|Mary Chamberlin. Mary Belding photo.
Builder of Outhouses, Campsites and Consensus
Mary Chamberlin, 34, mother of two, current co-coordinator of the Health and Healing Area of the Common Ground Country Fair, has a list of contributions to MOFGA that covers the spectrum of worker hierarchy – everything from digging roots at woodland campsites to managing Fair Steering Committee meetings. One of her finest efforts, she feels, was helping construct MOFGA’s first Common Throne – a two-stalled composting toilet designed for high use. “I’m very proud of being a part of that crew,” she says. “The composting toilets have been tested and come up clean and healthy, and they were certainly busy during the Fair!”
Mary Belding, current Fair Steering Committee chair and Common Ground Farmers’ Market co-coordinator, says the Common Thrones were especially convenient to Farmers’ Market vendors, but the light should shine on Chamberlin’s tenure as Fair Steering Committee chair in 2002-2004. “She was one of our youngest Fair Steering Committee members and our youngest chair ever,” Belding says. “She was always a peacemaker and a good moderator.” Belding adds that moderating a room full of MOFGA members is not always easy. “We have very definite ideas, and a tendency to make them known.”
Chamberlin did her homework on democratic decision making and consensus building. “It took me awhile to get used to the process involved,” she says, “but now I love the meetings and the fact that they go on for hours.” Belding adds that Chamberlin would bring in articles she’d read on topics such as ‘How to Be a Better Communicator.’ “I think it was really a challenge for her at first,” Belding says. “Later I told her, ‘You know, Mary, you’re my hero. You’ve figured out how to manage these meetings while juggling young kids...’” Chamberlin never got riled, Belding adds. “She always kept a positive attitude.”
Chamberlin now co-coordinates the Health and Healing Area with her mother, Margaret Connell. She lines up speakers, organizes tables, and takes calls all year from prospective participants. “We have talks on Native American herbal medicine, and very popular mushroom foraging talks,” she says. “We are always on the lookout for new topics and speakers” – in particular, high school or college age speakers to share their interests.
Chamberlin believes that “alternative healing” is a misnomer, because many of these techniques used to be mainstream. She’s doing her part to change that by supporting these practitioners “to the best of my ability.”
– Marada Cook