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"Food is our common ground, a universal experience."
- James Beard
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1998 CGCF Poster

 

  

  You are here:  The FairFair NewsFair News ArchivesFair – Fall 1998   
 Fair News – Fall 1998 Minimize

Susan Pierce
Susan Pierce.
Heather Spalding
Heather Spalding.

 

Common Ground: Looking to the Past for Future Inspiration
Keynote Speaker Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm
Brian Tokar: Battle the Biotech Agenda
Special Thanks
Timber Frame Exhibition Hall
Summer Interns
Common Ground Will Miss Leila Stockwell
1998 Volunteer Area Coordinators

 

Common Ground: Looking to the Past for Future Inspiration
A Message From the Fair Coordinators: Susan Pierce and Heather Spalding

Whew! We made it. And we owe it all to MOFGA’s amazing volunteers. In our professional lives we have worked with many different non-profit organizations, but never have we witnessed the dedication of folks who love MOFGA and the Common Ground Country Fair. Working with all of you is what makes coordinating the Fair the best job in the State!

The purpose of the Common Ground Country Fair is to celebrate rural living. While there are countless ways to take part in the celebration, the tie that binds us is our appreciation of Maine’s farming heritage. We reflect on the lives of our elders for spiritual, professional and recreational guidance, and we apply their approaches to modern, rural living. Often, we are surprised by the circuitous paths that lead us back to simpler, more ecologically respectful lifestyles.

The Fair is now in its 22nd year. Many of the original concepts, themes and areas still are firmly in place. Some of the areas, such as the Youth Enterprise Zone and the Native American Arts Tent, are relatively new. We know that the Fair will continue to evolve, but it will always reflect MOFGA’s original mission of promoting environmentally sound farming and gardening, building rural communities through local food production on small farms, and educating consumers about the connections among healthful food production, environmental protection and farming practices.

MOFGA’s new home inspires us to develop educational events that will draw on the organization’s objectives and serve Maine’s rural community for centuries to come. When you roam around the Fairgrounds this year, remember that MOFGA built this facility as a year-round education center – not only as a new home for the Common Ground Country Fair. The Fair will be the showcase event for MOFGA’s new home, and we hope that it will spawn many other events in which each of you will take part.

Already we are planning new conferences and hands-on workshops for Maine’s farming families. The Foundation for Deep Ecology, based in San Francisco, has given MOFGA a generous contribution for a series of workshops entitled, “Transferring Knowledge Between Generations.” The workshops will focus on ecologically sustainable systems of agriculture that operated in Maine well into the 1950s. MOFGA sees these generational exchanges as a critical factor in building a sense of continuity between the rapidly growing organic farming movement and older farmers. Many of the Agricultural Demonstration talks at this year’s Fair will encompass the theme of preserving indigenous and intergenerational knowledge. The official workshops funded by Deep Ecology will get underway shortly after the Fair. We encourage everyone to learn more about sustainable rural living, and to take part in future events at MOFGA’s permanent home.

If you have any suggestions, concerns or ideas, please share them with us or mention them to a member of the Fair Steering Committee. Enjoy yourselves at the Fair, and turn inspiration into action. We look forward to hearing from you.

Over the next year, Susan will coordinate special new events and programming at MOFGA’s home in Unity. Heather will take over coordinating the Fair. Susan has managed Fair activities for 10 years, working closely with hundreds of Steering Committee and Planning Team members. The development of MOFGA’s permanent home in Unity creates a perfect opportunity for Susan to spread her expertise and wisdom over many exciting, new projects. Heather, who has worked in the Fair office for almost two years, is looking forward to helping develop new Fair programs with current Fair volunteers.

Gary Hirshberg
Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm will be the Keynote Speaker at the first Common Ground Country Fair in Unity. Stephen Ganem photo.

