I am still recovering from this weekend’s adventure– the Common Ground Fair in Maine. (http://www.mofga.org/theFair if you’re interested) It’s the annual country fair hosted by MOFGA (Maine organic farmers and gardeners association.) If you can’t guess, it’s all about organic and local food in Maine. What you might not guess is that it’s a HUGE event. And by huge I mean three days with around 20,000 people per day, along with over 1,000 volunteers, not to mention MOFGA staff, to keep it running. The other YAVs and I were part of this community of volunteers.
It’s a mix between a fair and a conference, so instead of amusement park rides people can attend classes/seminars to learn about sustainable agriculture and living. There’s still a zillion food vendors; however all of the food is organic, and local if possible. So instead of people walking around with cotton candy, people eat carrots (or unhealthy food that’s made from local produce.) There are agricultural demos with everything from draft horses, forestry, and spinning wool, along with tents selling seeds, crafts, maple syrup (yum!), and a big farmers market for produce just to name a few options.
1. Tent camping– in the volunteer camping/parking field. Without running water. I don’t think my nails have ever been that dirty for so long. (Hence the title; the running joke of the weekend was that we were going native with all of the crunchy granola hippies that were camping there.)
2. Worked in an industrial kitchen– we spent hours cutting bread into what felt like infinite crouton pieces then baked them, and then cut apples for cakes.
3. Directed parking– I now have good air traffic control experience. It involved a lot of waving at people and pointing, standing in the sun for 4 hours, and getting sunburned. You get a little bit of a God-complex because you decide where the people park; it’s a bit of a power rush for about two minutes, then you remember how much your feet hurt.
4. People watching– The people at the fair were incredibly diverse, for Maine anyway. There were plenty of hippies: teenagers, young adults with their dirty barefoot children, and older people who are stuck in the 70s. Also, all of the local farmers, herders, milkers, etc. showed up in their overalls and work boots. Then there’s the older grandparents who grew up on farms and have been canning and eating their own produce their whole life and are happy it’s becoming popular again. It was fun to just sit in the central common area in the middle of the fair and take it all in.
5. Ate great food- since we volunteered for two 4-hour shifts we got 2 free meals in the community kitchen for the volunteers (which served around 200-300 people each meal.) Not to mention all of the booths and tents set up with organic snacks, and the farmers market where I bought five pounds of blueberries.
The epitome of Maine delicious-ness- wild blueberries, ice cream from a local dairy farm, and a maple syrup crunch (under ice cream.) All organic of course.
6. Watched maple sugar candies get made– it involves a lot of waiting for things to heat up.
7. Went to an apple tasting and learned about old varieties– as someone who likes all apples, it was interesting to learn about all of the differences and the old varieties in Maine, some of which only have 4 trees. Apparently some are good for eating, some for baking, and some for storage. Who knew. (Apparently everybody else at the fair.)
8. Tasted rhubarb wine and blueberry wine– this one is pretty self-explanatory.
10. Went to a class on green cleaning– I’m now convinced that everyone should have a supply of baking soda and vinegar/lemon juice on hand at all times.
11. Stuffed into a small car– 5 people for a 4 hour drive (both ways), 3 tents, 2 chairs, and a cooler. It was like a hippie clown car.