Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Common Ground 2009: All's Fair in Love and Chore, Part One

We interrupt this blog to bring you a word from our sponsors.

No, that's not quite it...

We interrupt this blog to bring you a word from our mendicant mentors, our creative co-conspirators, our avant-garde agricultural artisans.

The following images and film clips come to us courtesy of the organizers of Maine's Common Ground Fair--and also courtesy of the freshly-charged rechargeable batteries I had the foresight to put in my digital camera that morning! The fair is one of the high points of the agricultural season here, a celebratory reunion of hard-working, passionate folk as well as a three-day showcase of sustainable, community-minded farming and northern New England creativity. It is held on fairgrounds that also host a heritage-breed apple orchard, a working educational farm complete with resident journeyperson farmers, a sustainably-managed woodlot, and the offices of our state's venerable organic certifier and all-around advocates of healthy farming, MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association).

We attended on Sunday this year, narrowly avoiding Saturday's record-setting crowds thanks to a most moderate and manageable bit of precipitation. We ogled the prize veggies in the exhibition hall, oohed and aahed over the beautiful handiwork in the crafters' pavilion, gathered brochures from the educational displays and signed petitions in the "Social Action Tent." Shortly after noon, as we were strolling among the savoury array of food vendors, munching on a "rainy day special" of two-for-one calzones made with grown-in-Maine veggies, meat, and wheat, a voice came over the loudspeaker. Partially lost amidst the noise of vendors and fairgoers, we caught the all-important words, "Small Farmers Journal" and "surprise guest speaker."

Could it be? Could it possibly be? We rushed over to the greensward and the small platform--still empty--where the fair's keynote speakers typically held forth. A nervous half-a-minute later, we caught sight of that familiar figure with his wiry frame, neatly-trimmed beard and weather-worn hat. Yes! It was indeed Lynn Miller, self-proclaimed "farmer pirate" and editor of one of our favourite publications, Small Farmers Journal. He had snuck in to rouse the rabble once again, with the gleeful assent of the folks at MOFGA.

Here is a portion of his speech given on September 27th, 2009 at the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine. Note that this portion finishes up with Miller's introduction of a Vermont theatrical troupe. Their brilliant and clever presentation--an attempt to restore and celebrate the richly meaningful word, "CHORE," will be posted shortly!