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Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm
Corporate Responsibility is Good for the Bottom Line

New Hampshire native Gary Hirshberg, President and CEO of Stonyfield Farm yogurt since its founding year in 1983, will be the keynote speaker at the 1998 Fair. The topic of his address will be “Corporate Responsibility is Good for the Bottom Line.” Stonyfield Farm makes refrigerated all natural and organic yogurt, frozen yogurt and ice cream. Stonyfield products are distributed in all 50 states and can be found in leading supermarkets, natural food stores, gourmet outlets, colleges and yogurt shops.

Stonyfield has been a big supporter of the organic dairy movement in Maine, buying organic milk from MOFGA-certified dairy farmers.

Hirshberg is a third-generation manufacturer. His father and grandfather were successful in the New Hampshire shoe business until the demise of that industry resulted in the closure of his father’s company. Hirsh­berg’s early impressions about business and its potentially devastating impacts on the environment and local economy further channeled his passion for the environment into a career away from business and toward environmental, non-profit organizations and campaigns. Some of his early positions were Environmental Educator Specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Director of the New Alchemy Institute (an ecological research and education center), and Director of the Rural Education Center (a small organic farming school from which Stonyfield Farm was spawned).

Today, Hirshberg advocates that business must play a positive role in society. His early years as an environmental leader and educator have shaped the way he runs his own business — implementing energy efficient systems, recycling more than 60% of the company’s waste and accepting national speaking invitations on the topic of corporate social responsibility.

“Business and industry not only can play a positive role in addressing social and environmental issues,” Hirshberg argues, but addressing those issues “is also the profitable course.”

Stonyfield, the fastest growing yogurt company in the nation, experienced more than 30% growth in 1997, and he has received national recognition as a leader of social and environmental corporate responsibility.

Hirshberg also recently earned two prestigious business leadership awards in New Hampshire — Business New Hampshire magazine’s “Business Leader of the Year,” and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s “New Hampshire’s 1998 Small Business Person of the Year” (given in conjunction with the Association of Area Chamber of Commerce executives.) Both awards have traditionally recognized business leaders whose contributions to New Hampshire industry have been outstanding in the areas of financial growth, marketing innovation and management.

Hirshberg resides in Concord, New Hampshire, with his wife, Meg (author of Stonyfield Farm Cookbook), and their three children. They designed and built their super-insulated post and beam home from logs that Hirshberg cut.

Brian Tokar
Brian Tokar will talk about how citizens can stop the rapid move­ment of genetically engineered organisms into the food system  and environment. Photo courtesy of Steven Tucker.

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Battle the Biotech Agenda: Common Ground Speaker to Tell How

Brian Tokar lives in a little cabin and thinks big thoughts. He thinks, for instance, that we the people can keep a flood of genetically engineered organisms from coming on the market.

Tokar came to this belief in a round­about way. After growing up in New York City, he earned degrees in biology and physics from the Massa­chusetts Institute of Technology in 1976 and then, in 1991, a Master's degree in biophysics from Harvard. While at Harvard, however, he became involved in the anti-nuclear movement. He visited the Institute for Social Ecology (ISE) at Goddard College in Vermont to learn about activism, and from that experience he “came to see that the world's problems were not being solved in labs,” but that political activism was necessary to effect change. In Vermont, “I met people who helped me articulate what that means,” he says.

Another motivating force was the fact that “I was in graduate school when the technology for splicing genes was becoming available. I saw it distorting research agendas in all of the biological sciences; how commercial interests were involving themselves in biological science research.”

Tokar moved to Vermont in 1980 and became involved in the Institute for Social Ecology, where he is now a faculty member, advising students, teaching environmental politics, and co-directing the Goddard/ISE collaborative degree programs. He published his first book about green politics in 1987 (The Green Alternative: Creating an Ecological Future, San Pedro, Calif., R & E Miles; Revised 1992, Philadelphia, New Society Publishers). In 1990, he started investigating the limitations of the mainstream environmental movement.

