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  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerWinter 01-02English Editorial   
 A Dream to End Greed Minimize

Jack Kertesz and fairgoer
Jack Kertesz enjoys a chat with a fairgoer about gourds, the garden at Common Ground, and other goodies. English photo.

By Jean English
Editor, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener

Oscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize winner, has said that “overcoming poverty, inequality, greed, and cynicism will be the great human challenges of the twenty-first century.” Can you imagine a world without poverty, inequality, greed and cynicism? I think it would look something like the Common Ground Country Fair (except that Paul Volckhausen and Dave Colson would not spend the entire Fair directing parking!). In a world that blew out of whack this fall, the Fair answered with a vibrant dose of sanity. Walking into the Fair early Friday morning, being greeted by the verdant, abundant, succulent garden that Jack Kertesz, Mark Fulford and others had cultivated, meeting a network of friends from Maine’s farming and gardening community, seeing local organic growers and craftspeople get the recognition they deserve … If the rest of life were but a dream, the Fair was where I awoke.

A month later, the Sagadahoc chapter of MOFGA had its 25th anniversary celebration, or maybe, they suddenly realized, it was the 28th, which meant, as George Sargeant said, that another celebration would be due in just two years. Listening to some of the stories at that party shed light on the tenuous beginnings of MOFGA, when it was little more than an idea and very much a dream. At times, the main office would send letters imploring chapters to send money to support its staff: a half-time executive director. Once, MOFGA made a group order of colloidal rock phosphate, and four people – one in his 70s – unloaded the entire order from the boxcar.

“I really do believe ideas are life forms,” said John Perry Barrows at Camden’s Pop!Tech Conference in October. Barrows (coiner of the term ‘cyberspace’) was addressing, in part, terrorist activities and the Internet, but his point was that having ideas and then communicating them via a network makes them living organisms that “just don’t happen to be based on carbon.” That’s how I feel about the Fair and MOFGA: They present so many noncarbon-based lifeforms that are models for overcoming poverty, inequality, greed and cynicism, that given time and energy, these lifeforms could proliferate and overtake the modus operandi of so many in power today. “Just as the answer to terror is courage,” said Barrows, “the answer to hatred is love.” If a still-small MOFGA staff, 1,500 Fair volunteers, 3,400 MOFGA members and some 50,000 Fairgoers can be fulfilled during a weekend in a tiny town in Maine by celebrating the love of good food and good friends, this living organism that is love for the important things in life can bloom elsewhere.

The carbon-based life forms who came to the Fair with me, my 15-year-old daughter, Saima, and her friend Kayla, threw themselves into the organic network this year, volunteering 12 hours each. One stint was at the Information Booth, where, I understand, one of the favorite questions is, “Where’s the Information Booth?” Another was in the dusty parking lot. (Just hang in there a few more years, Paul and Dave!) Yet another was inside a giant zucchini costume – a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I’m told. “I’m working my way up to the gorilla costume,” said Saima.

The girls collapsed in the back seat during the drive home. “I’m so tired.” “I can’t wait to take a shower.” “I have so much homework to do.”

A little silence. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw them slumped against one another.

“Oh ….” – a sad little voice – “the Fair’s over.”

And ever so softly, just before they dozed: “I love the Fair.”

My sentiments exactly, and my greater-than-a-giant-zucchini gratitude toward those of you who created the MOFGA/ Common Ground life form out of nothing but … an idea!

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