The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) sponsors the Common Ground Country Fair, which encourages agriculturally based rural communities. The Exhibition Hall at the Fair maintains one of the original intents of agricultural fairs: to improve local farming by bringing farmers together to compare the outcome of their farming practices. Traditionally, exhibition halls served as a post-harvest forum where farmers could teach and learn from each other about their successes and failures. MOFGA and the Common Ground Country Fair host an exhibition hall for this very purpose.
Maine residents can compete in many different contests in the Exhibition Hall. The contests include: great pumpkin; biggest squash; great zucchini; biggest cabbage; biggest beet; giant cuke; the "whatever" contest for vegetable oddities; organic farm exhibits; MOFGA chapter exhibits; other fruit and vegetable exhibits; canned foods; dried foods; baked goods; honey; eggs; herbs and houseplants. There is also a "Compost Bin Specials" category for the largest and/or most unusual product of the compost bin! Oversized or most dramatically crossed varieties will receive special attention.
Also appearing in the Common Ground Exhibition Hall is the work of amateur artists and craftspeople. Some of the arts and crafts on display in the Exhibition Hall each year include: afghans; bedspreads; quilts; clothing; sweaters; rugs; wall hangings; basketry; candles; dried flower arrangements; hand made soaps; pottery; photographs; paintings; woodcuts; and silkscreens.
Schoolchildren can take part in the Children's Apple Pie Contest, and all Mainers can participate in the Natural Dessert Competition.
Thursday, September 24, 2015. Exhibition Hall open from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. Entries in all categories accepted.
Friday, September 25, 2015. Entries accepted from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m.
Exhibition Hall open to fairgoers from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Judging begins at 10:30 a.m. and continues through the day.
Saturday, September 26, 2015. Entries for the Children's Apple Pie Contest and the Natural Dessert Contest will be accepted until noon. Judging at 1 p.m. Exhibition Hall open to fairgoers from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Sunday, September 27, 2015. Exhibition Hall open to fairgoers from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Exhibits should remain in place until 5pm for the benefit of all Fairgoers. Please remove exhibits by 7:30pm on Sunday.
Competition in the Exhibition Hall is open to all organic growers in Maine. Entrants need not be certified organic growers, but must follow these practices:
- Soil fertility is achieved and maintained by using green manures, compost, animal manures and rock powders, seaweed, etc... Chemical fertilizers are not permitted;
- Crop rotation, predators, traps; biological insecticides or mechanical barriers control insects. Synthetic pesticides and natural poisons with long-term effects are not permitted;
- Crop rotation, green manures, mulching, and cultivation control weeds.
- Synthetic herbicides are not permitted.
General Rules for Submitting Entries
All articles are to be entered in the owner's name and registered at the Exhibition Hall with the volunteers who will be there to assist you. If you are planning to exhibit more than ten articles, pre-registration materials can be obtained by mail by contacting Amy LeBlanc, by September 3, at P.O. Box 273, East Wilton, ME 04234. Phone 778-2685. Unless otherwise noted in the preceding text, all entries must be in place in the Exhibition Hall before 9 a.m. Friday. If there is a problem meeting the deadline, we may be able to accommodate you if you call us early!
Judging Criteria for Vegetables and Fruits, Canned and Dried Foods, and Herbs
The criteria for judging at the Common Ground Country Fair include the suitability of the entry for its intended use - table or storage. Uniformity is an important criterion for carrots or beans, but less so for some peppers. For instance, a collection can demonstrate the color changes typical to the variety. Size can be an advantage, up to a point, but it may be difficult to judge in some of the rare heirlooms. Heirloom fruits and vegetables are especially valued, since they help maintain the genetic diversity so important to food crops and are labeled at time of entry with special green tags to identify them as heirlooms.
Entries in the vegetable, fruit, canned and dried foods, grains and herbs are judged by how well they measure up to the ideal standard for their type. If any item is judged to be excellent, it is awarded a blue ribbon. Good entries are awarded red and yellow ribbons. More than one entry in a category can receive a blue, red or yellow ribbon, as items are not judged against each other. Gift Certificates are awarded to the 1st Prize (Blue Ribbon) and 2nd Prize (Red Ribbon) entries in the following categories: vegetables; fruits; nuts; grains; flowers; fresh herbs; and houseplants. Blue and red ribbon winners may redeem their gift certificates at the following Maine seed companies:
- Fedco Seeds, PO Box 520, Waterville, ME 04903-0520. Phone: 207-873-7333
- Johnny's Selected Seeds, Foss Hill Road, Albion, ME 04910. Phone: 207-861-3900
- Pine Tree Garden Seeds, PO Box 300, New Gloucester, ME 04260 Phone: 207-926-3400
Occasionally the judges may deem an entry to be exemplary and far superior to any others of its type. In this case the judges may award a Judge's Award. The Judge's Award will be accompanied by a $10.00 cash premium.
