General MOFGA Introduction:
Founded in 1971, MOFGA has grown from a loose affiliation of farmers and gardeners committed to growing healthy, chemical free food, to an internationally recognized advocate for food production that enhances and protects the ecological as well as economic vitality of rural communities.
MOFGA's Mission statement: The mission of the association is to help farmers and gardeners grow organic food, to protect the environment, and to recycle natural resources; to increase local food production, to support rural communities, and to encourage sustainable farm economies; and to illuminate for consumers the connections between healthful food, environmentally sound farming practices, and vital local economies.
While the group's key constituency consists of farmers and gardeners, the organization helps food producers of all kinds adopt organic practices. One of the oldest and largest organic organizations in the country, MOFGA has 4,000 individual, family and business members and possesses extensive education, research and policy experience on a complete range of organic as well as non-organic farming and gardening issues.
Volunteer leadership, the dedication and idealism of MOFGA's members, as well as a grass-roots approach to education, demonstration and change, serve as the foundation for the organization's increasingly successful programs and events. Through Farming and Gardening Technical Services as well as Agricultural Education and Special Events, MOFGA seeks to provide the assistance, support and training that organic farmers and gardeners need to grow healthy food in an ecologically sound manner. Equally dedicated to helping consumers understand the economic, social and ecological benefits of supporting local growers, MOFGA runs a Public Policy and Consumer Awareness Program. The organization is perhaps best known for the Common Ground Country Fair, a celebration of ecologically sustainable practices that draws over 40,000 visitors each year. MOFGA's new Common Ground, located at the heart of Maine's farm country in Unity, is now serving as a permanent site for the Fair, as well as a wonderful year-round venue for all of the group's activities.
This 48-page newspaper is sold on newsstands and distributed to all MOFGA members on a quarterly basis. In addition, it reaches approximately 40,000 people each year through the Common Ground Country Fair. Considered to be one of the leading information sources on organic agriculture and sustainable living practices, The MOF&G features articles ranging from organic farming and gardening advice to in-depth coverage on the ecological, social and environmental consequences of industrialized agriculture. Each issue also features delicious recipes, organic products information, details on MOFGA's activities and much, much more.
The Common GroundFor many years MOFGA dreamed of creating a place that could serve as a permanent site for the Common Ground Country Fair as well as a living classroom and demonstration center for today's and tomorrow's farmers, gardeners and consumers. Thanks to the generosity, hard work and creative dedication of countless individuals and institutions, this dream has come true.
Located on 230 acres of mixed farmland and forest in Unity, Maine, MOFGA's Common Ground provides ample space for the organization's renowned Fair while serving as an exciting venue for education and change. Officially open since 1998, the site has already hosted 50 gardening, farming and forestry management demonstrations, workshops and courses. Although a lot of growth will take place in the coming years, several permanent plantings, including a wonderful orchard demonstrating cash crops that fruit growers can cultivate while their trees mature, a perennial garden, shade trees and horse-sown grain fields, are now part of the site's landscape.
The center serves as an ideal "common ground" for teaching people from all walks of life about the effectiveness, beauty and importance of ecologically sound farming and gardening. With the help and support of its members and friends, MOFGA looks forward to creating a dynamic organic agriculture facility dedicated to ensuring the sustained prosperity of rural communities and of organic growers, and demonstrating that viable alternatives to industrialized agriculture exist.
Since its inception in 1971, MOFGA has actively educated both government leaders and the general public concerning the benefits of organic methods, and the numerous health and environmental risks of chemically dependent, conventional agriculture. In addition to hosting a variety of educational events in Unity and throughout the state, staff and board members appear frequently in public forums, conferences, and in the media. They also participate in coalitions and advisory committees advocating aggressive reductions of toxics and pesticides. Through its renowned newspaper, The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener (MOF&G), MOFGA is the only organization to regularly report on the proceedings of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control. The MOF&G also informs both consumers and growers about a variety of important legislative and regulatory issues on a quarterly basis.
MOFGA vigorously promotes creative approaches to pesticide reduction. In the past year its efforts led to an EPA-funded survey of pesticide use in all Maine schools, and to a pilot program to promote the use of integrated pest management plans for each of these schools. In 1990, MOFGA earned the first National Environmental Achievement Award for Food Safety by successfully proposing the first state "country of origin labeling" legislation for produce. In 1997, the organization drafted and advocated for "An Act to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides." This act would have instituted an effective system of pesticide sales data collection, while mandating a 33% reduction of pesticide use in the state by 2002. Although the legislation that passed was far weaker than MOFGA's proposal, it did, for the first time, declare a state policy requiring all branches of government to minimize pesticide reliance, and called for a state system of pesticide sales reporting.
For many years, MOFGA has strongly advocated a cautious, in-depth analysis of the potential environmental and health risks associated with genetic engineering. In 1993, MOFGA proposed the first state legislation to label genetically engineered (GE) foods. As a result of the debate over that proposal, the governor appointed a Maine Commission to Study Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, with a MOFGA representative serving on the Commission. In 1996, the Commission produced a consensus report that found a need for more effective federal regulation in three areas, including a call for federal labeling of GE foods. MOFGA has advocated for two subsequent labeling bills, the most recent of which was approved by the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture. In 1998, MOFGA successfully opposed registration by the Maine Board of Pesticides Control of GE corn that incorporates the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), leading Maine to be the only state in the nation to prohibit that crop. In 1999, MOFGA joined Greenpeace in bringing suit against the U.S. EPA. This suit called for a total ban on GE plants incorporating the Bt genes until an environmental impact statement is prepared.
