Pandemic forces organizers to take a different route to celebrate rural life

Common Ground Fair to go virtual this year; back on the ground in 2021

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 2:30pm
    UNITY — One of Maine’s favorite agricultural events, the Common Ground Fair, will be going virtual this September.
    The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) has been holding its annual September fair since 1977, first in Litchfield, then Windsor, and now at its permanent home in Unity. In recent years, it has been attracting more than 60,000 visitors each September to the much anticipated Unity celebration of rural Maine life.
    But this year, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing a different approach.
    “As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic many of you have reached out inquiring about the status of the Common Ground Country Fair, the signature event of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA),” said Sarah Alexander, MOFGA’s executive director, in a May 5 news release and a letter to all MOFGA members. “Today, I'm writing to let you know that, this year, MOFGA will offer the Fair in a virtual format.”
    She reported that the fair’s Steering Committee, MOFGA Board of Directors, and staff members met to discuss Governor Janet Mills' reopening plan, “and all of our collected information.”
    They decided, in the interest of safety and the need for advanced planning for our community, to hold a virtual fair. This event will take place Sept. 25, 26, and 27.
    “Governor Mills' gradual plan to restart Maine's economy has provided information and clarity about the months ahead as the COVID-19 pandemic continues,” Alexander continued.  “The guidance we have received from the Mills Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in tandem with the information from our fellow Maine Agricultural Fairs, has led us to the decision to pursue a virtual Fair instead of an on-site event this year.”
    The decision was not made lightly, she said: “and is the product of feedback from our community, including input from the Fair Steering Committee and MOFGA Board of Directors, and members of the MOFGA staff over several weeks. We recognize that this is a sad day for many who put so much into the Fair each year, and we're hopeful that we can all come out of this stronger together.”
    The Common Ground Country Fair started in 1977 and relies on the work of 2,500 dedicated volunteers each year, including 300 volunteers who work on the event year round. The Fair offers more than 775 educational talks and experiences and features vendors from Maine and a unique all-organic farmers' market.
    The fair plans to return in full regalia, onsite, in 2021, for its 50th anniversary.