Special Exhibition Hall Categories
- Great Pumpkin (by weight). Sample of one, named variety. Open to all ages. Pumpkins may be no more than 45" wide, and no bigger than humans can handle. You are responsible for carrying the pumpkin into the Exhibition Hall to a location designated by the Exhibition Hall staff. This category is for entries from the Cucurbita pepo species; this species includes acorn squash, summer squash, and the small gourds, as well as pumpkins. The stems are hard, with five sharply angled sides. Connecticut Field is an example of a very large variety.
- Biggest Squash (by weight). Cucurbita maxima; besides the giant pumpkin-like squash Atlantic Giant, this species includes Buttercup, Banana, Hubbard, and Turban squash. The stem is round and corky.
- Great Zucchini (by weight). Common Ground Country fair's answer to what to do with the one that got away!
- Biggest Cabbage (by weight). One head cut from the roots, but including the wrapper leaves.
- Big Beet (by weight). Tops should be neatly removed.
- Giant Cuke (by weight).
- The Whatever Contest (vegetable oddities).
- Compost Bin Specials! For the largest and/or most unusual product of the compost bin! Oversized or most dramatically crossed varieties will receive special attention.
Prepared Food Competitions
- Children's Apple Pie Contest. Any school age child (or preschool age child) who arrives at the ticket gate, on Saturday morning, with an apple pie in hand will get in free providing he or she created the pie and is accompanied by a paying adult. Entries must be in the Exhibition Hall and registered by noon on Saturday. In the spirit of the MOFGA Food Policy, ingredients should be Maine and Organic. For more information, please read MOFGA's Food Policy (pdf). Judging is at 1 p.m.
- Natural Dessert Competition. In the spirit of the MOFGA Food Policy, ingredients should be Maine and Organic. Entries must be in the Exhibition Hall and registered by noon on Saturday. Judging is at 1 p.m. For more information, please read MOFGA's Food Policy (pdf).
Exhibition Category Descriptions
Organic Farm Exhibits: Consisting of a display of produce, products, and materials descriptive of a single organic farm. Each display is judged on how well it presents a complete picture of the operation and avocations of the farm and its people. A prize of $100 for a full booth or $50 for a half booth will be given to first prize winners. Please reserve space by September 5th. Display must be set up by 9 a.m. Friday.
MOFGA Chapter Exhibits: Consisting of a collection of entries from chapter members or a unified display depicting chapter life and events. Judged on how well the display represents the people, area and programs of the MOFGA Chapter. A prize of $100 for a full booth or $50 for a half booth display will be given to first prize winners. Please reserve space by September 5th. Display must be set up by 9 a.m. Friday.
Vegetables and Fruits
Individual entries: Vegetables and fruits may be rinsed or brushed, but should not be scrubbed, peeled, waxed, or otherwise changed from their natural state. If grown from commercial seed, specify variety. If grown from saved heirloom seed, please indicate. Vegetables should be presented in appropriate condition for fresh use or storage. For example green beans, should be young and smooth; onions should be ripened off, with their skins intact for long storage; carrots and turnips, etc., should have about an inch of tops left on, as if ready for storage. Tomatoes should be ripe, blemish free or with naturally sealed cracks, and presented neatly with stems all on or stems all off. Cleaning of vegetables should be limited and appropriate for each entry. For example, carrots should be rinsed but not scrubbed; tomatoes and peppers should be wiped clean; potatoes should have loose soil brushed off. Please provide your own white paper plates, small plates, or bowls, depending on the size of your entry. Please be sure to bring the correct number of articles for each exhibit.
Fruits: Specify if heirloom variety. All fruits should be named varieties. Sample of five unless otherwise stated.
- Apples: crabapples; green, red, or yellow apples.
- Cranberries: one bowl sample (about 1 pint).
- Grapes: one bunch sample.
- Melon: sample of one.
- Raspberries: one pint basket.
- Strawberries: one pint basket; alpine or standard.
- Watermelon: sample of one.
- Any other fruit to receive the same premium by variety or type.
