June 20, 2018
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The 35th Common Ground Country Fair takes on climate change

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

UNITY, Maine — With soil-testing experts, pig pens, worms and composting lectures, the Common Ground Country Fair is willing to put up with a lot of dirt, but not dirty air.

More than 500 people gathered Saturday for an event aimed at raising awareness about how much carbon dioxide is in the air. The 20-minute event embodied this year’s fair’s theme: fighting climate change.

“Three across!” a volunteer told people who walked through a ribbon gate and into a green field on Saturday afternoon.

The hundreds of people came out in a three-people-wide line and formed the number 350 with their bodies. Some raised up pumpkins. Some wore costumes. Nearby, a man with a camera stood in a bucket raised by a truck and snapped an aerial photo.

The event was part of “Moving Planet” a special day hosted by 350.org, a website that pushes for awareness that 350 carbon parts per million is the amount the Earth’s atmosphere can safely contain. It currently contains 390 parts per million, according to the website. The Maine picture will be added on the website to about 2,000 others from across the world.

Unity College staff member Sara Trunzo helped organize the event. The woman, who has long blond dreadlocks that hang past her belt, said 350 and Common Ground Fair were a perfect match.

“We wanted to draw the connection between sustainable food systems and the end of climate change,” she said. “I’m not a scientist. This is about making different choices in our own lives and asking our legislators to make those choices for us.”

One of those life choices local people make to reduce their carbon footprint is to buy local food, Trunzo said.

The fair, put on by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, knows a lot about local food. All weekend, tens of thousands of people ate locally produced hamburgers, potato chips, fried dough, pad thai, blueberry pie and more.

“Almost all of the food here is from Maine and it is all organic,” said Heather Spalding, the associate director of MOFGA.

The result of all that locally made food at the fair, aside from maybe a stomachache, is a $350,000 jolt of money into that sector of Maine’s economy, according to Spalding. That’s how much the roughly 60,000 people at the 35th Common Ground Fair ate over the weekend.

The farmers who grow all that food in Maine have felt the effects of climate change in the past few decades, according to research by the University of Maine presented by professor John Jemison at a climate change lecture on Saturday. Apple farmers have had to move up their picking season by about a week since the 1990s because of weather changes, for instance.

“MOFGA doesn’t have a climate change program, but we’re very concerned about it. We feel organic agriculture is a way to reverse the problem of climate change,” Spalding said.

Dylan Voorhees, the clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, sat under a tent for a climate change lecture where he told an audience of about 100 that it’s things individuals in Maine do that matters. He cited things like eating local food, driving less and properly weatherizing homes.

“There are real solutions we can have in our homes and in the state of Maine,” Voorhees said.

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