Meet MOFGA Volunteer Daniel Sipe
By Betsy Garrold
Photo credit: Daniel Sipe
“Organizer” is the word that sprung to mind when I chatted with Daniel Sipe, one of the coordinators of the compost and recycling area at the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine. Sipe’s main job at the Fair is organizing the many people who volunteer to sort through compost and recycling generated during the three-day event. He also gives tours of the area to curious fairgoers. Sipe credits his involvement with the area to Lisa Willey, who, he says, took him under her wing, showed him the ropes and instilled a passion for zero waste in him.
He also enjoys serving on MOFGA’s year-round Fair steering committee. Sipe is so well respected in the world of fairs in Maine that he was invited to be on a panel at the County Fair Association annual conference with other fair staff about using recycling to “green” a county fair.
In addition to his leadership role at the Fair, Sipe is involved in organizing many artistic, community and political projects in Norway, Maine, where he lives. His passion for revitalizing western Maine is at the heart of his community organizing work. He was one of the founders, in 2019, of Lights Out. Originally envisioned as a pop-up art venue in Portland, it, like so many things, got slightly derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and morphed into an online art gallery, which he continues to run.
Sipe’s political organizing work began with his role as a canvassing director for the Maine People’s Alliance. He has ranged as far afield as Philadelphia, where he worked on a senate campaign. At that time, he flew back mid-campaign to help manage recycling at the Fair. His political organizing work culminated in his own run for the legislature in 2022.
In fall 2023, Sipe was in the midst of a massive fundraising effort to renovate a 15,000- square-foot warehouse — the site of an old snowshoe factory — in Norway and regretfully missed the Fair, but he promises to be back next year. The warehouse will be restored as a community gathering place, with an art gallery, coworking space, art and dance studios, woodworking shop, tool library, and botanical and sculpture gardens. Those involved are renovating while innovating. One of the projects that is underway is the production of short documentaries of Maine artists; as of fall 2023, they have recorded 77. Another project is the roof: it is badly in need of repair, but fortunately none of the artworks have been rained on.
“The community here is so strong it gives me faith that we can build a better, stronger community in the world,” says Sipe. And with an excellent organizer like Sipe on the job, how can we miss?