A YEAR OF PROGRESS
At the 1996 Fair, our "Permanent Home" tent was filled with enthusiasm and ideas. This year, we hope you'll visit us at our tent, next to the MOFGA booth at the Main Gate. You'll see that we've been working hard over the past year to turn our ideas into reality.
• We own the farm. Earlier this year the Board unanimously agreed that it was time to exercise our option. On April 30, MOFGA purchased about 200 acres of land in Unity and Thorndike to serve as the permanent home for the Common Ground Country Fair and MOFGA's educational activities. The sellers, Donald and Bertha Maxim of Thorndike, have been helpful every step of the way since we first saw the site in August of 1994. Now it's ours to manage.
• The fields are planted. Don Maxim spent a lot of time in May and June clearing rocks from the Thorndike field (the Unity field has none) and seeding all of the potato and corn ground to a mix of clover, timothy and oats. The oats have just been cut by neighboring dairy farmers, and the clover and timothy are doing well in most places.
• We have a site plan. Throughout last fall a group of MOFGA members, including a large part of the Board of Directors, met to develop plans. We had a lot of creative help from a group of designers: David Neufeld, Conrad Heeschen, Brian Kent and Tom Hepp. At the end of the process, Brian Kent pulled the many ideas together into a site plan, which laid out patterns for the roads and buildings. This plan was approved by the Board in February and has been the basis of the engineering work done for the permit process.
Permits are near. We've worked hard on turning plans into permit applications. Keith Whitaker of B. R. Smith & Associates was hired to do engineering and permit work; Bob LaMontagne of China pitched in with technical assistance; David Studer of Washington did soils work; Mike Waugh from Surry has done the traffic study. We've also had a hydrogeologist (John Rand), surveyors (from B.R. Smith and Sewall and Co.), aerial photos, and more.
The Town of Unity has issued final approval for the project We're now waiting, eagerly, for word from DEP on our two permit applications: a Site Location of Development permit for the overall activity, and a wetlands permit by rule, needed because we're crossing some small forested wetlands on the pathway through the woods between the parking field and the site itself.
• We're planning buildings. The Board hired the firm of Holland and Foley of Northport as the architects for the main building. Sarah and David have been working hard with the Permanent Site Coordinating Committee to pull together plans for a building that will include the Exhibition Hall, space for the Country Store, offices for MOFGA staff working on the site (and eventually most MOFGA offices) and the Common Kitchen, where we feed volunteers during the Fair. You can see their working plans/design at the Permanent Site tent.
• We've hired a project manager. Rene Burdet of Belgrade has been hired to help us make things happen on the site. He's been construction manager on a number of school projects in central Maine, and has been a MOFGA member for about a decade.
• We're raising money to make this all happen. This is a big project. The MOFGA Board and staff, with the assistance of Mort Mather of Wells, have been working hard to raise the $2.3 million budget. So far, we have commitments and pledges of over $900,000! We've recently received a challenge grant from an anonymous donor who'll match $500,000 in funds if we can get our road and utility network in place this year to make it possible for the Fair to be in Unity in 1998. We've also received a grant of $50,000 from the Libra Foundation, and a contribution of $50,000 in construction materials from Ellsworth Builders' Supply. These large gifts go along with the hundreds of others from MOFGA members and friends, large and small, that have come in so far.
We need your help. We're approaching the time when we can actually start using work crews on site to help do site preparation, landscaping, and building work. Equally important, we need money to keep the process moving. Stop by the Permanent Site tent to get the latest information.