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Toki Oshima with her husband, John Pranio, at the Common Ground Country Fair.

Toki Oshima’s Vibrant Chard Colors 2016 Fair Poster
Getting to the Fair: Diversified Solutions
40th Fair Anniversary Stories
Join the Common Ground Country Fair Planning Team!
Volunteer Registration Open for the 2016 Common Ground Country Fair


Toki Oshima’s Vibrant Chard Colors 2016 Fair Poster

The winning art for the 2016 Common Ground Country Fair features an arrangement of Rainbow Swiss chard leaves, a staple in many home gardens and at farmers’ markets and a work of art in the garden. Toki Oshima of North Whitefield created the design – a fitting celebratory image for the 40th annual Common Ground Country Fair, September 23, 24 and 25 this year.

Oshima’s work should be familiar to MOF&G readers: She has created the scratchboard art that has graced the cover of each issue since 1992, and her delightful illustrations are sprinkled throughout the paper as well. (Scratchboard involves applying ink to a special clay-coated paper and then removing the ink with a sharp tool.) Our readers often comment on the joyful spirit of her farm and family scenes.

Originally from Massachusetts, where her mother gardened biodynamically, Oshima studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, then moved to a cabin in the woods in Alaska, where she played a lot of music, did odd jobs and made art. Eight years later she moved to Maine to attend the Portland School of Art (now the Maine College of Art, MECA). While there, she started creating illustrations for The Casco Bay Weekly, which is where MOF&G producer Tim Nason noticed her work and asked if she would illustrate our newspaper covers.

Since 1989, Oshima and her husband, John Pranio, have lived in North Whitefield. She finished her graphic design degree soon after they moved there, continued to grow her business, got a master’s degree in education, and the couple raised their sons, Sean and Jamie (now 19 and 22). Pranio has worked at the Spurwink School in Chelsea with at-risk youth all that time.

They garden, and, says Oshima, “We make really good friends of really good farmers. We’re avid CSA members.”

Her garden, in fact, inspired her chard painting for the Fair competition. “It’s so beautiful,” she says about Rainbow chard. “In all of my color artwork, I usually end up using every color of the rainbow. I don’t know why that happens, but I just noticed it. Chard really includes that love of color – and there it was in the garden! And we love to eat it. It’s so easy to cook and ready to go.”

Her chard design is reminiscent of the 2002 “Dancing Corn” poster, in that the vegetables almost seem to be in motion. Although she did not plan to depict motion, Oshima says, “In my artwork, gesture, the feeling of movement, has always been important to me.”

This was the twelfth time Oshima entered the Fair contest, and the first time she won. Her advice to other artists: “Be persistent!”

Oshima also contributed illustrations for MOFGA’s 1992 “The Garden Parade Coloring Book and Sewing Instructions,” based on the Common Ground Country Fair Children’s Garden Parade. She illustrated Tim Nason’s book, “Days with Cedar Whitewater,” as well as her own book, “Everyday in the Waldorf Kindergarten.” And her illustrations for the Journal Tribune won an Associated Press award.

She now teaches a parent-toddler class and a children’s art class in a space she rents at the Mill School in Freedom, and she is one of the facilitators for arts enrichment at Playworks, a homeschool cooperative at the Water Street Learning Center in Liberty.

In addition to making art, Oshima, with her husband and sons, makes music. Pranio plays fiddle and Oshima, guitar. “The kids have really taken off” with music, says Oshima. “Jamie is touring with Ed Howe, a terrific fiddler,” with their band, Barefoot. “Sean is a songwriter, and the kids have a band together – The Oshima Brothers – and another band,  Mostly Brothers.” John and Toki have played music at the Fair over the years, starting with the Fiddle Contest way back in 1989, and several other times with Paul D’Alessio and Tori Morrill as Redbird. The family played at an event MOFGA held last summer to honor Mrs. Polly Guth and the Partridge Foundation’s endowment gift to MOFGA.

