Friday September 20, 2013 | 08:55 AM

Fiddlers, 2012 fair

Planning your day at the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine September 20,21, and 22, 2013.

The gates open at 9:00 a.m. each day. Vendors are open until 6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Ticket prices: Free for children 12 and under, $10 general admission, $8 elders, and free for MOFGA members (you can buy memberships at the fair).

Going to the fair. Save $2 on admission if you arrive by bike or train. Wondering what to do with you bike? Bicycle Coalition of Maine and Fair volunteers will hook you up with first-class bike valet parking. For more information on pedaling to the Fair go here. Courtesy of the Brooks Preservation Society and the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad, there is a train that runs regularly from Thorndike and Unity to the fairgrounds. For more information on riding the rails go here

The fair has two gate entrances: north or Rose Gate (by the amphitheatre) and the south or Pine Gate (this is where you come out of the woods by the Low Impact Forestry tent). There is a farmers’ market by each entrance.

Bring a reusable water bottle. No bottled water is sold at the fair. There are drinking water stations located around the fairgrounds.

Leave your pet(s) at home, they are prohibited from the fairgrounds, parking lots, and camping areas.

Hotels are likely sold out within a two-hour radius of the fairgrounds, but you can always go camping! For a list of campsites within a few miles of the fairgrounds go here

Bean Hole Beans, 2012 fair

A few of the activities and events I’m most looking forward to at this year’s fair include:

  • Keynote Speaker Sandor Katz’ presentation on Friday at 11:00 a.m. Katz is a fermentation revivalist and the author of The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World.
  • Harry S. Truman Manure Pitch Off on Saturday and Sunday
  • Sheep Dog Demonstrations with Dave and Colin Kennard and their border collies.
  • The Fleece Tent and Wednesday Spinners. The spinners are a group of women from Down East Maine ranging in age from 15 to 80 who meet every Wednesday from September thru May at a different spinner’s home. This is their 36th consecutive year at the fair. They have their own tent by the Fleece Ten across from the Sheep Dog Demonstrations.
  • The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) demonstrations and stories. They will be in the MIBA tent in the Folk Arts section throughout the fair.
  • Just about anything going on in the Maine Folk Traditions tent, which will feature old-fashioned sing-alongs, the Fiddle Showcase, and contradance bands. I am really looking forward to learning how to play the spoons!
  • The Children’s Pie Contest in the Exhibition Hall at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.
  • Sunday morning should be especially sweet with a lesson on making Fried Donuts on the Campfire by Lisa and Jeffrey DieHart of Bear & Otter Guides, followed by Making Molded Maple Sugar with Lee and MaryAnne Kinney of Kinney’s Sugarhouse.
  • All the food vendors!
  • Popular Maine blogger Amanda Blake Soule will be on hand in the Media Area (outside the social and political action tent) introducing fair goers to her newest endeavor, the quarterly print magazine Taproot. Look for free back issues! The magazine is a collection of curated stories written by and for people who are interested in deepening their connection to their families, communities, and themselves as they strive to live locally and closer to the ground.
  • Moo Milk (and this is the first you may be hearing about this!!) will be introducing their new (organic) chocolate milk. It is being made so it is lower in calories than most chocolate milks, and they are using New England maple syrup as the flavor enhancer.

Honey Apple Bun, 2012 fair

What other folks love about the fair:
I love the excitement and anticipation I feel while driving past the farmlands on the way to the fair. I love merging with the crowd of kindred spirits celebrating Maine's unique heritage. The trek along the wooded path leading to the Pine Gate entrance is peacefully enchanting, and highly recommended. I love to see what the young entrepreneurs are hawking in the Youth Enterprise Zone tent. Oh, and the chicken and goat barns... I could go on and on...
Lori Gingras, Owner Roots, Coops, & More

My favorites at the Common Ground Fair are: The Border Collie Demo--it's something I always show to friends I'm bringing to the fair for the first time. The Craft Tent--always interesting, and a good place to shop for Christmas presents Skills Areas--it's fascinating to walk through the areas demonstrating traditional skills like weaving, smithing and stonework.
Anestes Fotiades - Editor, Portland Food Map 

I like being assaulted by all the smells at the Common Ground Fair -- roasted corn or red peppers, hay, fermenting this or that, sausage, apples.
I also like how at the entire fair you cannot buy any bottled water. It is a quiet demonstration of how this wasteful, trash-creating, oil-dependent product is not something we need. Water, yes. In disposable bottles, no. If more events were this way, people would learn to bring their own refillable bottles. Or they would ask for tap water. I found many vendors happy to oblige at Common Ground.

Nancy Heiser, Independent writer and editor. 

Everyone's going to say this, so I might as well be one of the first, but the border collie demos. Watching those year after year, seeing the old dogs training newcomers, watching how brilliant they are and how well they understand their relationship with the shepherd... I could watch them herd all day.
I also love walking through the farm animal exhibits, running into friends from all walks — from lobstermen to lawyers — and sometimes picking out some local wool for a knitting project request (I got a nice red scarf out of my last visit).

Sean Wilkinson Principal, Might & Main 

At the Fair, I like to go on Friday to see the youth entrepreneur tent and what the kids have created and talk with them.
Ronald Adams, Director of Food Services

Eliot Coleman and his daughter Clara giving a demo, 2012 fair

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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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