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Keynote Speakers at the 2017 Common Ground Country Fair


Friday, September 22 – 11 a.m., The Common

Jill Agnew

Jill Agnew
Farmer, Willow Pond Farm

"Community" Supported Agriculture
Looking Back, Looking Forward, A 40-Year Story

The first CSA in Maine started in 1989 at Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus. A new concept for many but drawing on the age-old strength of “Community,” Willow Pond Farm has integrated into the social and economic structure of an area from Portland to Augusta.

Jill and Charlie Agnew have farmed in Sabattus since 1982, raising a family and operating a small diversified farm and orchard. This has included training over 90 apprentices and growing organic vegetables and small fruits, pastured pigs, chickens, turkeys, lamb and value-added products for over 120 households a year.

Jill will talk about what visions lie ahead to maintain a positive impact in the community and how basic human values are supported, taught and nurtured – all in the context of agriculture, the panorama people can see, smell, experience and eat. This will be hard to put into words, so it will unfold as “The Story.”

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

Sherri Mitchell

Sherri Mitchell
Attorney, Teacher and Spiritual Activist, Land Peace Foundation

Standing on Indigenous Rights

Sherri Mitchell was born and raised on the Penobscot Indian reservation. An indigenous rights attorney, teacher and spiritual activist, she is an alumna of the American Indian Ambassador program and of the Udall Native American Congressional Internship program. In 2010 she received the Mahoney Dunn International Human Rights and Humanitarian Award for research into human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples. In 2015 she received the Spirit of Maine Award for commitment and excellence in the field of International Human Rights. And in 2016 Mitchell’s portrait was added to the esteemed series, Americans Who Tell the Truth, by artist Robert Shetterly.

Mitchell was a longtime advisor to the American Indian Institute’s Healing the Future Program and currently serves as an advisor to the Indigenous Elders and Medicine People’s Council of North and South America. She is the founding director of the Land Peace Foundation, an organization dedicated to the global protection of indigenous rights and the preservation of the indigenous way of life. Mitchell speaks and teaches around the world on issues of indigenous rights, environmental justice and spiritual change. She is featured in the upcoming documentary film “Dancing with the Cannibal Giant” by New Story Film, set to be released in late fall 2017, and her new book “Sacred Instructions; Indigenous Wisdom for Spirit Based Change” will be available in February 2018. Mitchell also has a syndicated radio program with co-host Rivera Sun called Love (and Revolution) Radio, which highlights stories of heart-based activism and revolutionary spiritual change.

Mitchell will talk about the need for developing unity with indigenous rights movements, centering on our shared connection to the Earth and our interdependence with one another and the entire structure of life.

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

Jonathan Rosenthal

Jonathan Rosenthal
Executive Director of the New Economy Coalition, and Co-Founder of Equal Exchange

From Local to System and Rural to Urban: Building a New Economy

Jonathan Rosenthal has spent over 30 years working to transform the power of business from a destructive force of accumulation into a healing force honoring the interconnectedness of all people and our earth. He co-founded Equal Exchange, a pioneering fair trade company that is now the second largest worker cooperative in the United States, as well as Oké USA and Belmont-Watertown Local First. He has consulted with people and organizations all across the trade justice movement. He is the author of numerous articles and is a frequent speaker at colleges and events, is a board member of the Coffee Trust and an emeritus board member of Root Capital.

In his current role as Executive Director of the New Economy Coalition, Jonathan stewards a network more than 190 organizations from across the US and Canada who are at the forefront of creating new economies using strategies like cooperatives and public-ownership that give power back to communities -- groups like Cooperation Jackson, People’s Action, Participatory Budgeting Project, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Cooperative Development Institute, and many more.

In his talk, Jonathan will discuss the interconnectedness of our many different struggles for justice. He will highlight solutions that fundamentally transform our economy, culture, and politics, while looking at the connection between local work and systemic transformation.

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.

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."


