Common Ground Country Fair celebrates rural living from Sept. 21-23. Photo courtesy of Anna Foster.

Kicking off the fall season, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) hosted its annual Common Ground Country Fair Sept. 21-23. The fair occurs every September in Unity, Maine and serves as a chance to “celebrate rural living,” according to MOFGA. In its 42nd year, the fair is a Maine tradition that aims to educate people about the state’s organic agriculture.

“MOFGA is an organization that’s really focused on supporting organic food and organic farms and educational experiences around organic food,” Kaitlynn McGuire, MOFGA’s database manager, said.

Maine officially hosts multiple agricultural fairs every year, but according to McGuire, “the fact that we have so many educational talks” is what makes the Common Ground Fair a unique experience. The fair hosted three keynote speakers this year who spoke on a variety of topics, including how immigration and migration are related to food systems and the connection between farmers markets and communities. The fair includes a wide variety of other activities as well, including agricultural demonstrations, live music and local art.

The fair attracts a large number of people, an estimated 60,000 annually, according to MOFGA. Among them is a significant number of college students. Kathleen Brown, an ecology and environmental science student from the University of Maine, attended the fair for the second time this weekend.

“I just love farmers markets and sustainable food systems, supporting local [agriculture] and local community businesses,” Brown said. “I’m so glad to be returning; it’s my favorite event of the fall.”

Julia Kaplan, an ecology and environmental science student at UMaine, attended the fair for the first time on Saturday. Kaplan says that she plans on attending the event again next year.

“I knew this was a thing that happened, but I wasn’t really aware how big or immense it was,” Kaplan said. “It’s been a good day so far.”

Both Kaplan and Brown agree that when it comes to what they’re most looking forward to, it’s the food.

MOFGA continues to carry out their mission to support local agriculture with the food available at the event. The Common Ground Country Fair has a wide variety of healthy, local food, including vegetarian and vegan options that are often missing in other fair settings.

“We have a food area that not only is more diverse than most fairs, but additionally we have very strict guidelines that make it so that there is a great deal of local food in there,” says McGuire.

The importance of locally produced food is a common sentiment among fairgoers. Simon Frost, owner of Thirty Acre Farm in Whitefield, Maine, says that’s what keeps him coming back every year.

“[I come back] for good business to like-minded folks who seem to really like our product,” Frost said. “We grow vegetables that we turn into value-added lacto fermented products.”

Frost is a perfect example of the type of local farms represented at the fair. Many of the vendors take pride in the fact that they produce local, natural foods, and Frost is no different. He says that what he is most proud of “is just knowing that we’ve grown everything that we produce.”

The fair wraps up on Sunday, Sept. 23, but MOFGA continues to host events throughout the year. For more information on MOFGA’s ongoing events or how to join the organization, please visit http://www.mofga.org/.