist Eliza Greenman of Mercer is organizing a special, free event at this weekend’s 36th annual Common Ground Country Fair: “Weed Dating.”

“The orchard I was working on was in western Maine, in a town of 300 people. It was just like, ‘I’m all alone here. I’ve got to do something,’” the 28-year-old farmer said.

She heard of a similar event happening on a farm in Vermont, which has recruited people to weed and find love. And when she approached the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners’ Association with her brainstorm, officials there were all in favor of trying a Maine edition.

Greenman is hoping that some of the many farmers and rural living enthusiasts who flock each year to the fair will find their way to the perennial herb bed on the MOFGA fairgrounds which will host weed dating.

Women will weed on one side of a garden bed, and men on the other. As they industriously work on the beds, they’ll chat, and who knows, she said, sparks might fly along with the weeds.

“I’m hoping that people will just get to meet other people. That’s hard enough as it is, if you’re young and you’re in a rural area,” she said. “If a relationship could come out of this, it would be so awesome and worthwhile.”

She is unsure about the numbers of farmers and others who will participate, but has a good feeling despite not having received a single confirmed RSVP.

“I’ve gotten a lot of Facebook interest so far. People who have been saying, that’s a really good idea,” Greenman said. “You’re probably going to have a good turnout.”

Those interested in weeding and looking for love, or at least new friends, should make sure they’re at the Common Ground Country Fair at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, when weed dating begins. They’re asked to bring a Mason jar with them, in case shy farmers would rather drop them a note than express romantic interest face-to-face, Greenman said.

Aside from the quest for love, the Common Ground fair should provide a broad slate of activities and speakers this year.

From campfire cooking and primitive skills for kids to the ever-popular border collie demonstrations; from talks about raising poultry in Maine to puppet theater, the fair is jam-packed with things to do and things to learn.

One speaker who is generating some excitement is Kathleen Merrigan, the deputy secretary with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Merrigan, who helped develop the USDA’s organic labeling rules, will speak at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, on the common.

There’s also a buzz about bees at the fair. This year’s MOFGA Public Policy Teach-in, held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, on the Spotlight Stage, will focus on the threats to both native species of wild bees and commercially managed European honeybees, which have suffered sharp population declines in recent years.

For more information about the Common Ground Country Fair, visit the website www.mofga.org.

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