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Keynote Speakers at the 2016 Common Ground Country Fair


Friday, September 23 – 11 a.m., The Common

Will Allen

Will Allen, Farmer, Founder and CEO of Growing Power, Inc.

Growing Power and The Good Food Revolution
View the keynote address on MOFGA's YouTube channel.

Will Allen is an urban farmer who is transforming the planning, cultivation, production and delivery of good, healthy food to urban and rural populations. The son of a southern sharecropper, he was a professional basketball player and then worked for a number of years in corporate sales and marketing at Procter & Gamble. In 1993 Allen returned to his roots as a farmer to purchase the last remaining registered farm in the City of Milwaukee, where he established and functions as farmer, founder and CEO of the world-preeminent urban farm and nonprofit organization, Growing Power. He is now recognized as a national and international leader in urban and rural agriculture and food policy.

Growing Power produces enough produce and fish year-round to feed thousands. Employing young people from the neighboring housing project and community, Growing Power shows how local food systems can help troubled youths, dismantle racism, create jobs, bring urban and rural communities closer together and improve public health. Today his organization helps develop community food systems across the country.

In 2008 Allen was a John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow and "genius grant" winner. He has been given the National Education Association Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education in recognition of his work with children, teachers and schools.

He continues to do his work out of Growing Power's national headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to bring good food to people all over the world to help end poverty.


Saturday, September 24 – 11 a.m., The Common

Amanda Beal

Amanda Beal, Vice President of Programs & Policy/Incoming President & CEO, Maine Farmland Trust, and co-author of "A New England Food Vision: Healthy Food for All, Sustainable Farming and Fishing, Thriving Communities."

A New England Food Vision – Considerations for building capacity to produce at least 50 percent of the region's food by 2060
View the keynote address on MOFGA's YouTube Channel.

In 2011, along with several other co-authors including MOFGA's previous executive director, Russell Libby, Amanda Beal was part of a team of researchers and food system experts that began to explore in depth the capacity for New England to produce a much higher percentage of its food than it currently does. Over the next few years, "A New England Food Vision: Healthy Food for All, Sustainable Farming and Fishing, Thriving Communities" was developed and published by Food Solutions New England. This vision is a collaborative report, based on extensive research and designed with broad public input, that considers the future of our region: a future in which food nourishes a social, economic and environmental landscape that supports a high quality of life for everyone, including generations to come. Such an aspirational vision has attracted great interest and support from farmers, fishermen, policymakers, academics and many others. Yet as the path toward achieving this vision emerges, it remains largely to be built, and Maine plays an especially important role in the potential to produce 50 percent of the region's food by 2060. Beal will give an overview of "A New England Food Vision" and describe how it is being used by numerous individuals and organizations. She will tell what needs to be done to achieve the goal of producing at least 50 percent of the region's food by 2060.

Beal's lifelong interest in how we produce food began as a child growing up on her family's Maine dairy farm, as well as on the coast of Casco Bay, where she has fond memories of digging for dinner alongside her grandfather in the clam flats in summer and warming the bench of his smelt shanty in winter. Beal served on MOFGA's board for 10 years, including two years (2008-2009) as president, and returned to the board in 2015 after a five-year hiatus while she pursued graduate studies in the Agriculture, Food & Environment master's program at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. She is now completing her Ph.D. in the Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science program at the University of New Hampshire while working for Maine Farmland Trust.


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

Michael Ableman

Michael Ableman, farmer, author, cofounder and director of Sole Food Street Farms

Street Farm – Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier
View the keynote address on MOFGA's YouTube Channel.

When done well farming not only feeds individuals and communities and nourishes the land, but it can also heal broken lives by providing meaningful work and a sense of belonging.

Sole Food Street Farms is an urban agriculture social enterprise that trains and employs people from North America's original "skid row" who are managing long-term addiction, material poverty and mental illness. Considered one of North America's largest urban agriculture projects, Sole Food employs 30 people and produces 25 tons of food each year on large parking lots using an innovative moveable box system.

Michael Ableman, cofounder and director of Sole Food Street Farms, is one of the early visionaries of the urban agriculture movement. He has created high-profile urban farms in California and British Columbia; has worked on and advised dozens of similar projects throughout North America and the Caribbean; and he founded the nonprofit Center for Urban Agriculture. He is the subject of the award-winning PBS film "Beyond Organic." His books include "From the Good Earth," "On Good Land," "Fields of Plenty" and the newly released "Street Farm – Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier."

Patrick Holden, founding director of Sustainable Food Trust, says, "Michael Ableman is an innovator extraordinaire whose projects have a track record of benchmarking new models of best practice. He is one of the handful of inspiring visionaries on the planet who are redefining our future food systems."

Ableman now lives and farms at the 120-acre Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. Hear about his 40-year agricultural journey from rural fields to urban hardscapes where his work is now salvaging land and lives.

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