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Sandra Steingraber
Noted author and biologist Sandra Steingraber talked about economic and ecological collapse – and about rescuing a farm – at a teach-in at the 2009 Common Ground Country Fair. English photo.

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Beekeeper panelIn 2006, scientists coined the term Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) to describe the phenomenon of adult honeybees suddenly abandoning their hives. This was the topic of the 2012 teach-in, organized by MOFGA’s public policy committee, at the Common Ground Country Fair.

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2011 Teach-In PanelMaine gardener Beedy Parker notes that we are experiencing generally longer growing seasons, but they are unpredictable and undependable due to extremes of temperature, moisture and storm intensity. Parker was the moving force behind MOFGA’s 2011 Common Ground Country Fair public policy teach-in and three other talks on climate change, summarized here.

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Tim Goltz & Heather Albert-KnoppA MOFGA Public Policy Committee teach-in at the Common Ground Country Fair addressed the problem of obesity. Panelists included Dr. Tim Goltz, a family physician in Damariscotta; Karen Kleinkopf, a first grade teacher and co-founder of FARMS (Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools); and Heather Albert-Knopp, a MOFGA board member and administrator of College of the Atlantic Sustainable Food Systems Program. Heather Spalding, MOFGA’s associate director, moderated the discussion.

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Sandra SteingraberWhat if we paid as much attention to our global ecological crisis as we do to our global financial crisis? With this provocative opener, renowned environmental writer Sandra Steingraber treated an audience of more than 300 to a wide ranging but well integrated talk that revealed common threads in the history of her family farm in Illinois, the deterioration of Americans’ health and the threats to the health of our global ecosystems.

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The first step in eliminating toxic chemicals from our bodies is knowing what’s there, and that was the goal of the “Body of Evidence” study conducted in 2007 by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. Study participants discussed results of the study at a MOFGA Public Policy Committee Teach-In at the Common Ground Country Fair.

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"Home is where the harm is," said Mike Belliveau at a Public Policy Teach-In about healthy homes at the 2005 Common Ground Country Fair. The executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center and organizer of the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine noted that we’ve made a lot of progress in reducing industrial air and water pollution – although much remains to be done – but many materials brought into our homes can harm our health.

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Dr. Rebecca Van Benenden“How do you explain,” asked Sharon Tisher of MOFGA’s Public Policy Committee, “that cancer in this country has increased since 1950 by 35%, excluding lung cancer?” Introducing a teach-in on cancer and the environment at the Common Ground Country Fair in September, Tisher cited a Bangor Daily News article stating that Maine ranks seventh in the country in cancer. “This is a death rate, not an incidence rate,” Tisher explained.

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The Public Policy Committee of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association invited all Maine ballot candidates for Guber­natorial, U.S. Senatorial and U.S. Congressional races to a forum on agriculture at the Common Ground Country Fair this year. Those listed below have agreed to attend.

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Rep. Linda Rogers McKeeHow much power does Big Business have, compared with the people, to impact the Maine legislature? That question was foremost on many MOFGA members' minds last March, when MOFGA was involved with its busiest legislative session ever and when Big Business in the form of the biotech industry seemed to wield undue power.

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How does the Maine legislative process work and how can citizens participate most effectively in the process? A teach-in organized by MOFGA’s Public Policy Committee will address these questions on Saturday, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the YEZ Tent at the Common Ground Fair this year (2001). It will ask: What works and what doesn’t? How much power do ordinary citizens have to affect the legislative process? How can they strengthen their power? Do paid lobbyists for industry organizations really call all the shots?

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Our schools should be places where our children can learn and play safely, yet many of the chemicals used in and around schools can be toxic, especially to children. These can include herbicides that may be used on playing fields, insecticides in kitchens and cafeterias, and bactericides in bathrooms. Some pesticides used at schools can affect children’s nervous, endocrine, immune and reproductive systems. Most have not been evaluated regarding their toxicity to children.

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Surprising statements of support for genetic engineering by leaders of Maine agriculture led MOFGA to the topic of our 4th annual Public Policy Teach-In at the Common Ground Country Fair in September. Entitled “Biotech on the Farm: Risky Business,” the teach-in was attended by more than 120 fairgoers.

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