Using a spinning wheel to spin your own yarn or a scythe to clear grass and weeds might seem like skills lost to history, but the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is bringing them to the forefront with an annual event offering workshops on these back to the land skills.
The sixth annual Farm and Homestead Day is being held Saturday June 17 at the MOFGA fairgrounds in Unity. The community-oriented event is free to attend and offers a full day of hands-on workshops.
“We’re trying to get people to come here and actually learn skills by doing them. A lot of our events are educational […] but with [Farm and Homestead Day] virtually every component that goes on for the day is hands on,” said Jason Tessier, Building and Grounds Director at MOFGA and member of the Farm and Homestead Day steering committee.
The Farm and Homestead workshops cover a range of skills, from gardening techniques to blacksmithing, all aimed at getting folks to do things in a more traditional way. Steering committee member Sarah Paul said the event’s focus on “olden days” skills is part of MOFGA’s effort to fill Maine’s future with strong communities that are “food, fuel, and shelter sufficient, high skilled, resilient, and joyful.”
The categories of workshops offered during the day center around gardening and food, fiber arts, craftsman and farming skills as well as livestock skills. Some of the specific events include a workshop on fermenting kombucha, planting a pollinator garden, rug hooking and cheesemaking.
New to Farm and Homestead Day this year is a skill workshop focusing on electrical repairs. The idea is to teach workshop attendees how to repair a broken electrical appliance so that people can fix their possessions rather than throwing them out and buying new, Tessier said.
Workshops on composting and vermiculture are also on this year’s lineup in response to more people showing interest in lessening their food waste and having more of an idea where their food comes from. Along that same line, a workshop on how to process a chicken will also be offered.
“We think it’s important for people to know where the nutrients come from and how the cycle works into the soils,” Tessier said. “We think it’s important to for people to know where their food comes from and what is the process of that food being made even if they’re not actually going to do it themselves.”
Another important aspect of that day is its focus on fostering a sense of community, Tessier said. With attendees encouraged to bring an item for a potluck lunch, the hope for the day is to get people to meet and talk to one another.
While the Common Ground Country Fair is MOFGA’s most popular event, drawing thousands of people every fall, Farm and Homestead Day gives attendees the opportunity to be directly involved.
“The fair is a wonderful event, I’m not trying to sell it short,” Tessier said. “But there are so many people there, that the ability for all of those people to get their hands dirty and do something and come out of there with new skills is limited to some extent. The intent of the Farm and Homestead Day is to have everybody learn something and take something away with them.”