Exceptionally concerned over the lack of objective information available to consumers and growers about genetic engineering, pesticides and irradiation MOFGA published 50,000 mini-editions of its newspaper on these issues in the summer of 2001, distributed free to consumers and growers throughout Maine and beyond. MOFGA also received a special grant from the Threshold Foundation to produce a puppet play about genetically engineered foods. Prepared by high school students, this fun and informative show was being performed at fairs and festivals throughout the state in 2001. MOFGA is certain that all of these efforts will provide consumers and growers with much "food for thought" about the human health and environmental issues surrounding this new technology.
MOFGA's Technical Services provides certification and technical support to farmers and gardeners throughout Maine. This program assists seasoned organic growers, helps new organic farmers get started, and educates conventional farmers concerning the benefits of organic methods.
Organic certification is a rapidly growing element of this program. When MOFGA began certifying 25 years ago, only one farmer applied. Today, the organization is processing over 230 applications, representing 12,000 acres of land and 7% of Maine's dairy farms. By assisting farmers and gardeners in growing food in a manner that meets high quality, organic standards, "MOFGA CERTIFIED ORGANIC" is helping provide customers with healthy foods while promoting natural resource and community stewardship. Furthermore, because people are increasingly willing to pay more for locally produced organic goods, certification is significantly broadening small farm revenues throughout Maine, and helping keep valuable farmlands open.
Technical Services provides farmers and gardeners in Maine and across the nation with technical assistance, while keeping them informed of the latest developments in organics. In addition to responding to both written and verbal inquiries, Technical Services also offers on-farm advice and provides several technical bulletins and factsheets designed to guide new organic growers, help resolve specific problems, and offer information on the most effective organic techniques available.
Agricultural EducationApprenticeship Program
MOFGA's Apprenticeship Program was launched over 25 years ago as a way to help young people learn the skills they need to become farmers. Run by a volunteer committee of farmers and apprentices dedicated to bringing young people back to the land, this program has provided hundreds of students with an opportunity to learn the basics of organic agriculture. Since 1973 more than 500 people from around the nation have been placed on farms throughout Maine. Many of these young people have gone on to become farmers, and several others are now permanently managing family owned farms. In addition to helping young people get started in farming and gardening, this experiential education program also greatly assists farmers in accomplishing their daily tasks while offering them a chance to share their hard invaluable knowledge.
Officially launched in 1999, this program seeks to replenish Maine's aging farmer population by helping young people who possess a serious interest in farming get started. Designed to complement the Apprenticeship Program, this effort provides advanced training, especially in farm business management and product marketing. Applicants must demonstrate basic competence in a range of farming skills and be able to present a clear description of what they hope to learn and why. Upon acceptance, each Journeyperson is placed with two or more farmers who possess the skills they would like to obtain. In addition, participants are mentored by advisors from MOFGA's Board of Directors. Every participant must complete a full farm plan, including a farm business plan. Successful Journeypeople receive a certificate of completion as well as assistance in locating a farm or permanent farming position.
MOFGA's Common Ground has enabled the organization to host a variety of special events designed to maintain, enhance and share the knowledge of farming and gardening practices that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Below is a sampling of what is available each year. This list will be expanding and changing as MOFGA settles into its new home.
Organic Farming Short Course
This four-day intensive course features training in organic farming by eight highly qualified instructors. Farmer panels are also organized to complement this February event, which is co-sponsored by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Breaking Ground
A two-day event, Spring Thing offers continuous workshops on organic landscaping, including tree planting and garden preparation, each May. Small Farm Field Day
This summer event is a wonderful chance for people to participate in a variety of educational workshops. Low-Impact Forestry Workshop This November workshop teaches participants how to use draft animals and low impact logging equipment in the Common Ground woodlands. Spring Growth
This one-day event draws people from across New England to hear national and international speakers discuss a specific topic in-depth. The March 1999 event focused on the production of winter vegetables, inspiring several farmers to begin developing their own winter vegetable production systems. Farmer-to-Farmer Conference
Coordinated by MOFGA and the Cooperative Extension, this November conference is an opportunity for farmers to share their knowledge and experience while they pick up new ideas about organic techniques. Participants choose from a variety of workshops and presentations given by people with extensive farming experience and knowledge. Farm tours, delicious food and an informal setting are all part of this very popular event.
Membership & VolunteeringBecoming a MOFGA Member - Click Here To Join
Membership support, combined with volunteer leadership and a grass-roots approach to education, demonstration and change, serve as MOFGA's foundation. The generosity and dedication of our members has been helping MOFGA bring its mission to life for over 27 years.
Becoming a MOFGA Volunteer
Being a MOFGA volunteer not only allows you to support Maine's organic family farmers and gardeners, it also offers you a chance to share in the fun and excitement of bringing MOFGA's mission to life. Volunteers are the reason that the organization has been able to accomplish so much over the past 25 years. In addition to participating in almost every element of the Common Ground Country Fair, volunteers help maintain MOFGA's Common Ground, take part in many of MOFGA's Education and Consumer Awareness efforts, represent the organization at a variety of public events, and assist the staff with everyday tasks. Please call the main office for more information about the many exciting projects MOFGA will be organizing at the Common Ground, or simply send in the Fair volunteer form.