Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Fair News – Fall 2000

Fair News Archive \ Fair News – Fall 2000

Heather Spalding Will Sugg and Rusty
Fair Director Heather Spalding works with MOFGA staff and volunteers all year to bring the Common Ground Country Fair to fruition … … with loving support from husband, Will Sugg, and their son, Rusty. English photos.

Welcome to the Fair!
Geese Poster is a Symbol for the Millennium
Keynote Address – “Mow Me Less”: Tales of a GE-Resistant Lawn

Welcome to the Fair!
A Message from the Fair Coordinator: Heather Spalding

Just over two years have passed since our first Fair in Unity, and things really have taken shape. It never ceases to amaze me how much energy, time and devotion MOFGA volunteers pour into the organization. Now, thanks largely to our volunteers, not only do we have our own com- fortable home for the Fair, we have a beautiful 220-acre, year-round education center to serve the needs of Maine’s sustainable farming community.

There are so many new and exciting additions to our Fair this year – and all of them are the results of volunteer efforts. One of the notable improvements to the fairgrounds is the beautiful and productive South Orchard. With a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, MOFGA’s Volunteer Landscape Committee has created this demonstration orchard. Fairgoers will note that the orchard actually looks more like a vegetable garden now. This is the very purpose of the project — to show how an orchard can be productive and lucrative in the early years before its trees bear fruit. During the Fair, Jack Kertesz, who has volunteered to coordinate all the work on the orchard, will explain how the project came about, and how the orchard will evolve in decades to come. Refer to the Schedule of Events for specific times of his presentations. This volunteer project truly embodies the mission of MOFGA and the Fair.

Other enhancements carried out by the landscape and buildings & grounds volunteers include improvements to the perennial gardens, generation of rich compost from waste streams from past Fairs, growth of thick, rich grasses in once sparsely covered areas, and more trees, shrubs and hedges to beautify the environment. The Volunteer Forestry Committee has worked on the MOFGA woodlot and has cut, hauled out and milled logs to use in future construction projects.

Volunteers have been working steadily on our signs and maps since last year’s Fair, and the Volunteer Traffic and Parking Committee continues to fine tune the plan that served us all so well last year. The MOFGA Staff, which includes me as the Fair Director, is all settled into the Unity office now. We have volunteers to thank for everything from moving our old office out of Augusta, to installing a phone system and computer network, to securing new copiers and printers, to updating our databases, to holding down the fort while all of the transitions took place.

This year, we even have a free publication written almost entirely by MOFGA volunteers. It is a special edition of our newspaper, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, and it provides an excellent summary of MOFGA programs and issues. It focuses on biotechnology and its increasing hold on agribusiness. Copies are available from the MOFGA office, and fairgoers can find copies in the MOFGA tent. This publication is a wonderful resource for people who are just beginning to learn about the benefits of organic food production and the environmental health risks associated with conventional agriculture.

As always, more than a thousand volunteers will help host this year’s Common Ground Country Fair. Many entertainers will perform for free; many farmers will share their wisdom with us in exchange for little more than a T-shirt; chefs will serve delicious meals in the Common Kitchen; doctors will help in the First Aid tent; scientists, activists, and educators will speak to us in the presentation tents. The volunteer input list goes on and on. Without volunteers, MOFGA and the Fair would cease to exist. Thank you one and all for the amazing and inspiring work that you do.

I look forward to seeing all of you again at the Fair.


Geese Poster is a Symbol for the Millennium

The handsome, noble geese that look out from Common Ground’s 2000 poster and other products represent “wonderful creatures, wonderful birds,” says illustrator Kirsten E. Moorhead. Ever since she met her piano teacher’s two China geese, she’s loved the animals.

“They’re extremely versatile farm animals,” she explains, “as they provide both eggs and meat, and they even serve as guard animals. They’re prevalent culturally – sometimes subtly, sometimes not. Consider our familiarity with such characters as Mother Goose, and with such phrases as ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,’ and ‘the goose that laid the golden egg,’ and ‘silly as a goose.’”

“These elegant, impressive animals were not considered silly in Ancient Rome, where they alerted people of imminent invasions,” Moorhead continues. “They’re terrific, proud, confident in any situation … a good symbol for the Millennium.”

Moorhead, who spent her early years in Massachusetts, moved to Maine when she was in second grade. She’s lived here for more than 20 years and has lived in Portland for about half of that time. She received her B.A. in studio art from the University of Maine, Orono.

Moorhead returns to her grandfather’s small farm in Massachusetts often, where she has cared for chickens, picked beans, and taken part in many other joys of farm life. She is now assembling a portfolio of her illustrations, most of which are more casual and whimsical than the poster geese, and she plans to contact publishers and hopes to become a children’s book illustrator. “Hopefully, someday, if the illustrating goes well,” she says, she’ll buy her small farm, her own little piece of “Paradise.” And Paradise, for Moorhead, will include lots of farm animals: goats, chickens, and, of course, those “elegant, impressive animals … geese.”


CR Lawn and Sharon Tisher
CR Lawn, shown here with MOFGA President Sharon Tisher, relaxed during last year's keynote speech at the Fair. This year, he'll be delivering the speech himself. English photo.

