Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

Under stormy skies, members of MOFGA's Buildings & Grounds crew raise their Bergey windmill and prepare to throw the switch.

MOFGA supporter Hank Sharpe throws the switch as Peggy Sharpe watches the blades turn. MOFGA staff members Russell Libby, Ellis Percy, Vernon LeCount and Steve Plumb enjoy the big moment.

By Heather Spalding

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) took another step toward energy self-sufficiency on Saturday, September 15th, 2007, when staff, volunteers and generous donors started up a 10-kilowatt Bergey Excel windmill at the Common Ground Education Center. MOFGA's Buildings & Grounds crew expects the new wind power system to generate enough energy annually to meet the needs of the Common Ground Country Fair. This year's Fair takes place on September 21, 22 & 23.

Located on 250+ acres of mixed farmland and forest in Unity and Thorndike, MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center provides ample space for the organization's renowned Fair while serving as an inspiring venue for year-round educational programs. MOFGA developed the facilities to teach people from all walks of life about the effectiveness, beauty and importance of ecologically sound farming and gardening.

"MOFGA is committed to using as little energy as possible to operate the Common Ground Education Center," said Buildings & Grounds Coordinator Vernon LeCount, who has been working with wind power since the early 70's. "To accommodate our staff, volunteers and visitors during the course of the year, we are adding alternative systems to demonstrate possibilities that can be tried at home. First we focus on energy efficiency – high levels of insulation, zone heating, fluorescent light bulbs, and now systems that will produce energy."

The Bergey windmill, which Kelmscott Farm donated to MOFGA, is the latest in a series of installments designed to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. MOFGA's energy efficient main building, which houses its offices, library, Exhibition Hall and commercial kitchen, has an ecological design with high energy efficiency, siting for solar gain, and use of local materials.

The sun, of course, plays an important role in MOFGA's energy efficiency plans. Because MOFGA's main building requires (by law) a sprinkler system, it is linked to three very large water-filled steel tanks that must not freeze. On the south side of its sprinkler building, MOFGA installed a flat-plate solar wall, which keeps the temperature above freezing ­ actually quite cozy ­ even during frigid Maine winter weather. The wall takes advantage of snow reflection during the winter, and allows visitors to get a close-up view of the heat generating system. Currently under development is a system of flat-plate solar collectors for heating water in the main building's 1500-gallon insulated tank.

In 1999, MOFGA hosted an ecological design contest for its Modern Farmhouse, which now houses Journeypersons in training to start their own organic farms. The farmhouse is constructed of environmentally friendly materials, including wood harvested from the organization's woodlot. Features include a wood cookstove that pre-heats water for the house, heavy insulation throughout the building, and floors made of sustainably harvested hardwoods. Provisions are in place for solar hot water as well. Farmhouse tours are scheduled during the upcoming Fair.

With generous support from the John Sage Foundation, MOFGA installed a biodiesel fuel tank and pump for use with tractors and other equipment. The organization's goal is to use waste cooking oil from the Common Ground Country Fair to power all of its diesel vehicles. MOFGA periodically offers classes and hands-on workshops promoting the farm and homestead benefits of alternative fuels.

At the upcoming Common Ground Country Fair, exhibitors will showcase various electricity generating products, using solar, micro-hydro and wind power. Fairgoers will be able to see first-hand some of the more robust wind generators, specifically the new Skystream from Southwest Wind, the fairly new XL-1 from Bergey, and MOFGA's own 10-kilowatt Bergey Excel. These machines are sized for the homeowners or small business that would like to take advantage of wind energy. There will be two wind-energy workshops on Friday at the Fair.

All raise a glass of local mead to the momentous occasion.


"The high cost of oil now and the expected rise of electric power rates are forcing people to look for more 'home-grown' energy sources," said LeCount. "Sending our energy dollars and jobs overseas to countries that are not friendly is not great policy. We are glad to present clean, local and renewable energy alternatives for Maine people."

Wind power can significantly contribute to a nation's energy supply. Denmark generates twenty percent of its electricity needs with wind power. The United States is at 0.7 percent.

"The site of hundreds of wind generators along coastal highways in Denmark is amazing," LeCount offered with enthusiasm and a broad smile. "There is no reason why the U.S. should not supplement its electricity generating capacity with wind. Imagine rows of wind machines down the center meridians of our interstate highways? The wind is always blowing somewhere."

For more information about energy efficiency efforts at MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center, contact Jason Tessier at [email protected] or 207-568-4142.


This article is provided by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), PO Box 170, Unity, ME 04988; 207-568-4142; [email protected] Joining MOFGA helps support and promote organic farming and gardening in Maine and helps Maine consumers enjoy more healthful, Maine-grown food. Copyright 2007 by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.