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Keynote Speakers at the 2015 Common Ground Country Fair


Friday, September 25 – 11 a.m., The Common

William Cullina. Amity Beane photo.

William Cullina, Executive Director, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Going Organic at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Two years ago, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens decided to convert to organic practices. Many of the staff were skeptical that they could maintain a high standard of care with a limited budget and staff if they went this route, but they thought it was vital to try. Luckily the experiment has been an overwhelming success: The plants are far healthier, pollinators more diverse, visitors happier and costs have remained the same or even decreased. The switch has not been without challenges, however; William Cullina will discuss candidly what has and has not worked since Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens went organic.

Cullina was educated at the University of Connecticut and Hobart and William Smith College in New York. After working as a retail greenhouse manager and then a research aide studying sylvicultural practices and forest ecology, he become the greenhouse manager for the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut and then nursery manager of Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is noted for his 13 years as nursery director and head propagator at the New England Wildflower Society, where he developed the largest native plant nursery in New England.

Now executive director for one of North America's newest and most exciting public gardens, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine, Cullina is also a well-known author, lecturer and recognized authority on North American native plants. His books include "Wildflowers, Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines," "Understanding Orchids, Native Ferns, Mosses, and Grasses" and "Understanding Perennials: A New Look at an Old Favorite." He recently co-authored "Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens: A People's Garden."

Cullina's awards include the Scott Medal for lifetime achievement in horticulture; the 2012 Perennial Plant Association's Award of Merit; the 2013 George Robert White Medal for "advancing horticulture in the broadest sense" and the Award of Excellence for advancing the goals of the National Garden Clubs of America.


Saturday, September 26 – 11 a.m., The Common

Steven M. Drucker

Steven M. Druker, Executive Director, Alliance for Bio-Integrity, and author of "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth"

Why Genetically Engineered Foods Are Unacceptably Risky – and How Their Survival Has Been Chronically and Crucially Dependent on Fraud

Public interest attorney Steven Druker sued the FDA to force it to divulge its files on genetically engineered (GE) foods. He learned that politics influenced administrators to cover up their own scientists' extensive warnings about the unusual risks of these foods and to lie about facts. They then ushered these products onto the market, violating federal food safety laws.

Druker's book, "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public," was released in March. Jane Goodall calls it "without doubt, one of the most important books of the last 50 years." David Schubert of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies says it is "incisive, insightful, and truly outstanding." Genetics professor Joseph Cummins calls it "a landmark" that should be "required reading" for biology students, and John Ikerd, professor of agricultural economics, says, "No one has documented other cases of irresponsible behavior by government regulators and the scientific establishment nearly as well as Druker documents this one."

Druker will explain why all GE foods entail unavoidable and unacceptable risks, how these risks have been systematically and deceptively downplayed and how those deceptions helped put – and keep – GE foods on the market.


Sunday, September 27 – 11 a.m., The Common

Will Bonsall. Jo Josephson photo.

Will Bonsall, farmer, author, founder and director of the Scatterseed Project, co-founder of the Grassroots Seed Network

Organic and Sustainable? A Deeper Look

After working as a prospector, draftsman, gravedigger, hobo, musician, logger, artist and copy machine repairman, Will Bonsall became a homesteading farmer. He and his wife, Molly Thorkildsen, and their two sons tend Khadighar in Industry, Maine – a unique example of veganic gardening, i.e., maintaining soil fertility sustainably without animal manures. They focus on self-sufficiency, growing a wide range of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes using extensive terraces, solar-powered irrigation, intensive (not raised) beds and ramial chips (chipped branches of deciduous trees). Bonsall has gone far beyond homesteading, however, by founding and directing the Scatterseed Project to help preserve crop plant diversity and more recently by co-founding the Grassroots Seed Network. His first book, "Through the Eyes of a Stranger" (Xlibris 2010), is a futuristic eco-novel. His second, "Will Bonsall's Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening" (Chelsea Green, 2015), covers his in-depth knowledge of growing food in novel ways – expressed with his irrepressible humor and thoughtful philosophy about ways to help ourselves economically and nutritionally while also helping the environment – our "garden without borders."


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