September 20, 2012

Weed dating at Common Ground Fair

What's a lonely agronomist to do about meeting like-minded singles? Try the farmer version of speed dating at the Common Ground Fair.

By Avery Yale Kamila akamila@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Finding love in rural places can be a challenge for young farmers.

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WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday. Fair gates open at 9 a.m. Friday to Saturday.

WHERE: Common Ground Country Fair, 294 Crosby Brook Road, Unity

HOW MUCH: Free with fair admission: $10; $8 for seniors; free for ages 12 and under; $2 discount for bicyclists

INFO: mofga.org or email fairweeddating@gmail.com to register

GOOD TO KNOW: Bottled water is not sold at the fair. Instead, bring a water bottle, which you can fill at free stations throughout the fairgrounds. Pets are not allowed.

They labor from sunup to sundown, sometimes seven days a week. They toil far from urban centers, where young people tend to congregate. And they work in a profession dominated by older (and typically married) farmers.

So what's a single farmer to do?

Sign up for a round of Weed Dating at this weekend's Common Ground Country Fair.

The farm-based twist on speed dating has been sweeping rural reaches of the country, but this is the first time it has cropped up in Maine. While the event doesn't involve cannabis (sorry to disappoint), it does involve eligible singles meeting each other while pulling weeds from among the vegetables and herbs. The event is open to any single person interested in farming or rural living.

Eliza Greenman, an apple farmer in training, knows from firsthand experience how difficult it can be to find rural romance.

"I was managing an apple farm in western Maine, and there were no prospects that I was aware of in terms of young farmers," said Greenman, 28, who is participating in the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners' Journeyperson Farm Training Program and is helping to organize the Weed Dating event.

"It's a great idea to have your hands do something while you meet someone new and take the edge off the awkwardness," Greenman said.

During the event, which takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday in the fields surrounding the fairground's farmhouse, men and women will be placed in different rows. Every five minutes, an organizer will yell out that it's time to move, and the men will shift over one row. In the 20 minutes allotted for the event, participants should be able to meet four people.

There will also be a section of the event for folks who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Before the event, a meetup of former farm apprentices takes place from 4 to 5 p.m. in the MOFGA tent. After Weed Dating, there will be a mixer for single farmers with food, drink, music and short films. Held in the Windsor Tent, the mixer is sponsored by the Greenhorns, a national organization that recruits and supports young farmers.

Weed Dating participants should bring a flashlight (because the unlit fairgrounds will be dark when the event ends) and a Mason jar, in which potential suitors can leave notes and phone numbers.

The Common Ground Country Fair, taking place Friday to Sunday, is the major fundraiser for MOFGA. Unlike other agricultural fairs, it doesn't offer carnival rides or a midway. Instead, the fair focuses on sustainable living and organic farming, with more than 700 events, seven barns filled with livestock, hundreds of vendors and artisans, numerous musical acts, close to 50 all-organic food vendors and two farmers markets. The fair typically attracts 60,000 people over three days.

Renata Christen, who is assisting with preparations for the Common Ground Country Fair, estimates that at least 30 people will show up for the Weed Dating event, with many more at the mixer.

"If you're rural, isolated and young and you're passionate about farming, it's rare that you're going to find someone of that ilk nearby," Christen said.

But you may just find him or her while pulling a few weeds at the Common Ground Country Fair.

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:


Twitter: AveryYaleKamila


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