It’s Common Ground Fair time, time to get your tie dye and flower crown on. This is the 40th year of the fair, billed by its sponsor, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, as a celebration of rural life.
But it’s way more than that. The three-day event, which starts Friday and is expected to draw thousands to tiny Unity in central Maine, is a place to learn about the latest in organic farming practices, hear what’s new in green legislation, shop for organic produce and unique Maine-made textiles and products, brush up on your homesteading and folk craft skills, get educated about food preserving and herbal remedies, and eat food that is (mostly) organic and from Maine. What you won’t find at the Common Ground Fair are Ferris wheels and carnival games with barkers shouting “Three balls for a dollar,” monster truck shows and demolition derbies, cotton candy machines and fried dough. Common Ground is not your average, everyday agricultural fair.
According to MOFGA, the fair came about shortly after the association itself was organized in 1971, prompted in large part by Scott and Helen Nearing and their book, Living the Good Life: How to Live Simply and Sanely in a Troubled World (1954), which sparked a whole back-to-the-land movement and a rise in the popularity of organic gardening. The first Common Ground Fair was held in Litchfield in 1977, and grew so successful it had to be moved to the Windsor Fairgrounds and eventually to Unity, where it now has a permanent home.
Forty years hence, there’s renewed interest in the Common Ground Fair and all things organic. Attendance in 2015 was an all time high – 65,098 – prompting traffic pile-ups in Unity and fair organizers to respond by making buses available around the state for people to commute this year and reduce their carbon footprints.
The schedule of events is jam packed, so plan ahead what you’d like to see so you can fit everything in. This year, I’m planning to zone in on some of the workshops on home gardening, crafts and plant dyes. Who’s in?
For a complete agenda and other information, visit the MOFGA website.