The modern world has separated us from the skills used to produce things that we use every day. Despite enjoying hunks of cheddar and warm wool sweaters, most of us have never made our own cheese or sheared a sheep. Most people likely wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Luckily, there are those who possess such skills who not only want to keep the techniques alive, but are also willing to teach them on to curious learners.
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) will host its eighth annual Farm and Homestead Day on Saturday, June 22, at the MOFGA fairgrounds in Unity, Maine. The free, all-ages event boasts more than 50 workshops that focus on back-to-the-land skills, from processing chickens to carving wooden spoons.
“The idea is that all of the workshop presenters bring a hands-on participatory workshop, and the participants actually do whatever the workshop is,” said Andrew Graham, community engagement coordinator at MOFGA. “For folks who are doing rug hooking, they walk away with a rug.”
Workshops officially begin at 9:30 a.m., but there will be a scythe mowing workshop from 7 to 8:30 a.m. (“I guess that’s the best time to mow with scythes,” Graham said), and tea and crumpets for guests at 9 a.m.
Graham said that last year’s event drew approximately 400 people of all ages, ranging from young families and curious millennials to octogenarians, hailing from all 16 counties of Maine to places as far flung as Saudi Arabia. This year, Graham said that they are expecting between 450 and 500 people (pending good weather, which Graham said “effects if people decide to come out”).
“It has grown,” Graham said. “The iteration this year is roughly the same size that it was last year in terms of the workshops, but there has been a steady increase in attendance as we get better at marketing it and the word spreads.”
Graham also said that though the events change every year, there are a few “anchor workshops” that are done from year to year that consistently draw a crowd.
“Knife sharpening, building an apple ladder — things like that that are consistently high draw workshops, and the instructors are willing to come back and do it year after year,” Graham said. “This year, we have a DIY electrical repairs, small appliance repairs and basic circuitry. That’s a first for us.”
There are several all-day events, including a plant swap where guests can sell their extra plants, seedlings and cuttings (or buy someone else’s).
“If you have extra plants of any sort, just bring them to the plant swap,” Graham said. “Anyone can go to the plant swap and take whatever they want. There are also a lot of people who do cuttings of elderberries or raspberries.”
This year, there will be a one-time, all-day event that Graham said is sure to draw a crowd: framing a tiny house on a trailer.
“There is a building on our site here that needs to become mobile, and we figured we’ll just turn it into a workshop,” Graham said. “There are a lot of folks who are interested in building on trailers these days.”
Many of the workshops’ volunteer teachers have been cultivating their skills for years, and some of them have quite impressive credentials. Tamika Adjemian, who will be teaching at least one canning workshop, is not only a master food preserver, but also a contract recipe developer for Ball Jar.
“If you buy a flat of canning jars, the beautiful photo on the insert may very well be something she made,” Graham said. “There are so many characters. They come to this event and they teach people these skills that they know and want to preserve.”
Graham said the original Farm and Homestead Day emerged from an old MOFGA event, Small Farm Field Day, which was previously run mostly by MOFGA staff. Farm and Homestead Day in its current iteration is almost completely run by a committee of volunteers.
The transformation of the event into Farm and Homestead Day, Graham said, was largely spearheaded by Raymond Joe Dupere, an off-grid homesteader from Unity who passed away in 2014. After his passing, his family requested donations to the MOFGA Farm and Homestead Day Fund in lieu of flowers.
“In some ways this event is a little bit of a memorial to him,” Graham said.
Graham noted that the event is still looking for volunteers to help make Farm and Homestead Day run smoothly, including for event clean-up the week following the event.
There’s certainly a role to fill for helping hands in the kitchen and helping workshop instructors move materials to workshop sites,” Graham said