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MOFGA Volunteer Profiles
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Volunteers sifting compost
Volunteers sifting compost at the Common Ground Country Fair. Jean English photo.


Articles

Joan FedermanJoan Federman attended her first Common Ground Country Fair in 1996, when she had just moved to Maine. She spent all three days soaking up information from presenters’ panels and workshops, nourishing a growing passion for sustainable, responsible local and global citizenry.

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Fred RobieIf you happen to be among the hundreds who arrive at the Common Ground Country Fair on a bicycle, you’re sure to be greeted with much fanfare, reduced price of admission, and valet parking for your vehicle. You also stand a good chance of encountering Fred Robie.

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Sari LandauerThat's a common refrain around the Fair: "Volunteers make it happen." Volunteers are actively involved in conceiving and managing every facet of the Fair. The new Young Maine area? It’s brought to us by volunteers of the Maine School Garden Network, particularly Nikkilee Carelton, who organized the exhibitors and talks there.

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Eli BerryA woodlot, as Eli Berry sees it, is part and parcel of any Maine farm. “I’ve never seen the woodlot on a farm to be separate from a farm,” says Berry. “Woodlots are farmers’ winter crops, or have been … I think that heating is so parallel to eating, you know it’s BTUs, it’s energy. There’s not much difference between what heats from inside and what heats from outside.”

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Peggy SmithPeggy Smith of Lincolnville, Maine, is a Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Trainer who strives to help individuals, businesses and communities in Maine via the services of her business, Open Communication. Smith offers workshops, presentations, coaching and consulting and finds that her work leaves her with little time to donate to organizations she appreciates.

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Matthew DuboisEach year thousands of people crowd into the Exhibition Hall at the Common Ground Country Fair to behold hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruits, as well as other products and crafts, displayed in true agricultural fair fashion. Matt Dubois, of Portland, Maine, is one of five coordinators responsible for orchestrating the set-up and entry registration, as well as product display and judging of this traditional post-harvest forum.

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Peter HagertyTwelve years ago Peter Hagerty, of Porter, Maine, helped found MOFGA’s Low Impact Forestry (LIF) group, which offers a safe environment for individuals to learn skills pertinent to working in the woods with horses and cattle.

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Tristan PlumbTristan Plumb forgets when he started volunteering with MOFGA – perhaps because he has attended the Fair every year of his life, making the 2010 Fair his 22nd. “I have been around during the Fair forever,” says Plumb, whose father, Steve Plumb, has long helped with utilities work for MOFGA.

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Annie ShebleAnnie Sheble, of Unity, Maine, traces her involvement with MOFGA to the early 1970s when she apprenticed on Jim Luthy’s organic farm in Poland Springs, Maine. Luthy was one of MOFGA’s first presidents and helped start the association’s organic certification program.

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Wilma Johnson and Wilma StewartEach year thousands of T-shirts featuring a graphic of the Fair poster are sold at the Common Ground Country Fair. The shirts usually arrive during the week before the Fair opens to the public – in need of folding. Wilma Johnson, of Thorndike, Maine, and Wilma Stewart, of Unity, Maine, have coordinated the sorting and folding of more shirts than anyone wants to count.

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MOFGA would like to thank members of the MOFGA board, Common Ground Country Fair Steering and Planning Committees and our dedicated volunteers for the Fair.

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Sam BrownSam Brown, of Parkman, Maine, has been volunteering with MOFGA since 1995 – around the same time that the Low Impact Forestry area was added to the Common Ground Country Fair’s schedule of events. Brown was one of the few people involved in coordinating the forestry component of the Fair and has been donating his time to it ever since.

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Danya KlieBelfast resident Danya Klie will do just about any volunteer job for MOFGA, as long as it doesn't involved meetings. "I just wait to see what comes up and go with the flow," she says. She's helped landscape MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center, including setting out a plot of Jerusalem artichokes with Will Bonsall - which was a treat for her due to Bonsall's learned and loquacious nature. She's helped in the MOFGA office and worked in the MOFGA kitchen with chef Cheryl Wixson.

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Mary ChamberlinMary Chamberlin, 34, mother of two, current co-coordinator of the Health and Healing Area of the Common Ground Country Fair, has a list of contributions to MOFGA that covers the spectrum of worker hierarchy – everything from digging roots at woodland campsites to managing Fair Steering Committee meetings.

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Anu DudleyTwenty-four years is longer than most pets live, longer than most families live in the same house, longer than most couples stay married. Yet this September marks the 24th year that dedicated volunteer Anu Dudley has coordinated the Common Ground Country Fair Folk Arts Area.

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Vicky Burwell“I’m not sure if I’m the right person to interview – there are so many people who do so much more!” True as this may be, Vicky Burwell’s modest exclamation leaves a lot unsaid. In her role as one of (three) Common Ground Fair Folk Arts Area co-coordinators, Burwell supervises the annual ritual of bean hole digging.

