Monday September 16, 2013 | 02:37 PM

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Common Ground Country Fair is just about here. The 2013 fair will run from September 20 to 22 and The Root will be posting on it all this week and from the fair this weekend.

When it comes to celebrating agriculture and local food in Maine, this is one of the most important events. The continued success of the three-day festival is based in some measure to each of the following factors: The efficiency of the staff who plan the fair; the volunteers who staff it; and the quality of vendors and craftsmen who participate.

The Root’s first post on the 2013 fair is a Q&A with mason Pat Manley from Washington, Maine. Manley is one of the founding members of the Maine Stone Workers Guild (MSWG), which has been a part of the fair for many years. His company, The Brick Stove Works built the brick and stone ovens for Fore Street restaurant in Portland and Café Miranda in Rockland. Manley also heads up Masons on a Mission, an organization that works with the Calacyria Foundation, an American nonprofit, to fund and build vented cookstoves in Guatemala.

What has the Common Ground Country Fair (CGCF) done for the guild?

CGCF has facilitated MSWG to demonstrate the many talents of our stoneworkers, from elaborate sculpture to stone benches, from splitting granite to stone pizza ovens. We have had the same location on the new fairground, allowing people to locate us again.

In what ways does the guild contribute to the fair?

We have built and donated many benches, stone walls, the herb garden and the stone sundial in the center of the fairgrounds. We are in the process of finishing the new (stone) Rose gate.

Please describe your first Common Ground Fair experience, and what your first impression of the fair was.

I have demonstrated building with stone and brick, and have built various chimneys, masonry heaters and bakeovens of one sort or another every year of the CGCF since year one in Litchfield. My first impression was what a great way to celebrate, and teach living a rural lifestyle here in Maine.

What do you enjoy most about the fair?

I really love the free exchange of all of that knowledge and infornation every year, and seeing the same people again and again over the past 35 years or so.

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About the Author

Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog,

When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.

In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.

Sharon can be contacted at or on Twitter @deliciousmusing.

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December 2013

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December 2012

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