By Alice Percy, MOFGA President
The fair is 6-1/2 years older than I am, and I have enthusiastically attended almost every single one from the time I was a babe in arms. (I missed two, in the early oughts, because my father – Jim Torbert, the MOFGA-El Salvador Sistering Committee’s representative to the board – wouldn’t pick me up from boarding school. Dad, I still don’t forgive you.)
In my earliest memories of fair-going, my primary goals for the weekend were to see every single animal on the fairgrounds and to buy a peacock feather. Later, when I could earn some pocket money doing the milking chores for my parents, I could swing a peacock feather and a Sweet Annie wreath. As a teenager, I went to the public policy teach-ins and the drum circles. Then the Fair become hard work: First I helped staff booths run by friends’ family members; then my husband and I sold our organic pork at the Pine Gate Farmers’ Market from 9 in the morning until 6 at night, with an hour’s drive and two hours of feeding chores on either side of the day. Now I stand all weekend in Fedco’s booth, answering people’s questions about potato beetles and cover crops. I still sneak a few hours to myself so that I can go see every single animal on the fairgrounds. And eat Indian pudding pie cones. And lamb kebabs. And cheese. And roasted peppers. And drink apple cider.
The Fair is important because it is a time of vivid optimism, a time to loudly celebrate the values that MOFGA promotes. The rest of the year, MOFGA struggles in Augusta and Washington to be a voice for earth-friendly agriculture, healthy eating and vibrant rural communities in a sea of corporate lobbyists representing conventional commodity agriculture. Farmers struggle to make a living growing food ethically in an economic system that is stacked against them. We all struggle against a culture of impatience, greed and ecological myopia. At the Fair, if we don’t exactly forget these struggles, we gain the strength and hope to continue in them because we can all see and feel the broad base of support around us.
Sixty thousand people show up to support MOFGA’s mission, to celebrate the hard work our farmers do, to learn something new and to eat some truly excellent food. Kids on stilts, bearded loggers, Somali immigrants, middle-aged bankers, war veterans, Amish families, teenagers with ears gauged to unbelievable dimensions, beautiful women in long flouncy skirts with incredibly adorable babies tied to their fronts, fresh-faced college kids in clean Carhartts, my husband in incredibly filthy Carhartts, bakers, artists, musicians and (oh, yeah) some organic farmers – they all show up to say “yes” to healthy food and healthy communities. And somehow, they all drive Subarus.
Speaking of which, please consider carpooling, biking or taking the train to the Fair!
This Fair presents a special opportunity to contribute your voice to the organization. One task of my presidency is to help oversee a comprehensive strategic planning process, with broad input from all of our constituents. We are issuing a survey to gather feedback from our members and other fairgoers regarding MOFGA’s position and mission in a world increasingly aware of food issues. Please stop at the MOFGA tent to learn how to participate.