Keynote Speakers At The 2014 Common Ground Country Fair

Friday, September 19th, 11 a.m. on the Common

Chaitanya York, Founding Common Ground Country Fair Director

Listen to the keynote address on MOFGA's YouTube channel.

Chaitanya York, founding Common Ground Country Fair director and MOFGA's first executive director, will speak about the first Fair and about some of MOFGA's early accomplishments.

York compares the Fair with the hundredth monkey effect, in which an idea takes hold quickly once a critical number acknowledge it. "It was as if once we'd reached the hundredth monkey, the power of Victor Hugo's observation that 'Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come' kicked in. The whole MOFGA membership owned the idea and started sharing it with the larger community."

The power of the Fair comes from its manifestation of 'right livlihood,' says York, whereby MOFGA expresses its mission and vision and serves it members and the greater community with a Fair that simultaneously provides the organization with 'right livehood income.'

York has worked as the legislative advocate for the Maine Consortium of Food Self Reliance; director of the Division of Resources Development at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources; director of development, executive dirctor and president and CEO of the Maine Conservation School. He served six years as a board member and membership chair, including two years as vice president of Friends of Baxter State Park. He's also a humorist.

Saturday, September 20th, 11 a.m. on the Common

Ben Falk, Founder of Whole Systems Design LLC and author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead

Watch the keynote address on MOFGA's YouTube channel.

In a time of multiple convening crises and opportunity, the work of land regeneration and resiliency is more urgent than ever. Fortunately, it's also maturing and becoming more visible with each passing year.

Ben Falk and Whole Systems Design LLC have been testing resilient water, food, heating and medicinal systems in the context of land regeneration at the homestead and farm scales for more than 10 years, developing models of ecosystem-enhancing landscapes that also yield human values. Their projects have tested the viability of rice in a cold climate, trialed dozens of relatively new and underused perennial species, spawned development of intensive microclimates for extended season production and helped push the boundaries of what's considered possible in stormwater infiltration and erosion-prevention/niutrient-capture in a working landscape.

Whole Systems Design has begun to prove that a production-oriented landscape can rapidly improve soil and water quality, enhance wildife habitat and absorb nearly all stormwater landing on a landscape while requiring ever fewer off-site inputs to function and be much more adaptable to the stresses of a changing climate. Such are the prospects and reality of perennial-based, highly diverse and integrated agricultural ecosystems.

Sunday, September 21st, 11 a.m. on the Common

Andre Leu, President of IFOAM and author of The Myths of Safe Pesticides

Watch the keynote address on MOFGA's YouTube channel.

Andre Leu is president of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), the world umbrella body for the organic sector.

Leu has more than 40 years of experience in organic agriculture and agroecology, from growing to pest control, weed management, marketing, post-harvest treatment, transport, grower organizations and developing new crops. He has extensive first-hand knowledge of farming and environmental systems in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa - and on his and his wife, Julia's, agroecological organic tropical fruit orchard in Daintree, Queensland, Australia.

He has written and published extensively in periodicals, conference proceedings, newsletters, Web and other media on organic agriculture, climate change and the environment, and the health benefits of organic.

Leu will speak about his book, The Myths of Safe Pesticides, showing that inadequate pesticide regulation is causing numerous human health problems, evidenced by hundreds of scientific studies. The Myths of Safe Pesticides outlines deficiencies in regulating toxic chemicals used on our food and proposes that many criteria underpinning current use patterns are based on outdated assumptions rather than on the latest published sicience. For example, most pesticide formulations sold are not tested independently for safety; the smallest amounts of chemical residues can be harmful; many pesticides are more toxic when they biodegrade; and regulatory authorities are ignoring a large body of peer reviewed science showing harm caused by pesticides. Finally, Leu says that toxic synthetic pesticides are not needed in farming, as organic farming can feed the world. 

 Keynote Speakers at the 2013 Common Ground Country Fair


Sandor Katz - Author of The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation. Liberty, TN.