Oshima’s cards, calendars and other artwork are available through select Maine outlets and in the Maine Marketplace at the Common Ground Country Fair. It seems appropriate that she won the art contest this year, as this will be her last year selling at the Fair. She’s had a booth there since 1998, when she had a space in her booth to nurse her infant son. Now she will focus more on selling through her website, www.tokiart.com.

Asked if she has any special memory of the Fair, she responds, “So many! Mostly that our whole family adores the fair. The kids grew up there. They had a chance to run around and be free and know their way around.”

This year she will be signing posters at the Fair.

“It’s really exciting to win!” says Oshima, adding that seeing her art throughout the Fair “will be so much fun.”

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Alternative options for getting to and from the Fair: biking, carpooling, riding the train and now, public busing.

Getting to the Fair: Diversified Solutions

Often when discussing the Fair’s inspiring talks, great food and local exhibitors, getting to the Fair comes up in the conversation. As we have settled into MOFGA’s permanent, larger site, parking fields have been added to increase traffic efficiency, systems for maximizing town infrastructure have been put into place, and skilled coordination of volunteers and staff makes getting to the Fair seamless for many.

As with many large festivals, there are times when fairgoers driving to and from the Fair can exceed the road capacity, causing some to wait in traffic. To everyone who has had to wait in traffic or in our parking lots: We appreciate your patience. The next step for alleviating the wait is to boost alternative ways to get to and from the Fair. We have some excellent options, including biking, carpooling, riding the train and now, public busing.

The oldest and most celebrated alternative transportation option is “Pedal to the Fair,” started in 1995. You can park your vehicle, and then bike to the Fair from six locations in surrounding areas (
see our map on www.mofga.org). When you reach the Fair, our dedicated volunteers park your bike and thank you with a coupon worth $2 off admission.  Biking provides valuable exercise, treads lighter on the environment, reduces demands on the roads, and avoids parking on the fairgrounds. Check out all of the fun and interesting bikes the Bicycle Valet volunteers bring to the Fair for all to try.

Fairgoers who cannot bike might carpool with family and friends or check the Go Maine rideshare system at www.gomaine.org, where those who want to carpool can find one another.

Many fairgoers and train enthusiasts ride the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad, which runs one train from Unity and one from Thorndike. Fairgoers can park at the depots and ride the train directly to the fairgrounds – a 10- to 15-minute ride through beautiful displays of fall foliage. For more about the train and tickets, see
www.belfastandmooseheadlakerail.org.

This year we hope to significantly increase bus rides to the Fair. School children already take buses to the Fair on Friday, and a few Adult Education programs have organized bus trips recently. We are growing this partnership with Maine Adult Education. Residents would sign up, share the cost, be picked up along a route and dropped off near the Fair entrance gate, spend hours at the Fair, and be bused home at the end of the day – and receive a special admission price of $8 per person for adults and elders. They will also receive their tickets through Adult Ed, eliminating waiting in line to buy tickets at the Fair.

We will publicize information about bus pickup locations, days and times closer to the Fair. Meanwhile, if you are interested in riding a bus to the Fair, ask your local Adult Education program if it runs a bus from your area. If not, suggest that it do (and offer to help fill the bus). More than 80 Adult Education centers are listed at
www.maineadulted.org/programs.

We look forward to seeing you at the 40th annual Common Ground Country Fair. Thank you to everyone who already bikes, carpools or takes the train to the Fair. We had a record attendance of 65,098 in 2015, and we hope more fairgoers will take advantage of  alternative transportation options this year and consider arriving earlier in the day. These alternative transportation options are not only better for the environment and support our values, but also help alleviate traffic, making getting to the Fair a great experience for all.

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Send us your fondest memories of the Fair!

40th Fair Anniversary Stories

Do you have a short and sweet special memory of the Common Ground Country Fair? We are collecting these tidbits for the fall issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. Please send your fondest memories to April Boucher, Fair director, at
aprilb@mofga.org. Thanks!

