Common Ground Education Center
About Our Facility
Since we arrived in Unity in 1998, we have taken a conservation approach to building, and we have installed small-scale, innovative energy-generating facilities to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
We exhibit the possibilities for visitors, especially at our Common Ground Country Fair each September. A key part of this programming is an assortment of small-scale energy systems that visitors may view and recreate in their own homes or on their farms.
Aspects of design for conservation and energy efficiency include:
- building orientation for solar gain and use of local materials.
- a flat-plate solar wall on the structure that houses water tanks for the sprinkler system in the main building. The system keeps the temperature above freezing even during frigid Maine winters, when it takes advantage of snow reflection.
- a flat-plate solar wall on the south side of the main building that pre-heats water and pumps it to a 1500-gallon insulated water tank which serves the general heating system.
- a ten-kilowatt Bergey Excel wind generator atop an eighty-foot tilt-up tower.
- a grid-tied 11.7-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array installed on MOFGA’s 200-year-old red barn.
Orchards – MOFGA’s orchards celebrate and preserve our heritage of tree fruit diversity, demonstrate innovative polycultural orcharding, and regenerate soil vitality. The Maine Heritage Orchard is a ten-acre educational preservation orchard with more than 300 varieties of apples and pears traditionally grown in Maine. We are adding more varieties each year. The collection includes varieties from all 16 counties in Maine dating back as far as 1630. Until recently, many of them had been on the verge of extinction. This undertaking is all the more inspiring for the amazing transformation of its setting – a reclaimed gravel pit. MOFGA also manages two orchards on the main campus of the Common Ground Education Center, which visitors approach almost immediately upon arrival through either the Rose (north) or Pine (south) entrances. The North Orchard showcases apple varieties with Maine origins. The South Orchard contains a mixture of tree species – apples, plums, pears, cherries and peaches – and is typical of a small farm or home orchard. The North and South orchards serve as demonstration sites, and have market garden beds running between the rows of trees. The orchards are an important part of our educational programming and are used for teaching pruning, grafting and organic orchard care.
Working and Learning Space
Offices – MOFGA staff members have offices in the main building, in the Annex building on Route 220 in Thorndike, and across town in a space rented from Maine Farmland Trust. Several staff members work in remote locations around the state as well. As MOFGA’s programs grow, so does the staff and the corresponding need for workspace. Plans are ever evolving but we are all grateful for the beautiful venue that we call home.
Unity Hall – MOFGA’s Unity Hall is a 4,000 square foot room used for workshops, conferences, meetings, feasts, social gatherings, and, of course, the Exhibition Hall of the Common Ground Country Fair. In 1998, the post and beam construction was built by four different timber framers including: Connolly & Company of Edgecomb; Timber Frames by R.A. Krouse of Arundel; Mike Smiley Timber Frames of New Sharon; and Fairbanks Timber Frames of Winthrop. The framers cut sections of the Hall and joined them together at the raising. Unity Hall was made possible by the generosity of Bert and Coral Clifford of Unity.
Library – MOFGA’s library is the most frequently used facility at the Common Ground Education Center. In addition to being an educational resource for the public, MOFGA staff and volunteers use the office regularly for meetings and educational programs. We are especially grateful to the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation for the generous financial support that allowed us to install library shelving, computers and locally crafted furniture, and to catalog our collection making it searchable online. The library houses close to 2,000 volumes of sustainable agriculture books and dozens of periodicals and newsletters. In addition to hundreds of popular and academic books covering organic sustainable farming and gardening, the library includes dozens of old and out-of-print volumes. Essentially everything that has been written about sustainable agriculture in Maine, and some material from beyond, is represented and available to visitors for use in the library. Many of the books in this rich collection were donated by members and friends of MOFGA over the organization’s 40-year history.