Sandor Ellix Katz describes himself as a fermentation revivalist. His interest in fermentation grew out of overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition and gardening. Says Katz,

"It started with sauerkraut. I found an old crock buried in our barn, harvested cabbage from our garden, chopped it up, salted it, and waited. That first kraut tasted so alive and powerfully nutritious! Its sharp flavor sent my salivary glands into a frenzy and got me hooked on fermentation. I have made sauerkraut ever since, earning the nickname Sandorkraut, even as my repertoire has expanded. I have explored and experimented widely in the realm of fermentation, and my mission with this website is to share information and resources, in order to encourage home fermentation experimentalists and propel more live-culture foods out into our culture.

I am a native of New York City, a graduate of Brown University, and a retired policy wonk. In 1993, I moved from New York City to Cannon County, Tennessee, where I am part of a vibrant extended community of queer folks (and many other friends and allies). I have AIDS and consider fermented foods to be an important part of my healing.

Since 2003 when my book Wild Fermentation was published, I have taught hundreds of workshops demystifying fermentation and empowering people to reclaim this important transformational process in their kitchens. I have presented workshops in more than half of the states of the U.S., as well as Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, and Italy. Venues have included universities, farms, farmers’ markets, conferences, bookstores, and community spaces."

Deb Soule - Avena Botanicals
219 Mill St, Rockport, ME 04856207-594-0694
Website: avenabotanicals.com

Deb is an herbalist, gardener, teacher and author of The Woman's Handbook of Healing Herbs. Raised in a small town in western Maine, Deb began organic gardening and studying the medicinal uses of herbs at age 16 alongside the internationally known medical herbalist Mary Bove. Deb's faith in the healing qualities of plants includes a desire to make organic herbs easily accessible to women and families living in rural areas.

As Deb's knowledge and faith in the efficacy of medicinal herbs grew, so did her desire to be of service to her community. In a small 8 by 10 foot room in her house, Deb began preparing various herbal remedies. In the fall of 1985, with her first mail order catalog and a small selection of herbal extracts and teas, Deb launched Avena Botanicals at the Common Ground Fair in Windsor, Maine. Five years earlier, while enrolled as a student at College of the Atlantic, Deb lived in Nepal close to three Tibetan monasteries. She was deeply influenced by the Tibetan peoples commitment to ease physical symptoms and mental and emotional upsets through plants, prayer and other spiritual practices.

Deb's passion for plants, gardens and healing and her commitment to sharing herbal knowledge with others is central to her work. She frequently is a guest-lecturer at various conferences as well as an instructor for botany and horticulture students, garden clubs, and medical students. In 2005, People, Places and Plants magazine named Deb as one of the 50 most influential gardeners in the Northeast.

Deb's life closely follows the yearly agricultural rhythm. From April through October Deb spends most days with her hands in the earth tending three acres of medicinal plants using organic and biodynamic practices. During the spring and summer months Deb teaches a variety of herb classes and offers bi-monthly herb walks in Avena Botanicals herb gardens. Throughout the year Deb writes herb articles, develops herbal remedies and consults with clients and health care providers.

George Siemon - CEIEIO and Co-Founder of CROPP Cooperative

Organic Valley, Organic Valley
One Organic WayLa Farge, WI 54639

One of the nation's foremost organic agriculture advocates for nearly two decades, George Siemon is best known for his leadership in organizing farmers and building market support for organic agriculture. His work champions an agriculture that supports family farms with a fair and stable pay price, humane treatment of farm animals, healthy soil and environment, and high-quality organic food.

In 1988, George joined a group of family farmers in Wisconsin to found the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). More commonly known by its brands Organic Valley and Organic Prairie, CROPP has grown to become the largest organic farming cooperative in North America while still remaining true to its local roots. The cooperative focuses on regional production and distribution, contracting with local production plants rather than building their own, which invests in local communities and farmers instead of “brick and mortar.” Organic Valley producers promote sustainability by farming without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or pesticides. Their livestock herds feed on pasture, preserving landscapes and biodiversity for future generations.

