By Marada Cook
Wesley Rothermel grew up in the Pennsylvania dust country. His fondest boyhood memories are of days spent with his aunts and uncles, who raised cattle, kept horses, grew grains and fed their families from their own gardens.’
These experiences made Rothermel aware of the challenges facing small farmers, and were in part responsible for his interest in volunteering for MOFGA. “I came to Maine in 1976,” he says, “and started volunteering for MOFGA in the mid-’80s.
“I saw what was happening to small farmers across the country. Folks were selling their land, moving away from the land, driven out by corporate farming operations. I saw that there was no support for the small farmer, not from the government, not from the banks, and not from the public.
“MOFGA supports small farmers,” Rothermel continues, “so by supporting MOFGA, I know I am likewise supporting the farmers.”
Rothermel has done a variety of volunteer jobs, from collecting tickets at the Common Ground Country Fair, to serving as MOFGA’s treasurer in 1991. His most recent help has been representing MOFGA at the Green Futures Fair in Belfast. “My job is to answer questions at the public information tables MOFGA sets up at these kinds of events. I hand out publications and try to raise awareness about MOFGA’s efforts and mission.”
This volunteer job is more diverse than it sounds. “Some people come to the booth and they have a specific question about MOFGA’s work, politically or educationally. Others come to the table and look at the handouts and have no idea what MOFGA does.”
Rothermel’s job is to educate everyone. “I like to teach people about the new organic standards, and what they mean to the consumer and the farmers. I also like to ask if people have heard about the Common Ground Fair. That is a great starting point for getting people interested in MOFGA.”
A CPA by trade, Rothermel has done professional work for MOFGA, filing tax returns and helping to improve the computerized accounting systems. As part of the team that helps MOFGA achieve its goals, he recognizes that MOFGA’s vision is crucial to the health of Maine’s farms and its people.
“I’ve been a runner for 32 years,” says Rothermel, “and it was running that taught me the value of good food. When I first began running I was amazed at the changes my body went through in training. The more I ran, the more I craved good food. My body demanded it. I became more aware of what I was eating, I started to read labels and ingredient lists.” Rothermel has run five marathons so far, and continues to run almost every day.
Wesley Rothermel may not be easy to catch up to on the track, but you’re likely to run into him at Common Ground this September. “I’m not sure what I’m going to volunteer for at the Common Ground,” says Rothermel, when asked where we’d find him at the Fair. “I plan on doing a little ticket selling, and then offering myself up for what ever comes along!”