As biotechnology started coming on the agricultural scene, Tokar was there to protest it. When genetically engineered bacteria were being re­leased in open field tests in California to see whether they helped plants resist frost damage, he was there, working primarily with the Greens. When, in 1988, farmers in Vermont began to be concerned about the im­pact of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) on the health of their cows, their milk consumers, and the dairy economy, he was there. “We were able to delay [the use of rBGH] for about five years, and during that time we became aware of the biotech industry as a whole — its agenda for redesigning how agriculture is done.” That led to his work with groups producing handbooks on anti-biotech activism, such as Biotechnology: An Activists’ Handbook (Vermont Biotechnology Working Group, 1991). He also wrote Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash (Boston, South End Press, 1997), and now he is writing a major anthology about biotech issues entitled Engineering Life: A People’s Guide to Biotechnology, with a 1999 publication date scheduled. He is also widely published in Z Magazine, The Ecologist, Food & Water Journal, Wild Earth, Dollars and Sense, Toward Freedom, Utne Reader, New Internationalist and numerous other publications.

In addition to writing, teaching and advising, Tokar lectures widely in the United States and internationally on Green politics and emerging ecological movements, and he has consulted on political and scientific aspects of environmental issues for organizations on the East and West Coasts. He serves on the national boards of the Native Forest Network and the Ed­monds Institute (an international organization focused on biosafety and biotechnology issues) and is a former member of the national Council of the Greens/Green Party USA.

Tokar was one of the organizers for the conference about biotechnology held in St. Louis in July, “the first major coming together of biotech activists in the United States since 1991,” he says. He believes that that conference, as well as the huge number of people who protested the faulty U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed standards for organic production, indicate that “the biotech takeover is not as inevitable as people may think it is.” While U.S. citizens have “gotten a little too cautious, too defensive” in protesting environmental problems, he says that “internationally, people are absolutely rejecting this technology... in Europe, Japan, Southeast Asia, consumers [and in India, farmers] are much more active against the biotech industry” than we are.

He does see activism increasing here, however, pointing to an organization for consumers of organic foods that is being formed as one example. How can we propel this activism? “We have to be more determined and visible,” says Tokar, a message that comes through simply and clearly from him at his little cabin on Curtis Pond in Calais, Vermont.

– Jean English

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Special Thanks to the Thousands Who Have Made Our Dream a Reality

This has been an extraordinary year in the history of the MOFGA/ Common Ground community. Long-time volunteers and newcomers have worked tirelessly to prepare this beautiful new facility in time for the big event. MOFGA members, MOFGA-certified growers, Maine businesses and thousands of supportive citizens have contributed generously to the effort.

At last year’s Fair in Windsor, we hoped to have the human and financial re­sources to relocate to our dream home, but we couldn’t be certain. The prospect of creating a year-round educational facility by September 1998 rested entirely on the commitment of MOFGA’s volunteers and financial supporters. Just three months after the Fair, it became clear that MOFGA had the will, the spirit, the drive, and yes, the money, to go for it. We rolled up our sleeves and got busy.

Volunteers have attended work parties at the new home in Unity every weekend since late March. What you see at the new site is thousands of hours of volunteer labor. Common Ground’s new home stands as a monument to that volunteerism – the essence of the Fair itself.

MOFGA's timber frame building in 1998
MOFGA's timber frame building shortly after construction in 1998.

Each year, more than 2,000 volunteers dedicate themselves to creating and hosting the three-day event. Many of the volunteers work all, planning each area of the Fair and organizing participants and activities. The Common Ground Fair would not exist without the spirit, intent and devotion of its volunteer community. A heartfelt “Thanks” goes to each of you who makes the Fair a reality. Take pride in knowing that you had a hand in developing this unique and valuable facility.

If you would like to volunteer at the Fair this year, contact the Fair office at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association – PO Box 2176, Augusta, ME 04338-2176; Tel: 207-623-5115. If you are reading this at the Fair and would like to volunteer for a few hours, please go to the volunteer registration tent at the South/ Thorndike entrance of the Fairgrounds.

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Timber Frame Exhibition Hall

The following Maine timber frame companies worked together and donated considerable time and resources to create this architectural masterpiece.