As a part of Organic Valley or in his own time, George has greatly influenced the organic industry for the past two decades. Most notably, he was instrumental in developing the national standards for organic certification. He also initiated Farmers Advocating for Organics, the largest (and only) organic-focused granting fund in the U.S., which is funded entirely by Organic Valley farmer-owners; advised the USDA as part of the Livestock Standards Board; and currently participates on the boards of directors for The Organic Center and Global Animal Partnership.

In 2013, George was inducted into the Hall of Legends by New Hope Natural Media, organizers of the Natural Product Expos. In 2012, he was awarded the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Growing Green Award in the “Business Leader” category and the Social Venture Network’s Hall of Fame Impact Award in the “Environmental Evangelist” category.

Keynote Speakers at the 2012 Common Ground Country Fair

Shannon Hayes, Owner of Sap Bush Hollow Farm, Journalist, Homesteader. 11:00 a.m., Friday, on the Common. Blending story telling, farm humor, and an uncanny knack for stirring up trouble, Shannon examines the history of consumerism in America, how it played out in the household, the effects it has had on our food system and culture, and how we can recover our households, our communities, our ecosystem and our country.

Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides. 1:00 p.m., Saturday, on the Common. For more than three decades, Jay has been hammering away at the likes of Monsanto, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Dow, Dupont, Bayer, Syngenta and pesticides industry lobby groups such as the misleadingly named RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment). Feldman cofounded the advocacy organization Beyond Pesticides and has been its director since 1981. Like MOFGA, Feldman seeks a transition to a world free of toxic pesticides.

Sarah Smith, Dairy Farmer, Co-Owner of Grassland Organic Farm in Skowhegan, MOFGA Board Member. 11:00 a.m., Sunday, on the Common. Sarah and her husband, Garin, milk 40 cows and raise 4 acres of mixed vegetables, organic beef, pastured broiler chickens, laying hens and pigs. They offer seasonal CSA shares, and Sarah attends four farmers' markets year round while also raising their three children, Cedar (6), Reed (3) and Charlotte (9 months). Additionally, Sarah manages a multi-farm CSA in Skowhegan called The Pickup, which supports 40 food producers in the region.

Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Director of the United States Department of Agriculture. 1:00 p.m., Sunday, on the Common. Merrigan helped develop USDA's organic labeling rules while head of the Agricultural Marketing Service from 1999-2001. Between her USDA positions, she worked at Tufts University as Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Program. She has a PhD in environmental planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Friday, September 23
11:00 a.m. on The Common

Mort Mather
We’ve Come a Long Way

When Mort Mather was president of MOFGA the agricultural community looked on us as hippy-weirdo-freaks. Today, MOFGA and its organic farm members are leaders in Maine's agricultural landscape. Mort will take us back in time with stories of the early years of MOFGA and the Common Ground Country Fair when the first Harry S. Truman Manure Pitching Contest, in 1977, was a quadrathlon. And he will give some insight into how the first state organic organization in the United State came into being, and why it developed into the largest in the nation.

Mort was MOFGA’s third president and served two more terms in the early years. He was among the first farmers in Maine to be certified organic and was the first to sell organic vegetables to the first natural food coop in Portland. He currently grows an acre of organic vegetables for his son’s restaurant, Joshua’s, in Wells.

Between then and now he was Executive Director of Friends of Intelligent Land-use (FOIL) which opposed the building of an oil refinery in Sanford and founding president of Laudholm Trust with the mission of saving a 250 acre farm on the coast in Wells. It is now the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve. He then founded the Ogunquit Playhouse Foundation and was successful in saving the playhouse from development. He was hired by Coastal Enterprises Inc. to develop Farms for the Future, a grant program for farmers to improve their viability. And in 2004 he, his wife Barbara and their son Joshua opened Joshua’s Restaurant & Bar in Wells for which he supplies a lion’s share of the vegetables.