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Travis CollinsLast summer, certified arborist Travis Collins assessed the condition of 100 trees that had been planted on MOFGA’s grounds, and he developed a three-year plan to upgrade the care of the 21 species. The assessment and plan were all done on his own time, as a MOFGA volunteer.

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Rosa LibbyYes, she’s the boss’s daughter, but Rosa Libby seems as if she were born to be a MOFGA member and volunteer. Her birthday, after all, almost always falls on the weekend of the Common Ground Country Fair – and that’s where you’ll find her celebrating as she volunteers in various areas.

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Bill Whitman & FriendsBill Whitman’s first idea for MOFGA came from his volunteer job at the ’77 Common Ground Fair. “I just ran and ran and ran,” he says, “delivering messages from one end of the grounds to the other.” At a wrap-up meeting in the fall, Whitman suggested that MOFGA purchase some walkie-talkies. True to their ‘inspire and empower’ spirit, MOFGA immediately appointed Whitman Director of Logistics.

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Kim Bolshaw has been working in the Common Kitchen for nearly 16 years. For the last 10, she has coordinated Friday night meals, and when she’s not organizing a daily team of 30 to 50 volunteer chefs and veggie choppers, Bolshaw hops right in to assist the other coordinators. “It’s a marathon,” Bolshaw says.

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Summer Higgins is 13; her brother Caleb is eleven. Both have attended the Common Ground Fair for the past four years, 30 minutes from their home in Monroe.

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More than 200 MOFGA volunteers gathered in Unity on July 29th for a celebration honoring the wonderful volunteers who provide the backbone of the organization.

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Lizz Atwood speaks in a low, wry tone.  "I started volunteering the second time I went to the Fair – in third grade." She has picked trash, shaped clay in the Children's Area, cleaned the mess up afterwards, made change for Give Peas a Chance (the food booth of Peace Action Maine) and hung out in Peace Action Maine's booth in the Social and Political Action Area with her mother, Debbie Atwood. This year Lizz turned thirteen.

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Tina Mann has never been to the Common Ground Country Fair, and although she gardens, can and freezes extensively, she doesn’t pretend to love all vegetables equally. “I’ve learned only to grow the things I like to eat,” Mann says. Most of the time, Mann cultivates a parallel field of the good life: love of good books.

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Blacksmith shopThe fire out, demonstration over, and the crowd dispersed, John Phelan, his wife Vicky, and master carpenter Mike Beaudry are still at work on the last day of the Common Ground Country Fair. Gusts of chilly wind crumple a green tarp keeping the rain from the sides of MOFGA’s newest construction. John Phelan gives me a brief history of the 12- x 16-foot blacksmith shop in the Folk Arts Area.

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Sam HaywardThe subject of veal came up at a MOFGA board meeting, and a year later two Maine farmers had found a market for young milk-fed calves, thanks to Sam Hayward. An obscure root tuber called skirret caught his eye in the Exhibition Hall at the Common Ground Fair and made its way to dinner plates at Fore Street Restaurant.

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Paul BirdsallDon Nickerson swapped draft horse tips with Paul Birdsall for some 20-odd years before bringing his team to the Common Ground Fair in 1999. "He came looking for me," Nickerson says, explaining how the Connecticut native roped him into participating in both friendship and co-organizing the Draft Horse Demonstrations. "He ranks high on my list of good organizers," Nickerson says, and despite Birdsall's inescapable out-of-state origins, calls the Connecticut transplant, "a top quality man."

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On his first trip to Maine in 1961, and “moved by its beauty, the water and what seemed like a simpler lifestyle,” John Bunker decided on a plan to move to Maine and bid suburbia a permanent farewell. He was 11 years old and ready to head for the woods.

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Howard and Sue SchiveraThe phrase ‘working vacation’ may seem to be a contradiction, but for Howard and Sue Schivera, their annual trip to Maine is an obvious opportunity to both visit their daughter and volunteer at the Fair. “Diane was the one who volunteered us,” Sue said. Their daughter, Diane Schivera, has worked as MOFGA’s Assistant Director of Technical Services for the past seven years, and is a familiar face around the Fairgrounds.

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Jim GerritsenWhen Jim Gerritsen bought land in Bridgewater in 1976, he and his wife Megan began an organic seed potato business and published a mail order catalog that made WoodPrairie Farm into a well-known, successful family farm. What is less well known about Gerritsen is his 18-year commitment to improving MOFGA’s certification standards.

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Karen VolckhausenKaren Volckhausen began her volunteer work on vacation. “We took a two-week trip with our husbands to Guatemala, in 1992,” said close friend Peggy Strong, “We went to all the usual tourist sites, but it was meeting the people that really sparked our interest – especially Karen’s.”

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Adam TomashWhat transforms a jack-of-all trades homesteader into a self-employed Macintosh programmer? “I had an epiphany of sorts,” says Adam Tomash of Blue Moon Macintosh. “I realized as I was getting older that I needed a job that I could earn more at and work fewer hours.” The 60-year-old entrepreneur had tried his hand at ‘everything but logging’ before starting his networking career.