Timber Frames by R.A. Krouse, Arundel

John Connolly and Company, Edgecomb

Fairbanks Timber Frames, Winthrop

Mike Smiley, New Sharon

Sarah Jewett and Maggie Kaloust
Sarah Jewett (left) and Maggie Kaloust.

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Summer Interns in the Common Ground Country Fair Office

This summer, Sarah Jewett and Maggie Kaloust joined the MOFGA staff for their second terms as Common Ground Country Fair interns.

Sarah, a Junior at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, has attended the Fair since she was an infant. Her dad, Tom Jewett, has volunteered for the Fair since it began. Over the years, Sarah has come to the Fair in many capacities – as a visitor, as a volunteer, then as a helper at a food booth, and now as a staff person. Sarah’s sunny disposition gets her a lot of time on the phone talking to vendors, demonstrators and curious newcomers. One of her big projects was developing a curriculum for school groups that take field trips to the Fair. When you see troops of enthusiastic kids zipping around the Fairgrounds with notebooks, think of Sarah. Sarah also works at the Come Spring Cafe on Route 17 in Union. When she’s not working, Sarah enjoys reading and traveling.

Maggie helps all of the MOFGA staff, but the Fair office got most of her time this summer. Unfortunately, she can’t make it to the Fair this year as she will be attending classes at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Maggie is now a Junior at Earlham, creating her own environmental studies major with em­phases on sociology, anthropology and biology. She graduated in 1996 from Hall-Dale High School. Maggie has been coming to the Fair since she was about six years old, often volunteering in the Children’s Area. She volunteered in the MOFGA office last summer, and created an orderly agricultural library. This year as a staff intern she coordinated the Agricultural Demonstration talks for the Fair. We appreciate her taking on such a big responsibility. During college vacations, Maggie works at Barnes & Noble in Augusta. In her free time, she enjoys singing, acting, writing and painting.

We wish Sarah and Maggie all the best in their 1998-99 school years, and hope that they don’t travel too far from us next year!

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Common Ground Will Miss Leila Stockwell

One of the Fair’s long-time volunteers, Leila Stockwell, passed away unexpectedly on June 24 in Moscow, Russia. Common Ground Country Fair folks and MOFGA members remember Leila for her passionate commitment to sustainable agriculture and social justice. People who worked with Leila speak of her enthusiasm and sense of humor, her clarity of thought and willingness to speak about many difficult issues. Leila was a person on whom we all could depend. For work and meetings, she always arrived early, stayed late and contributed tirelessly to our efforts.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Leila was a key member of the Common Ground Country Fair Planning Team. At various times, she coordinated the Livestock and Food areas of the Fair. Leila also hosted MOFGA apprentices on her farm in Albion. Through casual conversation and formal presentations, Leila shared her sunny disposition, her knowledge and profound life experiences.

In recent years, Leila took a break from MOFGA and the Common Ground Country Fair and moved to Cajabamba, Ecuador. There, she served two terms with the Peace Corps, helping Andean women establish a cooperative for their farm goods. Leila’s experience with raising sheep was very helpful to the community, which earned a significant percentage of its livelihood from wool, sheep and goats. Leila appropriated funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development to install a water pump for the women farmers in the village where she lived. She also helped develop a banking system for the women so that they could get small business loans for their agricultural work.

When she returned to the States, Leila renewed her commitment to MOFGA. In recent months, she raised money and organized in-kind contributions for MOFGA’s permanent home. She also joined the Fair Steering Committee and helped develop policy for future Livestock Exhibits.

We will miss Leila very much, and we will remember the invaluable contributions that she made to MOFGA, the Common Ground Country Fair and all of the people who knew and loved her.

Leila’s family asks that memorial contributions be made to MOFGA.

Leila at Sunset

The morning glories are hoping Leila won’t notice they’ve called it quits for the day. They’re furled and tucked and drowsing in dusk’s shade. The hens line up on the perches in the coop. Earlier they looked longingly at the plot Leila planted where they like to forage. But Leila put an end to their forays with chicken wire and rocks. Leila turns her face to the setting sun, and, for a moment, she seems distraught, as if her most trusted farm hand is quitting before the chores are done. But then her tan face softens, and, leaning to the Earth one last time, she pinches one last weed for the benefit of a purple pansy.

