MOFGA Members Continue to Build Radical Connection

MOFGA was founded in 1971 to promote organic agriculture as a solution to environmental, social and economic challenges. MOFGA members have provided critical support for these efforts since the organization’s earliest days and helped build the foundation on which all of MOFGA’s work is based. As MOFGA has evolved over the years, so has our membership program.

Grassroots Membership Support Since 1971

Soon after MOFGA’s first meeting, the organization began to take shape. MOFGA staff conducted a membership survey in 1976 including the question, “What are the three most important attitudes to have for a successful homestead?” The top responses included:

1. Enjoy hard work.

2. Be patient; go slow. Plan realistic goals.

3. Be persistent and committed.

4. Be willing to learn, be flexible, be open, have a sense of humor.

5. Think in terms of cooperation and of serving others.

6. Understand and accept nature, the land and weather. Live your garden—not just plant it.

7. Have a pioneering spirit and be aware of the value homesteading has in today’s world.

These attitudes outlined by members could lead each of us to success far beyond the homestead!

MOFGA members have supported the organization from the beginning and continue to do so today as we change and grow. And change we have! The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener started as a mimeographed newsletter and transitioned to a newspaper in 1974 edited by Tim Nason. In 2024, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of The MOF&G. The publication’s current editor Holli Cederholm wrote about the anniversary in her spring 2024 editorial, “The MOF&G had the revolutionary power of connecting like-minded individuals around common goals. Its pages offered novel information about the organic movement as well as camaraderie. The longstanding tradition of sharing resources for organic farmers and gardeners continues!”

In 1981, MOFGA formed its first formal legislative committee. Today, we have two full-time employees dedicated to advancing our policy agenda. Recognizing the need to directly support farmers with technical assistance, an organic extension agent role was created in 1986, and in 1990 MOFGA launched educational programs for farmers and gardeners. Today we have a team of farmer programs and community education professionals who help build resilience and community among growers and producers of all experience levels. MOFGA held the first Common Ground Country Fair in 1977 in Litchfield, attracting 10,000 participants. More than 60,000 people now attend the Fair each year at the Common Ground Education Center in Unity, which was purchased with member support in 1996.

Impact by the Numbers MOFGA membership

MOFGA Membership for the Next 50 Years

In 2021, we celebrated MOFGA’s 50th anniversary and the incredible impact that MOFGA has had for farmers and gardeners in Maine to date. Now, as we look ahead to MOFGA’s next 50 years, our membership community continues to provide grassroots support for all of our work. Over the past several years, we’ve updated our membership systems to help us better serve our members, expand our membership base and create a path for future sustainability.

After experiencing MOFGA’s first year without an in-person Fair in 2020, due to the pandemic, we restructured our membership levels and calendar to make membership more accessible and to reduce administration. Membership is now available with a donation of $5 or more per year. This change has made membership more open to our community at a lower price point. We also restructured membership benefits so that they’re aligned with giving level instead of household structure. (Read more about all of our membership benefits — including a subscription to The MOF&G for members at the $20-plus level — on page 39.) According to our new membership calendar, all memberships now renew each year on July 1. This helps us use our resources more efficiently and streamline Common Ground Country Fair entrance for members.

Members have played an important role in the Common Ground Country Fair since the first Fair in 1977. The Fair serves as an annual convening for the MOFGA community. Many members also renew their membership in advance of or at the Fair, and members have contributed countless volunteer hours helping make the three-day event successful each year. In 1984, Friday was named “MOFGA Day” at the Fair, when members received free entrance. Years later, free admission was extended to members for the entire Fair. Starting in 2021, in order to better align membership benefits with MOFGA’s long-term sustainability, we changed Fair admission benefits so that members at the $40 annual level receive one ticket for one day of the Fair, $60 level members receive two tickets, and $100-plus level members receive three tickets.

To improve accessibility and reduce congestion at the Fair gates, we introduced electronic advance Fair ticket reservations. Through the dedicated efforts of the MOFGA fair gates team, you may have noticed that lines at the entrances have moved faster these past two fairs thanks to the availability of advance tickets and ticket scanners at the gates. We’re so grateful to all of the amazing gates volunteers who help 60,000-plus fairgoers enter the Fair each year.

In early 2023, MOFGA transitioned to a new membership database and payment processor to improve our fundraising operations. Since that transition, we’ve been focused on cleaning our membership records and updating our internal processes so that membership records reflect the full picture of members’ relationships with MOFGA. This new system also features a secure donor portal, allowing members to log in to update payment and contact information directly, or send messages to staff with questions about membership. As always, you can also call 207-658-6007 or email [email protected] about your membership.

In addition to all the benefits listed above, being a member of the MOFGA community carries with it many opportunities to develop deep connections with others, share resources and knowledge, and contribute to the food system we want to create. A sense of support and belonging, especially during challenging times, is invaluable. MOFGA members built that possibility for radical connection back in 1971 and continue to hold that space for the community today.

Thank You, Members!

To all of our MOFGA members from all backgrounds: thank you for your support! Your membership gift of any amount helps make our work possible creating an equitable and healthy food system. Members often share with me how long they’ve been members, or when they attended their first Fair. I recently spoke with a member who regularly attends the farmers’ market and said that she’s thrilled to see young vendors there who will be carrying on as the next generation of farmers. Another member was eager to read the spring issue of The MOF&G for inspiration for the gardening season. I always love hearing from members about why they support MOFGA.

Last year, we successfully concluded a milestone three-year effort to set the course for MOFGA’s next 50 years. Our community helped us reach our Together We Grow 50th anniversary campaign’s $12 million goal. This was achieved in no small part through the hundreds of community members who increased their giving. I dearly appreciate the sentiment when a member says, about their donation, “I wish it could be more!” — but the beauty of our community is that when many of us contribute what we can, we’re stronger together and can make a significant impact!

We’re also celebrating our growing community of Perennial Friend monthly members. Being a Perennial Friend is a special way to support MOFGA because it provides sustainable income all year-round and reduces the need for renewal communications.

In addition to financial contributions, MOFGA members help move our work forward by volunteering, contacting their representatives in support of priority legislation, and sharing our resources with friends and neighbors. Sustained membership support also enables MOFGA to quickly react and adapt to new challenges. In the past several years, MOFGA has responded to multiple crises impacting farmers and our food system including the pandemic, PFAS chemical contamination of farmland, the loss of organic dairy contracts in Maine and the Northeast, and multiple severe weather events caused by climate change. Membership contributions help MOFGA to respond to emerging challenges with policy leadership, on the ground technical assistance for farmers, and community education.

We’re kicking off our membership drive this month for the new membership year, which starts on July 1. Thank you to the long-term members who continue your foundational support. MOFGA wouldn’t be here without you. To the newest generation of gardeners, fairgoers and eaters — please join our community to help power our next 50 years of impact for a food system that is healthy and fair for all of us.

– Laura Miller, Development Manager

This article was originally published in the summer 2024 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. Become a member today!

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