Love Letters To Maine | April Boucher

Dear Maine,

Of your many endearing qualities, what I love most is your long tradition of agricultural fairs. My favorite, the Common Ground Country Fair, is at its core a harvest celebration. The fair, hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in Unity each September, showcases all that you have to offer: a diversity of delicious food and natural resources, yes, but also a creative community committed to stewarding your fields, forests, and waterways for future generations. A day at the fair is like a tour of your landscape by the people who know you most intimately. In a single afternoon, I can be transported to your blueberry barrens as I sip on wild-harvested blueberry tea, then be whisked away to your field edges for a native plant walk before purchasing maple syrup from a person who cares for your woods and taps your trees.

During three full days, thousands of individuals and volunteers come together to offer hundreds of exhibitions, workshops, and demonstrations celebrating rural living, from bean-hole baked beans to border collies expertly herding sheep. Not only are these skills and traditions key parts of who they are, but they’re also significant to your vibrant, land-based culture.

Being involved in agriculture is about doing something bigger than ourselves, something that we couldn’t do alone. The Common Ground Country Fair is a reminder of that—and of what’s possible. I’m inspired by the organic farmers and the bounty of produce they harvest and the food vendors, who transform farm-fresh ingredients into their own versions of quintessential fair food. No deep-fried Oreos here; instead, fairgoers anticipate crispy shiitake mushrooms (cultivated on logs from your woods) and tofu fries (from soybeans grown in your fields), and fish tacos (which serve up the catch from your coastlines).

I’m inspired by the people who flock to the fair annually to gather, connect, and take part. They behold the vegetable diversity on display at the Exhibition Hall. They bring their kids to the fair to dress up as bumblebees and butterflies in the Garden Parade, and, before you know it, those kids have grown and are bringing their own children to the fair, to celebrate you, in all your abundance.

Boucher is the Common Ground Country Fair director for the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

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