The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has announced that the organization will not move forward with an in-person Common Ground Country Fair this year. Executive Director Sarah Alexander said, “The ongoing pandemic, rising COVID-19 cases throughout Maine and valuable feedback from our community have led us to this point. We did not come to this decision easily and know that people will have mixed reactions and emotions, as we all do.”
The annual celebration of rural living draws 60,000 attendees to the Common Ground Education Center in Unity, Maine, each year and relies on the efforts of over 300 year-round volunteers and over 2,000 volunteers during the event. Alexander added, “So many people have worked very hard to put on a 2021 fair, including countless volunteer hours. We honor the hard work and dedication of all who make the Fair happen each year. In the end, we feel this large-scale community-building event should not take place in the current COVID-19 situation.”
Stacy Brenner, MOFGA Board President, farmer and State Senator noted, “As the current president of the board of directors, it is devastating to have to cancel the Fair for a second time and in the year of our 50th anniversary. With that said, I’m also a nurse-midwife and looking at the public health data and the epidemiological information. It’s clear that as a community, we are not done worrying about COVID-19. My heart feels heavy but I am grateful to work within such a deliberative process and as part of such a thoughtful team.”
The organization’s work to create a healthy and fair food system and to support thriving rural communities will continue. Organizers are actively working through a number of scenarios that will help to support vendors and exhibitors and offer educational content in the coming months. At this time, plans include creating videos of educational content that will be made available at no charge to the public and released during the weekend of the fair at mofga.org; exploring support for vendors and exhibitors through MOFGA’s online store and brick and mortar location at The Maine Organic Marketplace in Freeport; and determining if it will be possible to host smaller events in Unity to highlight areas of the Fair throughout the fall in a safe manner.
MOFGA has staff and volunteers dedicated to planning the Fair year round and are hopeful that the event will return to being held in-person on September 23, 24 and 25, 2022.
Details about the ongoing effort and status of the Common Ground Country Fair will be posted at mofga.org/the-fair.