The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Common Ground Country Fair is just about here. The 2014 fair will run from September 19 to 21 in Unity, Maine.
When it comes to celebrating agriculture and local food in Maine, this is one of the most important events. The continued success of the three-day festival is based in some measure to each of the following factors: The efficiency of the staff who plan the fair; the volunteers who staff it; and the quality of vendors and craftsmen who participate.
Following are eight things I am looking forward to at this year’s fair:
1. The trek along the wooded path leading to the Pine Gate entrance is peacefully enchanting, and highly recommended.
2. Craftsmen demonstrating their traditional skills.
3. The food – vendors are required to use Maine-grown organic ingredients when available and to emphasize seasonally available ingredients. The variety offered by the dozens of vendors is incredible. I love the chai lattes, bread with apples and honey and nuts baked in, stir fries, and pizza.
4. How you cannot buy any bottled water at the fair. There are drinking water stations located around the fairgrounds. Writer Nancy Heiser told me once “It is a quiet demonstration of how this wasteful, trash-creating, oil-dependent product is not something we need.” Agreed Nancy. Water, yes. In disposable bottles, no. Vendors will oblige on occasion with free cups of water, but sometimes they are expensive. If you like drinking water as much as I do, just don’t forget your reusable bottle.
5. The chicken barn and animal exhibits.
6. The fleece tent (I’ve purchases a couple beautiful sheep fleeces there) and right next door the fiber marketplace with educational activities related to fiber, including spinning, dyeing, weaving, fiber care, and sheep breeds.
7. The tent where members of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance present drumming, singing, dancing, beadwork, wood carving, and of course basketmaking. The purpose of this tent is to help preserve the basketmaking traditions of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Tribes of Maine.
8. My friend Rowan Jacobsen’s talk about How Heirloom Apples Are Leading the Biodiversity Renaissance and at 11 a.m. on Saturday in the Hayloft. Check out the schedule and plan your day(s) here.
Planning your day at the fair.
The gates open at 9:00 a.m. each day. Vendors are open until 6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Ticket prices: Free for children 12 and under, $15 general admission ($10 in advance), $10 elders ($8 in advance), and free for MOFGA members (you can buy memberships at the fair). http://www.mofga.org/TheFair/GeneralInformation/Tickets/tabid/304/Default.aspx
Going to the fair. Save $2 on admission if you arrive by bike or train. Wondering what to do with you bike? Bicycle Coalition of Maine and Fair volunteers will hook you up with first-class bike valet parking. For more information on pedaling to the Fair go here. http://www.mofga.org/Default.aspx?tabid=349 Courtesy of the Brooks Preservation Society and the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad, there is a train that runs regularly from Thorndike and Unity to the fairgrounds. For more information on riding the rails go here. http://belfastandmooseheadlakerail.org/MOFGA/introduction.shtml
The fair has two gate entrances: north or Rose Gate (by the amphitheatre) and the south or Pine Gate (this is where you come out of the woods by the Low Impact Forestry tent). There is a farmers’ market by each entrance.
Leave your pet(s) at home, they are prohibited from the fairgrounds, parking lots, and camping areas.