Saturday, September 24
11:00 a.m. on The Common

Russell Libby
Putting the Pieces Together - Our Next Food System

Organic farmers, fishermen, seed companies, natural food stores, chefs and many thousands of families across Maine are creating a new approach to food every day. It’s not a moment too soon.  Climate change, peak oil, and big economic transformations are upon us. What can we do, together, to build an abundant food system?

MOFGA's Executive Director, Russell planted his first garden after getting free seeds at the end of fourth grade. His involvement with MOFGA started at the first Common Ground Country Fair in 1977 where he saw a connection between local, organic food and a strong Maine economy. He began participating in the Consortium for Maine Food Self-Reliance in 1979, and joined the MOFGA Board of Directors in 1983. After a dozen years on the Board, including two years as President, Russell became Executive Director in 1995.

He has led MOFGA's growth over the past decade as the organization moved to the new Common Ground Education Center in Unity, expanded the Agricultural Services and Education programs, and created a subsidiary to run the Certification program. Russell has a wide range of agricultural affiliations, including 10 years as Research Director at the Maine Department of Agriculture.

He currently serves on the boards of: the Agricultural Council of Maine; the University of Maine Board of Agriculture; Maine Farmland Trust; Eat Local Foods Coalition; National Organic Coalition; and FEDCO Seeds. He has a degree in economics from Bowdoin College and a Master's in resource economics from the University of Maine. With his wife, Mary Anne, and 3 daughters, he operates Three Sisters Farm (a small diversified farm) in Mount Vernon where he has served on the School Board, the Comprehensive Plan Committee, and as a Selectman. He also writes poetry in his spare time. His first book, Balance: A Late Pastoral, was published in 2007.

Sunday, September 25
11:00 a.m. on The Common

Barbara Damrosch
It’s a Cute Little Movement, But Can It Feed the World?

It always did in the past, and it’s the only thing that will in the future. Of course it’s a little more complicated than that. And it certainly hasn't been an easy path.

Chair of MOFGA's Board, Barbara Damrosch is a widely published garden writer, lecturer and consultant, and author of The Garden Primer. For the past eight years she has written a weekly column in The Washington Post called A Cook’s Garden. She worked as a TV host for the PBS show The Victory Garden and co-hosted the Gardening Naturally series on The Learning Channel with her husband Eliot Coleman. She and Eliot grow and sell vegetables and eggs year-round in Harborside, Maine.

Join Us On The Common Each Day For Our Keynote Address

Friday, September 24
Kerry Hardy, author of Notes on a Lost Flute
In Search of the Dawnland Diet

In our era, most of the food eaten in Maine comes from out of state. But it was only a few hundred years ago that everyone here was on the "Hundred-Mile Diet." It is still possible to live and nourish our selves this way and in his talk, Hardy takes both a look backward at what folks ate before Contact, as well as a look forward at how modern Mainers can use this knowledge to move towards food self-sufficiency.

Saturday, September 25
Woody Tasch, Founder of the
Slow Money Alliance
Slow Money: Investing Because Food, Farms and Fertility Matter

Slow Money is a 501(c)(3), formed in 2008 to catalyze the flow of investment capital to small food enterprises and promote new principles of fiduciary responsibility that support sustainable agriculture and the emergence of a restorative economy. By building local and national networks, Slow Money creates investment in small food enterprises and local food systems; connects investors to their local economies; and is building the nurture capital industry.

Sunday, September 26
Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, Maine
Observations from Thirty-five Years of Watching the Maine Organic Community Grow

Jim and his wife, Megan, have owned and operated Wood Prairie Farm in northern Maine for thirty-five years, a MOFGA-certified organic farm since 1982 that focuses on the production of organic early generation Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, seed crops, vegetables and grain. Their seed potatoes are sold retail through their mail order catalog and web business www.woodprairie.com.

 Join us each day on The Common at 11 a.m., and at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, for keynote speakers.

Friday, September 25th

Sam Levin

11:00 am

Sprout: The Story and Impact of One School Garden.