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Join the Common Ground Country Fair Planning Team!

We would love to have you join us as we plan the Common Ground Country Fair. Every facet of the Fair is shepherded by volunteers who give their time and energy to organize and plan their areas and events. Our volunteer coordinators do so much to contribute to the design and production of this extraordinary celebration. It’s a great team to work with and know, and the coordinators are from every walk of life.

We are looking for help for projects and areas throughout the Fair, and you could make a difference. We have a list and description of volunteer coordinator positions on
www.mofga.org. Please take a look! Our current openings include:
•   Common Kitchen apprentice
•   Compost and Recycling apprentice
•   Livestock afternoon gate coordinator
•   Livestock Speakers Tent coordinator
•   South parking co-coordinators
•   Parking layout and set-up coordinators
•   Parking shift leaders
•   Poultry Speakers Tent coordinator
•   Railway Gate coordinator
•   Young Maine coordinator

As the Fair evolves, new opportunities arise. The above openings top our list, but perhaps you see a way to help with something we've missed. Either way, if you would like to take a leadership role in producing our big annual celebration, we would love to hear from you. Please visit our website or contact Anna Libby, MOFGA’s volunteer coordinator, at
alibby@mofga.org or 207-568-4142.

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Volunteer Registration Open for the 2016 Common Ground Country Fair

Volunteer registration for the 2016 Common Ground Country Fair is now open! You can sign up now for volunteer shifts before, during and after the Fair to help support this great event. Individuals, families and groups are all welcome.

Individuals can register for shifts at
www.VolunteerMatters.com/login/mofga. Planning to bring your friends, family, students or colleagues? We love having big groups volunteer, and you can email volunteers@mofga.org to sign up.

We rely on hundreds of volunteers, contributing in myriad ways, to produce MOFGA's annual celebration of rural living. Whether you have a specific skill, experience in a trade or simply an abundance of enthusiasm and creativity, the Fair has a volunteer role for you. Contributing in every imaginable way – from carpentry to commercial plumbing and electrical, landscaping, traffic control, preparing meals, collecting and sorting recycleables and trash, collecting tickets, serving meals, helping speakers, staffing information booths, selling T-shirts, and more – volunteers do just about anything and everything necessary to make the Common Ground Country Fair happen.

Volunteers who work a 4-hour shift receive a "grown and made in the USA" organic cotton Fair T-shirt, Fair admission and a delicious meal served by the Common Kitchen. Work additional shifts and receive additional meals and days of free admission.

For more information about volunteering at the Fair, visit the Fair Volunteers webpage at www.mofga.org or contact Anna Libby at the MOFGA office at 207-568-4142 or volunteers@mofga.org.

Every year, the Fair ends with a special event Sunday afternoon and evening – a raffle for all of our volunteers who help on Sunday! Volunteers who have completed a shift that day – and our volunteer coordinators – gather to celebrate their hard work and dedication. Tables are filled with amazing prizes donated from Fair exhibitors – an apple ladder is often a coveted prize, and our hard-working volunteers also gratefully receive other great items, including, at times, wool socks, pottery, cookbooks, and special items made by our Youth Enterprise Zone exhibitors.

“As the Fair winds down, it is always touching to see the volunteers celebrating together by sharing a last meal in the Common Kitchen and enjoying the raffle together,” says Anna Libby, MOFGA’s volunteer coordinator. One of our dedicated volunteers spends the weekend collecting donations from our exhibitors. The exhibitors, too, are thankful for the opportunity to show their appreciation to our hard-working volunteers.

Sunday is a busy day at the Fair, but volunteer numbers are often lower as people travel back home. Consider taking on a shift in Parking, the Common Kitchen, Compost and Recycling, the Children's Area or another key area of the Fair. We'll be glad to have you!  You can register online at
www.VolunteerMatters.com/login/mofga or email volunteers@mofga.org for more information. We'll see you at the Fair!

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