Nuts: Must be cultivated by exhibitor, not wild-gathered. 1-quart sample.
- Any other type to receive the same premiums.
Grains: One small sheaf, consisting of 10-25 stems per sample (considering size) unless otherwise specified.
- Amaranth (sample of three small or one large).
- Sunflower seed heads (sample of three small or one large).
Home Canned, Dried and Fermented Foods, Home Baked Goods, Dairy, Honey and Eggs
Home Canned Foods: Awards based on appearance and use of good canning practices. Judges will not taste canned food. Canned goods must be displayed in commercially sold canning jars with metal or BPA-free lids, and safe and proper canning methods must be used. Please feel free to transport canned goods, for safety, with rings, but rings must be removed for display. All items must be canned by exhibitor. Please specify canning method (water bath or pressure) on entry tag.
- Fruits, 1 jar.
- Vegetables, 1 jar.
- Jams, Jellies, or Marmalades, 1 jar.
- Catsups, Chutneys, Relishes, Sauces, and other condiments, 1 jar.
- Pickles: sweet; sour, 1 jar.
- Meat or Fish, 1 jar.
Home Dried Foods and Culinary Herbs: This is a category with a lot going for it. Nothing but solar energy is needed for drying, and no energy is needed for storage. Vitamins and minerals are maintained very well. Dried foods and herbs are judged both by their appearance and their suitability for long storage. Crop maturity and degree of dryness, color, aroma, texture, and taste are all indicators of quality. The label must state contents and date. Clear glass jars, 1/2 pint or larger. Herbs may be presented in storage jars or jars designed for counter-top use.
- Fruit and fruit leathers.
- Granola, cereals.
- Herbs: dried/prepared; cut, ground, powdered, or crushed leaves; seeds.
- Meats: jerky.
Home Made Beverages, Vinegars, and Syrups: Clear glass jars,1 pint or larger (Cider: 1 quart jar)
- Syrups: Maple, other.
- Vinegars: Home made wine or fruit vinegars. Label should indicate live cultures or pasteurized.
- Flavored Vinegars: Label should indicate flavor and vinegar source; home made fruit, wine, or commercial.
- Apple Cider: Label should indicate apple variety, if known. Cider will be tasted by judges.
- Beers and tonics: herbal; root; other. (examples Sarsparilla, Ginger, Spruce, Birch, Dandelion, Nettle) Samples will be tasted by judges.
Home Baked Goods: Judges will taste all home baked goods. Competitors must use ingredients that are in the spirit of the MOFGA Food Policy; Maine and Organic. For more information, please read MOFGA's Food Policy (pdf). No commercial bakeries or chefs. Leavening agents must be specified. We suggest you submit a copy of the recipe to be displayed with your items.
- Bread; Whole wheat; rye; white (specify flours); other dark (specify flours); fancy or sweet; quick; other; one loaf.
- Rolls, biscuits, muffins; plate of five.
- Cakes; loaf; layer; coffee cake; other.
- Cookies; plate of five.
- Pies: single crust; double crust.
Home Processed Dairy Products: Entries will be kept chilled until judging. Judges will taste all entries. Labels should include milk source, culture and rennet, and method.
- Milk, designated as raw or pasteurized. Sample of one quart.
- Farmer cheeses - examples: chevre, cottage chese, mozzarella. Sample of 4oz.-8oz.
- Aged cheeses - examples: cheddar, Swiss, parmesan. 4oz. to 8oz. sample block.
- Butter, sample of 1/4 pound.
- Yogurt, sample of one pint.
- Kefir, sample of one pint.
- Other cheeses if not listed above, sample of 4oz. to 8oz.
Lacto-Fermented Foods: Entries will be kept chilled until judging. Judges will taste all entries.
- Sauerkraut - sample of one pint or 1 quart.
- Kimchi - sample of one pint or 1 quart.
- Other lacto-fermented foods - sample of one pint or 1 quart.
Medicinal Herb Preparations: Ingredients (including Latin names) and method should be included on the label.
Eggs: All eggs must be washed and cleaned. Eggs will be candled. Indicate variety of hen, duck, turkey, etc, if possible!
- Essential Oils
- Other herbal preparations
- Hen's eggs, white, one dozen.
- Hen's eggs, brown, one dozen.
- Hen's eggs, other colors, one dozen.
- Duck's eggs, one dozen.
- Other eggs, one dozen.
Honey & Beeswax Products
- Extracted honey; 1 pint or larger jar.
