Steve Plumb claims never to have had a high-voltage career, but for years at the Common Ground Country Fair his bulb has burned brightly as the Electrical Coordinator. As such, he reviews all the vendors’, demonstrators’, and booth-holders’ requests for electricity – “pretty much everyone fills out a form” – and tries to fit them together so that all get what they need. In the last few years, he says, his job has gotten “more challenging” as some areas are used more heavily and because he must work within the set-up at Windsor. Two years ago, one section of the Fair had a brief black-out: “That’s the kind of thing I try to avoid.” Steve himself has avoided burn-out by regarding his position as a “learning job” and by accepting new challenges, such as planning for the permanent Fair site.
“I’ve learned a lot about what the new fairgrounds should have,” he says. “Once we get there, I actually see that my position may change some. We can do what we want, within the limits of money of course, and we’ll be trying to live within a sustainable guideline.” No longer will it be okay to keep requesting more and more electricity. “People in booths,” Steve says, “will have to stay within the spirit of MOFGA and be more self-reliant.” Perhaps there will be more solar units, such as those that powered the stage last year, and “at least initially,” there may be some generators. It “makes people more aware of what’s happening when they have to pour fuel into that unit.” Vendors who work at other fairs are the hardest to get thinking about alternatives to increasing electricity use – “they come with their big heavy cords and just want to plug them in” – but Steve is excited that “at least some of the vendors are thinking about what they can do.”
At home in Nobleboro, Steve is also thinking about what he can do. He and his wife Lynn built a house on their south-facing hillside 13 years ago, although it is “still in progress.” They let the sun help heat the house and have some solar hot water panels, although those are awaiting repair after a freeze-up. “There’s enough to do here to keep us busy for the rest of our lives,” Steve says – and that’s not even counting the children: Julia, 13; Tristan, 8; and May, 2. Lynn is an obstetrical nurse at the Miles Hospital in Damariscotta, where she now works three days a week. Steve has stopped working outside the house much – he has done a lot of construction and building maintenance in the past – to take care of the children. He’s happy that Lynn’s schedule allows him some breaks from childcare so that he can volunteer at the children’s school, the local library, a buying club food coop, and MOFGA. He likes to garden, and their hillside gives them late autumn frosts as well as plenty of rocks, but he’s found that “with kids, you have to do everything on a small scale.” Fortunately, he says, Maine has a lot of small producers and he has no trouble finding good food locally: “If I couldn’t find good carrots to buy, I’d feel more like I had to grow them.”
Helping to make that good food available has also helped prepare Steve for his newest position with MOFGA: Treasurer. In the past, he served as financial manager, treasurer, and president of the Rising Tide Food Co-op in Damariscotta, which has “about the same budget as MOFGA.” Steve started attending MOFGA board meetings last year and is looking forward to new challenges there and at the permanent Fair site. “Who know what’s to come?” he says. “It could be exciting.”
– Ann Cox Halkett