Keynote Address – “Mow Me Less”: Tales of a GE-Resistant Lawn

Fedco Seed Founder CR Lawn To Speak About Seeds and Social Security
Saturday at 11:00 on the Common

By Heather Spalding

We have a real gem this year. Our own CR Lawn. Don’t miss him.

Well, I really can’t leave it at just that. You may not take my word for it and that would be a shame. So, if you would like a little background and enticement, here is my paean to one of MOFGA’s most honored souls.

CR Lawn is one who gives. He gives to his friends. He gives to his business. He gives to his philanthropic interests. He gives to his dog. He gives to the public. He gives to the earth. And then he gives some more.

MOFGA is among the fortunate recipients of his generosity and dedication. CR first joined MOFGA in 1975, and in 1981 participated as a Fair vendor with Fedco Seeds. He joined both MOFGA’s Board and the Fair Steering Committee in 1994. Describing what prompted his involvement, CR said, “I felt that the Fair had given me so much, I wanted to give something back.” He has worked tirelessly for MOFGA ever since, and currently serves as Board Treasurer. His coordinator roles at the Fair include two major areas: Agricultural Demonstrations and Education Booths, and Ticket Sales.

CR has led an exemplary life. Though I’ve never heard him use the term “Luddite,” he has referred to himself as an “Off the Grid Kind of Guy.” He has no car, no driver’s license, no ATM or credit cards, no palm pilot, no television, and no microwave oven. Yet he carries out a tremendous amount of business on his computer and recently succumbed to the convenience (and effectiveness) of internet communication. Much of CR’s work now focuses on the importance of seed diversity and the dangers of genetic engineering in global agribusiness.

CR spent his early childhood on a farm in Vermont, and attended Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1968. He holds a law degree from Yale University where he was acquainted with Hillary Rodham (later Clinton). He later moved to Maine and became a market gardener which occupied much of his time through the late 1970s and ‘80s. In 1978, CR founded Fedco Seeds, Inc., a joint worker/ consumer cooperative based in Waterville. CR and some of his friends started Fedco because they felt they could do the same thing with seed sales that many had done with food through cooperative buying efforts. Cheap, good seeds was the goal. The mission has broadened considerably since then, emphasizing preservation of seed diversity, supporting local farming and seed saving networks, and providing an alternative to huge, corporate seed companies. The cooperative’s growth is doubling every five years, with increasing orders bringing in roughly $1.5 million in sales annually. Fedco’s business schedule lends itself perfectly to CR’s desire to farm and garden during Maine’s growing season. So, each year in April, CR and his pup, Kaidog, head north to Shooting Star Farm in Canaan, where they live for six months without electricity, plumbing or running water. A complete stranger to idle time, CR spends Maine’s summer months carrying out field trials of several hundred varieties of seeds in preparation for writing Fedco’s annual seed catalog. He also supports the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville and the annf al Maine International Film Festival, by serving as treasurer of Friends of Art and Film in Central Maine. This summer, CR added to his list of projects the Maine Right to Know Campaign, which seeks a ballot initiative requiring all foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such in the marketplace.

The number of tasks that CR accomplishes well each day is impressive, if not unexplainable. When nobody appears up to handling more projects, CR invariably steps up to the plate and knocks a home run. As farmers and gardeners, we are indebted to CR’s commitment and successful work on preserving seed diversity – especially as transnational agricultural corporations prioritize sales of patented, genetically engineered seeds, threatening the diversity of the global seed supply. CR and the staff at Fedco are frequently called from the dugout to protect open pollinated varieties of seeds as they are dropped by some of their major suppliers.

Somewhere I read that the last true Renaissance Man was Thomas Jefferson – that, given the information overload of modern life/there really are no Jacks- (or Jills-) of all trades. In my estimation, the modern Renaissance Man or Woman is the multi-talented, multi-faceted one who has the ability to weed out the nonsense and cultivate the vital into public consciousness. CR is such a person. He has a brilliant mind which he pours into his many occupations. Although he lives by modest means in Smalltown, America, he is a successful international businessman, a farmer and gardener, an advocate (frequently a devil’s), an activist, an orator, a scientist, a mathematician, a poet, a film aficionado, a baseball fan and a dog lover. He is creative and kind, with a hearty laugh and great sense of humor.

In his keynote address, CR’s wonderful qualities will shine as always. He will regale us with the lighter side of life’s challenges and ironies, and will sober us with the specter of extinction and biodevastation. He will share his experiences that have shaped his vast knowledge of seed diversity, its importance to a balanced and sustainable ecosystem, and its inextricable role in the security of life – human and all – on Earth.

When the dust had settled after last year’s Fair, I asked CR what were his favorite things about the weekend. He replied, “Without question, the Dry Bean Diversity Display in the Agricultural Education tent was tops, and the Monarch Butterfly tile mosaic [a tribute to the anti-genetic engineering movement] brought tears to my eyes.” What is sure to thrill me at this year’s Fair is CR’s keynote address. I hope to you can join me there. Welcome to the Fair!


2000 CGCF Poster