- Comb Honey.
- Creamed Honey; 1 pint or larger container.
- Beeswax Cakes.
- Beeswax Candles.
Flowers, Fresh Herbs, and Houseplants
- Single specimen with foliage, any flower by variety.
- Mixed bouquet, annuals.
- Mixed bouquet, perennials.
- Mixed bouquet, dried materials.
- Wildflowers and grasses. Note: Do not use any endangered or protected species. Such items will not be displayed or judged.
- Fresh cut herbs in bunches: six or more varieties.
- Herb Plants, live, potted.
- Herb wreaths.
- Sachets, potpourris, etc...
Houseplants: Entries should have been under the care of the exhibitor for at least six months. Entries will be checked daily and watered if necessary.
- African Violets and other gesneriads, named varieties.
- Bonsai. Please specify if purchased as nursery stock, grown from seed, grown from a graft or cutting, or wildgathered.
- Cacti and other succulents.
- Geraniums and Scented Geraniums.
- Hanging baskets or pots.
- Other flowering houseplants.
- Other foliage plants.
Arts and Crafts: Amateurs only, please. Items will not be offered for sale, but we will give your name and address to individuals wishing to place an order with you or wanting to ask about patterns, techniques, etc. We define an amateur as a person who does not make a substantial portion of his or her living selling the art or craft he or she has entered.
Occasionally the judges may deem an entry to be exemplary and far superior to any others of its type. In this case the judges may award a Judge's Award. The Judge's Award will be accompanied by a $10.00 cash premium. A special Judge's Award and premium of $25 may be awarded by the Quilt Judges for an exemplary bed-sized (regular, queen or king) quilt.
Needlework and Fancy Work: No kits please. Judging preference given to articles made with natural materials. Please specify if the design is original or not.
- Afghans: crocheted; knitted; other.
- Baby articles: afghans; crib blankets and spreads; carriage robes; booties; socks; slippers; bonnets; dresses; jackets; pant suits; sweaters; layette sets; buntings, etc.
- Bedspreads: crocheted; knitted; appliquéd; embroidered.
- Centerpieces: bureau scarves; dresser sets; doilies; dish mats; kitchen items: appliquéd; crocheted; knitted; tatted; embroidered; other.
- Tablecloths, placemats, napkins, table runners: appliquéd; crocheted; knitted; tatted; embroidered; other.
- Chair seats and accessories: braided; crocheted; knitted; other.
- Children's clothing: slippers; socks; gloves; mittens; scarves; hats; dresses; pants; tops; skirts; shirts; suits; sweaters; vests; ponchos; shawls; capes; coats; sets of three items or more, not individually entered above.
- Adult's clothing and accessories: slippers, socks, gloves, mittens, scarves, hats; women's dresses, slacks, tops, skirts, blouses, suits; men's slacks and shirts, suits, jackets; women's sweaters and vests; men's sweaters and vests; ponchos, shawls, capes, coats, stoles; sets of three items or more, not individually entered above.
- Pillows: crocheted; knitted needlepoint; embroidered; sewn; quilted.
- Quilts: tied; quilted.
- Rugs: braided; hooked; other.
- Spinning and dyeing.
- Wall hangings: samplers; pictures; panels.
- Toys: sewn; knitted; crocheted; other; dolls and doll's clothing; doll houses and furniture (must be made by exhibitor, no kits please. Other peoples' patterns and instructions may be used.)
Crafts: Amateurs only please. No kits please. Specify if the design is original or not. All pictures must be suitably framed and ready to hang on a pegboard hook.
- Candle making.
- Caning and other forms of seat-weaving.
- Etching on glass.
- Folk Art, Whimsies, and Whirligigs.
- Glass, stained, colored, copper-foiled or leaded.
- Metal work.
- Paper Mache.
- Pressed flowers.
- Sculpture and Carving
- Tole Painting
Graphic Arts: Amateurs only. No kits, please. Items must be suitably matted and framed and be ready to hang on a pegboard hook - a wire for hanging is strongly recommended.
- Photography. Limit of one to five photos as our space is limited.
- Printmaking; linoleum cut; woodcut; silkscreen; other.
For more information about the Exhibition Hall at the Common Ground Country Fair, contact Amy LeBlanc, P.O. Box 273, East Wilton, Maine 04234, phone 207-778-2685, email amy(at)whitehillfarm.com; or contact the Fair Office at email@example.com or 207-568-4142.