A junior at Monument High School in Great Barrington, Mass, Sam Levin is one of three co-founders of Project Sprout, an organic, student-run 12,000 square foot garden on the grounds of his school. Now in its third year, Project Sprout supplies the school’s cafeteria with fresh fruits and vegetables, helps feed the hungry in the community and serves as a living laboratory for students of the Monument school system. Sam's story is remarkable portrait of vision and persistence. Inspired by Alice Water's The Edible Schoolyard, Sam and his peers set to work to transform their own community's relationship to the land and their food. “The plan was simple,” Sam told the those gathered at Slow Food's Terra Madre gathering last Fall. “Create a student-run organic vegetable garden on school grounds that would be used as an educational tool for students ages 3 through 18; provide delicious vegetables for school lunches; and ultimately build connections with nature for the children of our district.”

Saturday, September 26th

Will Allen

11:00 am

Who Invited these Chemicals to Dinner and How can we get rid of them?

Will grew up on a small farm in southern California and served in the Marine Corps between the Korean and Vietnam wars. He received a PhD in Anthropology (focused on Peruvian tropical forest agriculture) and taught at U-Ill and UC-Santa Barbara before being fired and jailed for a year for civil rights and anti-war activism. He returned to farming and farm labor full-time in 1972 and has been farming organically ever since, in Oregon, California, and Vermont, where he now co-manages Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford. He founded the Sustainable Cotton Project and is a board member of the Organic Consumers Association, Rural Vermont, and is a co-chair of Farms Not Arms. Will’s first book, The War on Bugs, reveals how advertisers, editors, scientists, large scale farmers, and government agencies colluded to convince farmers to use deadly chemicals, hormones, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in an effort to pad their wallets and control the American farm enterprise. Echoing the warnings of seminal works on the topic like The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, The War on Bugs shouts that the time to stop poisoning our food, water, air, and ourselves is now!

Sunday, September 27th
Mark Guzzi

11:00 am

Feeding the People

One of the region’s most entertaining and successful young farmers, Mark Guzzi will share his experiences growing and direct marketing produce through farmers’ markets. He’s been doing that since 1993, when he started working on farms.

A former MOFGA apprentice and a 2000 graduate of the University of Maine Sustainable Agriculture program, Guzzi now owns Peacemeal Farm in Dixmont, one of the area’s oldest organic farms, which he bought from farm co-founder Ariel Wilcox in 2003. Along with his wife, Marcia Ferry, and their crew, he grows 10 acres of MOFGA-certified organic vegetables, which they sell at six markets a week—in Orono, Camden, Belfast and Waterville. They also have a booth every year in the Farmers’ Market at the Common Ground Fair. An avid believer in the value of diverse and successful farmers’ markets, Guzzi chairs the Orono market, where he’s been a member since 1997.

Lynn Miller of Small Farmer's Journal
2:00 pm

Small Farm Conservancy

Lynn R. Miller is one of the country's foremost experts on small farms. A multi-faceted speaker, author, storyteller, artist, teacher, and farmer, his efforts to champion the causes, and advocate the support, of the small independent family-based farms and ranches of North America have made a significant difference. As the originator(1976)/owner/publisher/editor of The Small Farmer's Journal, he offers to over 40,000 subscribers around the world a powerful tool for self-sufficiency, sustainability and community.

Miller earned Bachelor and Masters degrees in Art and Special Education from the San Francisco Art Institute and The University of Oregon. He has been farming since 1970 and working with draft horses since 1973. In 1976 he conceived of and started The Small Farmer’s Journal, an international farm quarterly. To this day he functions as editor/publisher.

Miller has authored (and sometimes illustrated) over 12 books on various topics related to animal power and alternative agriculture, including; The Small Farm Dream is Possible, Why Farm, The Workhorse Handbook, Buying a Farm, Work Horses Today, Training Workhorses, Thought Small, Ten Acres Enough, Horsedrawn Plows & Plowing, Haying with Horses and more. He has conducted workshops and lectured extensively throughout the United States and Canada. He continues with research and development in agriculture alternatives. He is currently farming a mixed crop/livestock, high-desert, horse-powered, family ranch raising Belgian Draft Horses, commercial beef cattle, free range poultry, potatoes, hay, grain, while working to dovetail operations into an ever more beneficial symbiotic relationship with the fragile surrounding wildlife habitat.

