The 43rd annual Common Ground Country Fair will open Friday in Unity, offering locally-sourced food, Maine-made crafts and gifts, livestock events, farmers markets, daily keynote speakers, workshops and more.

The fair, hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association off Crosby Brook Road, draws about 60,000 annually from all over the U.S. as well as other countries, according to Katy Green, the fair’s communications and outreach director.

“Over 750 different talks and workshops will take place over the course of three days, so there’s something for everyone,” Green said Wednesday.

The fair, whose director is April Boucher, opens at 9 a.m. all three days and closes at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. Parking is free. This year, people may purchase tickets electronically online at mofga.org beforehand — even while traveling to the fair in their cars — and the tickets will be at the gate, according to Green. The e-ticket option should help shorten ticket lines, she said.

Tickets per day are $15 for adults and $10 for those 65 and older. Children under 12 are admitted free of charge. People also may become members of MOFGA and enter the fair free-of-charge. Those wanting to become members may visit membership tents at the fair or by going online. Individual memberships are $40 annually, $60 for families or $20 for elders and students. Members get discounts on workshops and other events year-round.

On Friday, school groups are encouraged to attend and they are admitted free of charge and given a travel stipend, according to Green.

“We’re encouraging teachers and students and anybody who will be in attendance to bring earth and community-friendly signs,” she said.

Friday’s events include bicycle and pedestrian parades, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and a garden parade at 2:30 p.m. where children dress up in garden-themed costumes. Following that parade, a climate parade will be held in recognition of Global Climate Strike events being held Friday all over the world.

Friday’s keynote speaker is state Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, an organic farmer and chairman of the Committee on Agriculture Conservation and Forestry, whose talk will be “Fumbling Toward Prosperity: Family, Community and the Maine Food Economy.” He will speak at 11 a.m. on The Common.

On Saturday the keynote speaker is investigative journalist Carey Gillam, research director of U.S. Right to Know and author of “Whitewash — The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science,” a book detailing how corporate control of agriculture and public policy has led to a pesticide-dependent food system that endangers people’s health and the planet. Gillam’s speech, at 11 a.m. on The Common, will be “Decades of Deceit — A Critical Eye on Pesticides, Science and Industry.”

On Sunday, the keynote speaker, at 11 a.m. on The Common, will be Anne Devin, operator of Chase Stream Farm and veteran outreach coordinator for Maine AgrAbility and MOFGA.

Another event on Saturday, from 1 to 2:30 p.m., is a public policy teach-in to include a panel and presentation on pesticides in the news and all around us, according to Green.

Featured speakers, besides the keynote speakers, are scheduled all three days.

A wide variety of food is offered at the fair, with ingredients that are sourced locally and organically.

“The people who are selling food support local, organic farms,” Green said. “We have farmers markets at each gate of the fair, so people can enjoy delicious, prepared foods and bring home fresh fruits and vegetables and produce from the farmers markets.”

The Maine Market Place at the fair features smaller Maine entrepreneurs and cottage industries selling all sorts of items including soaps, chairs, yarns, totes and salts; craft tents offer fine crafts including jewelry, pottery and fine woodworking; and the Youth Enterprise Zone, open Friday and Sunday, features young people selling items they have created including beeswax candles, clothing, jewelry and other items.

The Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad offers rides to and from the fair for a fee and those wanting tickets may go to its website, belfastandmooseheadrail.org

Green said the weather is expected to be in the 80s over the weekend and perfect for the fair, a not-for-profit event and MOFGA’s largest event of the year that relies on hundreds of dedicated volunteers. According to organizers, people love the fair and plan to attend way in advance.

“It is truly a unique event,” Green said. “It is really quite special.”


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