By Sharon Tisher
1999-2000 MOFGA President
First of all, applause and the highest praise for Heather Spalding and the MOFGA staff, the Fair Steering Committee, the Planning Team, the Traffic and Parking Committee, and the 1400 volunteers for executing a flawless Fair. And thanks to all of you who gave so generously in money, in labor, and in kind so that the Common Ground could be our place for this extraordinary celebration. Many fairgoers have written to us – to tell of their delight at the second Fair in Unity. These words from Jim Broughton of South Orange, New Jersey, sum up the overwhelming sentiment:
"Congratulations on a great 1999 Fair! It was our best experience ever. Parking was so much better. The shuttle service was a much appreciated feature for us. Our arrival and departure was smooth flowing with no delays. After our experience last year [with traffic] we debated about even coming this year, but I'm glad we did! You have our gratitude and appreciation for a job well done."
Here are some interesting facts about his year's Fair:
• 43,000 people attended the three-day event, nearly as many as attended the Bangor State Fair over nine days.
• The total amount of time those people were stopped in traffic on their way, as far as we could determine, was zero.
• 4300, or 10 percent of all fairgoers, were members of school groups (1/4 chaperones, 3/4 students) who got in free on Friday.
• 381 people rode their bikes to the Fair, up 50% from last year, and peddled their bikes a total of 6800 miles. Many took advantage of the nine free park and peddle sites within a 15-mile radius of the Fair. "That's a lot of air pollution spared," noted Jeff Miller, director of the Bike Coalition of Maine.
• Nearly 3000 took the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad to the Fair, 2353 from Unity and 525 from the new stop in Brooks. "It couldn't have been a more positive event for MOFGA and the railroad," noted the railroad's Bob LaMontagne, commenting on all the extremely happy people he saw on the train.
• 38 wheelchairs rode the shuttle from the South Parking Lot. Many others came in from the handicapped North Parking Lot.
• 170 new MOFGA members signed up at the Fair.
• 89% of trash generated at the Fair was recovered for compost and recycling – beating our fiveyear average of 88.64%. The compost will nourish our trees and gardens in the coming years.
• On September 24, the first day of the Fair, we had 4,429 requests for pages on MOFGA's new website (www.MOFGA.org), which provided hourly updates, thanks to Board member and Web Wizard Eric Rector, on traffic and parking conditions and weather, and ever changing photos of ongoing Fair events. If you stayed away on Saturday because it was raining where you were, the Web could have told you that it was sunny at the Fair! In total, 5,443 people accessed the website in the month of September.
• About 650 vendors, exhibitors and entertainers provided the tastes, sounds and sights that make the Fair unique.
• About 90 agricultural demonstrations, workshops and presentations enlightened fairgoers about ways to garden and farm in harmony with the environment.
• About 60 social and political activist groups were represented in booths in the Fair.
• About 220 Maine organic farmers sell or display their goods at the Fair.
• In all, the Fair generates an estimated $250,000 in earnings for Maine's organic farmers from food sold at the Fair.
Of all these numbers, perhaps the last is the most significant. One of the most important things that MOFGA can do is to convince Maine people that they can support their local economies, preserve the rural landscape and way of life, and be healthier by eating locally grown organic foods. There's no better way of getting this across than the flavors of the Fair, which both educate people and financially sustain farmers.
Now, the APPEAL. Most of you should shortly receive an annual appeal letter from Russell Libby. Please read it, and give generously! If you don't get a letter, give anyway! MOFGA has many new expenses for property maintenance at the Common Ground, and continuing needs for capital investment: saving the old red barn, constructing the modern homestead to house our farmer/caretaker, and building an amphitheater/stage are among the many projects on our list, which will not only enhance the Fair, but also meet the needs of year-round activities at the Common Ground. We are still a long stretch from completing our capital campaign. We need the help of every one of you to make it!