UNITY, Maine — Sept. 23-25 marks the annual gathering of modern farmers at the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity. Because homesteaders and growers often toil alone, this shared celebration of the rural life is Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s signature shindig. Yes, you can eat well, take in a folk show and shop a mega farmers market, but there is so much more to learn and experience. Here are six reasons to go this year.
Learn how to use a scythe: You know the slow food and slow money movement? Well, this is slow mowing. Learn about the elegant, ancient tool perfected by Europeans and get in a good workout while cutting grass and whacking weeds. The scythe takes all kinds of farm work and puts it in your capable hands. Enthusiast Richard Scott of Perry shares tips and tricks needed to master this healthy mowing alternative all weekend. Go green!
Watch sheep dog demos: Border collies are the hardest working dogs in the farm business. Watch man’s best friend strut their stuff. Herding sheep or fowl in response to subtle signals from their handlers is good, clean fun. This choreography is a living demonstration of harmonic cooperation. Plus, it’s entertaining. Better scurry to get a good position; this event is always packed. Daily at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
Go homestead or go home: Permaculture has been the buzzword for years. But how do you go about creating eco-sound spaces on the farm and in the city in the face of climate change? By attending “whole homestead retrofit for an unseen future.” Lisa Fernandes of Portland’s The Resilience Hub explains how permaculture design can be applied to food, buildings, energy, water and transportation with health and vitality in mind. The event will take place at 3 p.m. Friday.
Food news: Saturday’s keynotes are food focused. Amanda Beal, incoming president of Maine Farmland Trust, kicks things off by sharing Maine’s role in the New England Food Vision. Is increasing the region’s food production by 50 percent by 2060 doable? Find out at 11 a.m. Then stick around for Portland’s top chef Sam Hayward, who will share his tales from the range. The James Beard winner put Portland on the food map by celebrating local. He’ll cook seafood, seaweed, veggies and explain the history and importance of using resources from the sea and land, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Rocking roosters: Inside the poultry barn, chickens, ducks, geese in all hues spread their wings. Think stunning layers, broilers and backyard beauties with magnificent tails, way-out wattles and crimson coxcombs. Are you itching to enter the backyard bird game? Poultry keepers are on hand to answer all your questions. Find out which breed of chicken is just for you at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The Coffeeman: Because fairgoers need fuel, Doug Hufnagel — aka The Coffeeman — brews what coffee connoisseurs call the best caffeine in the country. Built on a Western Chuckwagon design, his coffee truck is a sight for sleepy eyes. Green Tree Coffee from Lincolnville is on tap, and a freewheeling vibe is always on the boil. Note new location this year: It’ll be by the South Parking lot, 100 yards up the hill from the old location on the other side of the road. Follow the pine gate path and the aroma.
Gates open at 9 a.m. every day. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 the day of.
For more information, visit Mofga.org.