When recently asked to identify the ecologyissues he is most concerned with this was his answer:

"The two greatest environmental challenges today are related. They are poverty and the decay of community. Addressing these two issues goes to the core of small farm, organic, land reform, and ecology concerns." L.R. Miller

Keynote Speakers Confirmed For This Year's Fair

Each day of the Common Ground Country Fair, MOFGA presents a keynote speaker at 11 a.m. in the Common. Friday features a MOFGA grower, while Saturday and Sunday feature others working in food, agriculture and the environment. This year MOFGA welcomes John Bunker, Jeffrey Smith and Gary Paul Nabhan.

John Bunker
John Bunker


John Bunker – Long-time MOFGA board member; creator of the Maine Heritage Orchard at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center; Fedco Trees coordinator; and author of Not Far from the Tree: A Brief History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo, Maine, 1804-2004. John was recently the subject of a feature article in May issue of The Atlantic magazine titled, “Beyond the Macintosh” – a terrific snapshot of our own “apple whisperer.”

Jeffrey Smith
Jeffrey Smith


Jeffrey Smith – International spokesperson on the health dangers of genetically modified organisms; author of the international best seller, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating and more recently, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods; director of the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America from the Institute for Responsible Technology, where he is executive director; producer of the docu-video series The GMO Trilogy; and internationally syndicated columnist of "Spilling the Beans."

Gary Paul Nabhan
Gary Paul Nabhan

Gary Paul Nabhan – Writer, lecturer, ethnobotanist and world-renowned conservation scientist, co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH and a leading voice for conserving and renovating native plant agriculture in the Americas.

Over three decades, Nabhan has worked with more than a dozen indigenous communities on cross-cultural initiatives to revive indigenous foods to prevent diabetes, to restore ancient agricultural landscapes and to honor traditional knowledge.

For this work and his related writings, he has received a MacArthur Fellowship (the “genius award”); a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Conservation Biology and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He is author of 20 books including Coming Home to Eat and, most recently, editor of Renewing America's Food Traditions – Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods (Chelsea Green Publishing).

Join us each day on The Common at 11 a.m. to hear our keynote speakers -- people who are thinking deeply about the world and what we might do to make it better.

Friday, September 21st
Amy LeBlanc

The Importance of Pickles, or Why I Put Up With Teenagers Working In My Greenhouse

Amy LeBlanc, of Whitehill Farm in East Wilton, grows hundreds of varieties of heirloom tomatoes to sell as seedlings and for fruit. She'll share her experience as a small farmer who passes her knowledge and work ethic (and pickle recipe!) on to young helpers each year. LeBlanc is an active member of the Fair Steering Committee and a co-coordinator of the Exhibition Hall at the Fair. She also has participated in the past two international IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) conferences, and she's been thinking hard about how the Common Ground Country Fair and MOFGA can be forces for change both here and beyond.

Saturday, September 22nd
Representative Hannah Pingree

Toxic Materials in the Environment - What We Can Do About Them

Hannah Pingree, of North Haven, is the Majority Leader of the Maine House of Representatives. A second-generation MOFGA member (her mom, Chellie, organized MOFGA's apprenticeship program), Pingree is a leader on issues dealing with toxic materials in the environment. She was the prime sponsor of this year's successful legislation to phase out the brominated flame retardant "deca." Pingree is one of the 13 Maine citizens who were tested for toxic materials in their bodies by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. She will talk about the lessons we can learn from the study and the changes we need to make to get toxics out of the environment and out of our food system.

Sunday, September 23rd
Ted Ames

Parallels Among Organic Farming and Community Based Fisheries

Ted Ames is working to recreate community-based fisheries, starting with programs directed at lobster and cod at the Penobscot East Resource Center in Stonington. He has been a commercial fisherman and high school teacher, and he's done great work using oral histories to develop scientific models of where the old cod spawning grounds were in Penobscot Bay.