– Doug Woodsum

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Volunteer Area Coordinators for the Common Ground Country Fair

The following people are members of the Common Ground Country Fair Planning Team. All are volunteers who give countless hours of their time, knowledge and expertise throughout the year.

Agricultural Booths: Ernie Glabau, Jarrod Pooler
Agricultural Demonstrations: Mark Albee, Wendy Decrodo, Caitlyn Hunter, Bradford Hunter, Faye Krause, Mark Silber, Terry Silber
Animal Products: Mary Isham
Announcements: Skip Green
Auto Gate: Amos Alley, Jim Bowers
Beermaking Competition: Bill Giffin, Tom O’Connor
Children’s Area: Marie Hickey, Kim Kuntz, Jim McEntee
Children’s Garden Parade: Beedy Parker
Common Kitchen: Kim Bolshaw, Catherine LeBlanc, Barbara MacLennan, Chuck Snell, Wes Sproul, Bill Whitman
Counsel: Spike Stein
Country Store: Dennis Merrill, Lisa Miller, Roy Miller
Crafts: Susan Blaisdell, Audrey Nichols, Tom Opper, Susan Sherman, Peggy Strong, Joann Tribby
Electricity: Paul Murray, Steve Plumb
Entertainment: Joc Clark, Marie Hickey, Stirling Kendall, David Neufeld, Ellis Percy
Environmental Concerns: Obie Buell
Exhibition Hall: Martha Gottlieb, Valerie Jackson
Fairgrounds: David Howe, Rick Kipp
Fairgrounds Office Volunteer: Debbie Kipp
Farmers’ Market: David Smith
Fiddle Contest: Bucky Bohrmann
First Aid: Pat Donaghy, Ham Robbins
Fleece Show: Judy Kirk, Jeanne Young
Folk Arts: Anu Dudley
Food: David Gardner, Matthew Strong, Joanna Linden
Foot Race: Christopher Bovie, Skip Howard
Greening of Technology: Jeff Miller, Danuta Drozdowicz
Harry S Truman Manure Pitch-Off: Lance Gurney
Historical Consultant: Jolene Gamage
Information Booth: Sue Buck, David Hilton, Willie Willette
Livestock: Greg Baker, Dwain Chase (oxen), Wes Daniels (oxen), Myra Emery (rabbits), Perley Emery (rabbits), Forrest Hooper (poultry), Ansley Newton (standardbred pleasure horses), Brian Perry (oxen), Robert Prescott (poultry), Cathy Reynolds (Livestock Area Coordinator), Jan Rowe and Pete Rowe (donkeys), David Stevens (draft horses), Diana Whitehouse (rabbits), Keith Worth (oxen)
Maine Businesses: Steven Koenig, Ellis Percy
MOFGA Booth: Donna Bradstreet, Bob Martin
Native American Arts: Theresa Hoffman, Richard Silliboy
Parking: Dave Colson, Paul Volckhausen
Parking Lot Clean-up: Fred Pinette
Pig Calling Contest: Rufus Percy
Recycling: BJ Jones, Steve Peary, Tina Roberts, Scott Wilkerson
Safety: Lucy Behnke, David Blocher, Andy Bray, Mike Burns, Mary Ellen Cooper, Don Thalmert, Vernon Leeman
Social and Political Action: Dan Hamilton, Betsy Hart, Gary Lawless, Beth Leonard
Steering Committee Chair: CR Lawn
Ticket Gate: Carol Dorr, CR Lawn
Volunteers: Sue Dwyer
Wednesday Spinners: Mollie Birdsall, Cynthia Thayer
Whole Life Tent: Barbara Balkin, Herbie Brewer, Barbara Foust
Winemaking Competition: Jonathan Bailey
Words Are Seeds Too: Peggy Connell
Youth Enterprise Zone: Bob Egan

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