Meet MOFGA Volunteer Rose Whitehead
By Betsy Garrold
If ever there was a shining example of living gently on the earth, Rose Whitehead is it. From her recumbent tricycle to her off-grid house, she definitely is walking the talk in this community of both die-hard, back-to-the-land, aging hippies and younger folks who embrace the organic farming and homesteading lifestyle. Whitehead sees MOFGA as the “yes” in a world with too many “no to this, no to that” attitudes. She says, “We should say ‘yes’ to the future because that feeds our energy rather than drains it as we do this work.”
Whitehead first came to Maine in 1979 on her 10-speed from Michigan. “I was not dealing well with city life going to college in Lansing, Mich., and my great aunt suggested Maine as a better fit for me,” she says. She soon discovered the Common Ground Country Fair, then in Windsor, attending with the Marsh Island Morris Dancers.
She worked at the Wooden Boat School in Brooklin and later was delivering boats from the West Indies in the 1980s when she found herself in Sweden and really liked the country. She applied to study fiber arts at Forsa Folkhogskola and was accepted even though she was technically an illegal alien. She says the Swedes treat their visitors much better than we do in this country. She eventually had a daughter in Sweden, and when the time came to be deported, the government sent a policewoman to escort her onto the plane, which was very helpful.
In 2013 Whitehead had her own booth in the craft tent. Now her two main contributions to volunteer work at MOFGA are co-coordinating YEZ at the Fair and joining the “rabble” that runs Farm & Homestead Day in June. She got involved as a YEZ parent when her daughter, Lilly, was in fifth grade at the Ashwood Waldorf School. Her whole class camped out and volunteered for the Fair weekend. Whitehead saw YEZ as a way to engage the next generation in having its own value-added, small businesses in Maine – and that next generation is involved in many ways, as evidenced by Lilly’s volunteering ever since she attended the Watershed School in Camden. Now living in Portland, Oregon, Lilly travels to Maine each year to volunteer at the Fair.
April Boucher, Fair director, says, “Rose is a volunteer coordinator during the Common Ground Country Fair and throughout the year at MOFGA. She matches her interests in supporting our community, youth and sustainability initiatives with her volunteer roles as a Youth Enterprise Zone co-coordinator and a member of the Farm & Homestead Day rabble. Her dedication is inspiring, and it is common to see Rose bicycling to MOFGA, well over 30 miles one way, to go to meetings and volunteer. I'm very thankful to have Rose on the Fair Planning Team.”
Whitehead’s business, Whitehead Fiber Fabrication, produces many items, from baskets to slippers, using a variety of fiber arts. This is what drew her to Farm & Homestead Day. Nancy Rosalee, another dedicated MOFGA volunteer, said to her one day, “You need to help us with this.” Last year Whitehead taught how to make baskets from the invasive plants and how to use a hanging loom to make a rag rug. Whitehead says this last project was a cross between Swedish and Navaho methods of weaving. Farm & Homestead Day is specifically about imparting hands-on skills. Whitehead says it feels like the right fit for passing knowledge to the next generation – an example she sets with her entire way of life.