UNITY — Industry farmer Will Bonsall not only will be Sunday’s keynote speaker at this weekend’s Common Ground Fair, but he’ll also give eight other talks at the fair.

“He’s just a wealth of knowledge,” Fair Director April Boucher said.

Bonsall, the founder of the Scatterseed Project, a program that involves preservation and collection of heirloom seeds, will speak Sunday on self-sufficiency and sustainability in gardening and growing vegetables. He is one of three keynote speakers at the fair, which begins Friday.

About 60,000 people are expected this weekend at the 39th Common Ground Country Fair for a three-day celebration of agriculture and rural life.

The fair, organized by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, will include speakers on a variety of topics related to renewable energy, organic farming and local food production.

Friday’s speaker is William Cullina, executive director of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Cullina will speak about the challenges and rewards of organic gardening brought about when the botanical gardens switched to organic practices two years ago.


“People will be able to hear how those practices can be applied in anything from a small garden to something as big and wonderful as the botanical gardens,” Boucher said.

On Saturday, Steven M. Druker, executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity and author of “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth,” will speak on the risks associated with genetically engineered foods.

Bonsall’s Sunday talk is scheduled for 11 a.m., as are the other keynote talks.

Bonsall’s other talks are scattered throughout the three days on topics such as advanced seed saving; what forests and prairies can teach us; old world, new crops; and backyard grain growing.

“Even after he finishes talking, people just gather around him for an informal Will-session,” Boucher said. “He’s a very interesting speaker because he’s very passionate and you can tell he believes in what he’s living every day.”

In addition to the keynotes addresses, the fair includes more than 700 exhibits and demonstrations and dozens of food vendors. It has no midway, amusement park rides or fast food. As part of its mission, the fair has established standards for food vendors that require the use of Maine-grown organic ingredients when available.


On Friday, teamsters will be using draft horses and oxen to harvest and bundle corn stalks grown at the fairgrounds.

“That’s something we haven’t done at the fair at least since I’ve been here, so the last nine years or so,” Boucher said. “It’s great because people will be able to see the animals working and it exposes them to a different side of agriculture.”

Exhibitors also will be constructing a yurt on site through the process of steaming and bending wooden poles to shape them into a circular, wood-framed tent.

“We have all kinds of that neat stuff and folk arts,” Boucher said. The yurt demonstration is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Maine Guide Camp. The corn harvest is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at the field plots.

Also on Saturday, a public policy teach-in on the topic of “Solar for Maine Farms and Homes” will take place at the Spotlight Stage at the fairgrounds.

The teach-in will focus on two pieces of legislation related to solar power that were introduced this year — L.D. 1073, designed to support solar power on farms, and L.D. 1263, a resolve to study alternatives to the practice of “net-metering,” which allows customers to get a credit on their power bills for energy they put back into the grid.


“We’ll be talking not just about the legislative piece, but also how could it work for fairgoers?” Boucher said. “The fair is a great place to get exposed to new things, so if you’re interested in solar energy, here are different experts — someone who’s installed it, someone who’s used it to actually farm. It should be interesting.”

About 2,000 volunteers will help organize and run the fair this year.

The fairgrounds are open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free each day for MOFGA members, children ages 12 and under and people with handicaps. Tickets cost $15 at the gate or $10 in advance for ages 13 to 64. Tickets cost $10 at the gate or $8 in advance for those ages 65 and over.

Fair organizers encourage fairgoers to carpool, bicycle, or take the train from Unity or Thorndike to the fair to make parking easier and cut down on emissions.

Ticket gates accept only cash. Advance tickets and information on the trains and parking are available at www.MOFGA.org.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368


Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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