Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Please Help MOFGA Meet a Collective Challenge

Publications \ The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener \ Winter 2000-2001 \ Challenge

Susie O'Keeffe
Susie O’Keeffe, Capital Campaign Director. English photo.


By Susie O’Keeffe, Campaign Director

Why We Need Your Help

In today’s global economy, supporting sustainable, locally-based food systems that respect and reinforce the integrity of rural communities is a monumental challenge. A visionary organization in the truest sense, MOFGA recognized the importance of meeting this challenge over 27 years ago.

When MOFGA began its work, many people outside of the organization viewed the destruction of local economies and the elimination of the family farm as an unavoidable step toward “improving” our lives. Although more and more individuals question this conviction, the present free market ideology that promotes unlimited economic growth, ravenous consumption and a uniform, world-wide development model continues to reinforce this approach the world over. The family farmer, rural communities and wildlife remain its prime victims.

In the United States, this system has spawned a sprawling supermarket culture that is paving some of the best farmland the world has ever known. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is pushing millions of farmers into urban slums and destroying ancient cultures in order to promote export oriented monocultures. Throughout the world, the irreplaceable knowledge of how to grow healthy food within the ecological limits of particular ecosystems is being lost forever.

What We Offer

MOFGA is reversing these trends. Through its work with farmers, gardeners and consumers, The MOF&G newspaper, and the Common Ground Country Fair, it is proving that locally-based, organic agriculture can and does provide healthy food in a manner that nurtures family farmers, rural communities and biodiversity. Founded on the belief that organic food systems must be locally-based, and rooted in collaboration and cooperation rather than unlimited competition, MOFGA derives its strength from over a thousand dedicated volunteers, as well as institutions and organizations throughout Maine and across the nation.

Perennial garden at MOFGA
MOFGA’s Landscape Committee has planted trees, a perennial garden and much more around the Common Ground site. Photo by Susie O’Keeffe.

The success of our programs and events reflects this collective support. While only one farmers’ market existed in Maine in 1971, now 62 thrive. When MOFGA began its certification program, only seven farmers and gardeners applied. This year we certified over 240 growers. We have 3,300 members and place approximately 40 farm apprentices each year. The Common Ground Country Fair is now known throughout the nation as an exemplary demonstration of how locally-based food systems can be brought to life. In addition to earning the first National Environmental Achievement Award for Food Safety, we are the first organization to successfully oppose the registration of genetically engineered Bt corn. The list goes on…

Perhaps the best example of what can be accomplished through working together is the creation of MOFGA’s Common Ground in Unity. The generosity of the individuals and institutions that helped bring this beautiful place to life is impossible to describe. In addition to giving – very often far beyond their means – MOFGA’s supporters, board and staff continue to offer an incalculable number of hours in free labor and expertise to help realize the site’s full potential. This invaluable support is helping create a unique combination of office facility, demonstration farm and public events space.

As industrialized agriculture tightens its grip on so many aspects of food production, MOFGA’s Common Ground will become increasingly important. At Unity, MOFGA is creating a venue where farmers, gardeners and consumers can access the information, support, and inspiration they need to create viable alternatives that counter the problems of agribusiness. Year-round education and demonstration events at the center provide Maine farmers, gardeners and consumers with the guidelines, support and information they need to grow healthy food, while the Common Ground center shows people everywhere how to bring locally-based food systems to life.

Crop rotation demonstration at MOFGA
Crop rotation demonstrations are already underway at Unity. Photo by Susie O’Keeffe.

What We Need – A Collective Challenge Grant

In order to realize the Common Ground’s full potential, MOFGA must complete the final phase of its capital campaign. Just as we would never have been able to build the site without the collective support of those who share our mission, we will struggle to present and support viable alternatives without everyone’s generosity.

The capital campaign began with the good will of like-minded people who could make significant contributions. The leadership of these individuals and institutions, and the generosity of our members and volunteers, helped MOFGA raised over $2.3 million of its $3.1 million goal. The remaining $800,000 represents the final construction costs incurred before the 1998 opening of our first Unity Fair. In order to avoid serious financial constraints, MOFGA must raise this $800,000 within the coming year.

To raise this crucial amount, MOFGA is launching this final phase of the capital campaign with a Collective Challenge Grant request. Conceived in the cooperative spirit of the Common Ground, this Collective Challenge is calling upon a maximum of 16 individuals and institutions to share the burden of a $400,000 challenge. We hope that those who can will wish to share in the leadership of this effort by pledging $25,000 or more before the end of this year.

Once our final phase leaders have pledged a total of $400,000, MOFGA will work to match this amount by the 2001 Common Ground Fair. All of our Collective Challenge Leaders will be featured on a life-size wooden version of MOFGA’s apple tree logo. In addition, we will host a special dedication ceremony at the Fair to honor all of our campaign leaders who wish to be acknowledged.

At the moment, MOFGA can be described by the “principle of limiting factors.” Soils textbooks depict this principle with a slatted barrel: the shortest slat determines how much liquid the barrel can hold. In soils, the slats are the essential nutrients, as well as water and air. When any one nutrient, or water or air, is limiting, crop growth is likewise limited. For MOFGA, the slats are our members and supporters, our dedication, our ideals, our collective experience – and our bottom line. That bottom line slat needs MOFGA supporters’ and members’ reinforcement. We hope you can help.


In addition to a special dedication ceremony at the Fair to honor all of our campaign leaders who wish to be acknowledged, MOFGA will feature all of our leaders on a special life-size wooden version of our apple tree logo. This tree will complement the current donor tree that we have created for our $1,000-plus supporters and will be on display in the Main Building. For these who would like additional recognition, the following options are available:

Demonstration Gardens/Orchards: $25,000

Animal Barns: $50,00 - $75,000

The Main Building: $150,000 - $350,000

Plaques and Ceremonies

Plaques honoring our many supporters and their generous contributions are being engraved. A plaque featuring absolutely everyone who has contributed to the capital campaign at any level will also be created once we have reached our final goal. This honorary plaque will be on display in the Main Building.

The $1,000-plus donor tree plaques are being engraved for this special, life-size tree. We will feature it in the next MOF&G, and it will be on display in our Exhibition Hall.

Tree donors will be contacted for a dedication ceremony once the plaques are in. Please contact the office if you have not heard from us concerning the wording you would like on your plaque.

Special recognition will go to each of our significant donors who requested recognition plaques. They will be invited to attend a small celebration when their plaques arrive.

- - - -

Looking for a Few Generous Leaders and a Lot of Everyday Folks

In the spirit of the Common Ground, MOFGA is launching the final phase of its capital campaign with a Collective Challenge Grant.

Only $800,000 of our original $3.1 million goal remains. In order to raise this amount before our 25th Anniversary Fair, MOFGA is calling on those who can to become final phase leaders by pledging $25,000 or more.

Once MOFGA has received a total of $400,000 in Challenge Pledges, we will call upon all of our supporters to help us meet this challenge before the next Common Ground Country Fair.

Working together for the common good is a central part of MOFGA’s mission. We hope that everyone will want to be part of this important effort.

MOF&G Cover Winter 2000-2001