"Community-based fisheries can be considered the ocean version of the local food movement on land," says Ames. "Those fishermen and communities who are recognizing the need for limits to scale and the importance of ecosystem balance through community-based resource management are often considered as far out of the mainstream as organic farming was when it started. Fishing and agriculture have lots to learn from each other, about self-management and about food distribution and marketing."

(These speeches were recorderd and can be listened to here.)

Friday: Long-Time MOFGA Farmer on the Goodness of Local Food

For 28 years, the highly diversified Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro has been MOFGA-certified, and during that time owners Bill and Cynthia Thayer have trained dozens of MOFGA apprentices. The Thayers are well-known figures at the Common Ground Country Fair, as well, where Bill gives horse-drawn wagon rides and Cynthia spends the weekend with the Wednesday Spinners, demonstrating her skill at spinning, dyeing and other fiber arts. Curl up with a good novel, and it might be one Cynthia wrote—such as Strong for Potatoes. Check MOFGA’s history, and you’ll find Cynthia listed as a former board member.

Cynthia Thayer will be the keynote farmer-speaker at the 2006 Common Ground Country Fair on Friday, Sept. 22. She will talk about eating locally grown food in season. “We haven't bought vegetables in 30 years,” Thayer told The MOF&G, “and have a wide variety of food available to us. The trend to have anything you want available any time you want it relies very heavily on petroleum-based products for shipping.”

Tired of petro-rations? Come hear Thayer talk about another way to eat, a better way—for the earth and for your palate. 

Saturday: Exciting Alternatives to Hazardous Technologies

Our Saturday speaker will be Ken Geiser, Director of the Lowell Center for  Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. He will talk about viable and clean alternatives to hazardous industrial  technologies, exciting initiatives that are taking place around the world to promote these alternatives, and efforts to phase out the long-lived toxic chemicals that accumulate in the food web and in our bodies. Geiser is the author of Materials Matter: Toward a Sustainable Materials Policy, which explains the economic, ecological and health benefits of using clean materials from the beginning of any industrial production process. Geiser serves on the Board of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, which coordinates the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. He is a long-time MOFGA member and fairgoer as well! After the Keynote Address on Saturday, Geiser will participate in the Public Policy Teach-in in the Youth Enterprise Zone tent.

Sunday: First Lady Karen Baldacci Connects Maine Foods and Maine People

On Sunday, Maine’s First Lady Karen Baldacci will talk to fairgoers about her interests in organic farming and gardening, local foods, and the work she is doing to promote effective nutrition programs for the people of Maine. An educator and nutritionist, Mrs. Baldacci describes herself as an avid gardener and supporter of local farmers. Maine's new Commissioner of Agriculture, Seth Bradstreet, said of her, "She understands that profitable farms are the cornerstones for building healthy and vibrant rural communities, [and that] the key to improving the nutritional health of our citizens, and to achieving healthy rural communities, is to support local
agriculture by purchasing locally-grown food."

The First Lady films an educational series called Focus on the Farm, which airs on Adelphia channel 9. The monthly series highlights Maine foods from Maine farms and connects the people of Maine with their rich agricultural heritage.

The Baldacci family has prioritized the restoration of the many gardens surrounding the Blaine House in Augusta. They enjoy the rewards of a kitchen garden and a Victorian greenhouse, which provide fresh vegetables during an extended growing season. The Baldaccis' chef, Heather Hopkins, makes an  effort to buy fresh, local foods whenever possible. Restoration of the Governor's Garden on the north side of the Blaine House is underway with the help of schools and universities, Master Gardeners, local garden clubs,  the state of Maine, greenhouses, nurseries and private individuals.

Come to the keynote speech on Sunday to hear how Mrs. Baldacci's many farm-, garden- and nutrition-related initiatives are going.

Join us with your families and friends on the Common each day of the Fair at 11:00 to hear these wonderful speakers.


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