UNITY — Three keynote speakers at this year’s Common Ground Country Fair are expected to address local food and how communities can feed themselves.

The fair, which is in its 40th year and focuses on issues of sustainability and organic living, is expected to draw about 60,000 people to the grounds of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association over three days. The fair opens at 9 a.m. Friday and runs through 5 p.m. Sunday.

“There are a lot of different educational opportunities to plug in and ways to get connected so usually everyone finds something whether it’s small scale or large scale,” Common Ground Country Fair Director April Boucher said Thursday. “We have some really amazing speakers lined up.”

Friday’s keynote speaker is Will Allen, farmer, founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc., a nonprofit urban farm in Milwaukee employing young people from neighboring housing projects and the community.

“He’s very well recognized,” Boucher said. “He works with urban gardens, underprivileged youth and helping to fight racism.”

On Saturday, the incoming president and CEO of Maine Farmland Trust, Amanda Beal, will speak on how local food capacity in New England can be increased and what needs to be done to reach a goal of producing at least 50 percent of the region’s food by 2060.

“It’s just an amazing thing and something that we really all aspire to is to be feeding ourselves more,” Boucher said.

Sunday’s keynote is Michael Abelman, the co-founder and director of Sole Food Street Farms, an agricultural project in British Columbia that aims to provide low-income residents with jobs and access to local, healthy food.

“We definitely try to cover different ranges of people, and I think a lot of the interest we get is from people in urban areas,” Boucher said. “They see themselves surrounded by houses, and they have a small plot of land, but they’re looking for that connection, not only to their food but to the land.”

Throughout the weekend there will also be events on climate change, something that Boucher said is on a lot of people’s minds especially given this year’s dry conditions.

On Saturday, there will be a public policy teach-in focused on local pesticide ordinances, something that Boucher said has also been on the minds of many Mainers. “Some of the larger applications of pesticides are home use, and that’s where the urban gardening may also come in to play too, with people turning those lawns into gardens,” she said.

Laura Ten Eyck, who runs a commercial hop farm in upstate New York, will speak Friday on small-scale hop growing and Saturday on large-scale hop growing.

“We’re trying to put something out there for everyone so everyone is enriched by the experience,” Boucher said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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