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Lisa and Roy Miller“Roy and Lisa Miller are the two necessary halves of a good coordinator,” says Hannah Frankle. “Roy is a mass of energy, and Lisa is a big ball of patience!"

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Wesley RothermelWesley Rothermel grew up in the Pennsylvania dust country. His fondest boyhood memories are of days spent with his aunts and uncles, who raised cattle, kept horses, grew grains and fed their families from their own gardens.

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Nancy and Bob Sullivan“They’re retired,” says Janice Clark, “but they don’t really know the meaning of the word.” “We just run errands and help count the money,” says Nancy modestly. “There are so many people who do so much more.”

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Joe AucielloFor most people, being stuck between a rock and a hard spot can make life pretty rough. Ask Joe Auciello, MOFGA volunteer and professional stone sculptor, and he’ll tell you that rough spots are where the fun begins.

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Betsy Hart“Betsy Hart wears many hats,” says Heather Spalding, Director of the Common Ground Country Fair. “She is chair of the Fair Steering Committee, and she was one of the original coordinators of the Social and Political Action Areas. This year she sold tickets and worked in the Children’s Area.”

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For Leslie Poole, being a good grandmother goes beyond making cookies and chicken soup for an ailing granddaughter. In 1999, when the spraying of neighboring blueberry barrens either led to or worsened 15-year-old Codey Brown’s chemical sensitivity, her family (including Grandma) began a two-year process with the Board of Pesticides Control to establish a Critical Pesticide Control Area around their Hope, Maine, home.

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Melissa Bastien"Well, the tent boys have got to have their meat and potatoes, and those wild women who fold T-shirts for days on end like hearty casseroles. The electrical guys need non-stop sugar and caffeine, and then of course there's always a vegan or two thrown in the line. It's not your typical Common Ground granola crowd." That's how Melissa Bastien described eating habits of the behind-the-scenes volunteers and workers who set up and dismantle the Common Ground Fair each year.

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Gail TaiseySix years, 18 shifts, and 11 different jobs. Those are the figures on Gail Taisey's volunteer history. The cheerful 22-year-old has been working at the Common Ground Fair full time "at least since the beginning of high school," she said, "We went as a group of friends, doing one four-hour shift per day!

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Dennis Merrill is too modest for his own good. Although he has volunteered for six years in the Common Ground Country Store and has helped with countless other projects, Dennis insists, “I haven’t really done that much.”

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Rick KippDo you ever wonder who’s behind getting the Common Ground Fair set up, and who’s in charge of cleaning up the Fair once the fun is over? Rick Kipp, 54, does all these things and more, has been a MOFGA volunteer for the past 20 years, and is now the full-time maintenance manager for MOFGA’s educational facility in Unity. “When my kids were young, I needed something to do with them on the weekend,” says Rick, “so I took them to the Fair. We liked it so much we came back the next year as volunteers, and have kept on coming since then.”

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Mark GuzziAs the old saying goes, “Enthusiasm is the leavening of success.” Luckily, Mark Guzzi possesses it by the spadeful. Though the energetic 28-year-old grew up outside of Boston, both his perspective and his way of life changed after two years at Sterling College in Vermont, several farm apprenticeships, and finally coming to Maine as a student at the University of Maine at Orono.

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Scott Howell“I was working in a co-op grocery store,” begins Scott Howell, “when I suddenly realized that someone was growing all the great produce in front of me. Since then I’ve been trying to figure out how.” That curiosity set Scott on a path that would lead him clear across the continent to make his home in Blue Hill, Maine.

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Nancy RaichTo say that Nancy Raich contra­danced her way to Maine would be no exaggeration. In 1980 the reels and waltzes of her first contradance set her toes tapping to the beat of unstoppable wanderlust. The then 28-year-old Michigan native packed her car with her belongings and for a year and a half hopped from dance to dance, working her way across the country.

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Another year in Unity is under our belts. The celebration grows not only in size, but in spirit, joy, diversity, comfort and enthusiasm – thanks to the energy of our volunteers. We had a great year with more than 1500 volunteers on hand to coordinate the many facets of the event.

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At seven, Polly Shyka had no intentions of becoming a farmer. Both of her parents held other jobs, and to her, agriculture was simply something that was done, on the side, as part of their lifestyle. Little did she know that 13 years later, she would get her hands dirty during a farm apprenticeship – and never want to wash them again!

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Amanda BealAt 27, Amanda Beal is coming into her own. With a passion for health, herbs, and holistic practices, she has centered her life around nurturing the seeds of inquiry within herself and the individuals she encounters.

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How would you like to talk with people about what a great organization MOFGA is? Tell them why you’re a member and why they might want to join. How about spending some time with other MOFGA members planting, weeding, and harvesting the gardens at MOFGA’s Common Ground?

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The following people are members of the Common Ground Country Fair Planning Team. All are volunteers who give countless hours of their time, knowledge and expertise throughout the year.

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Debbie KippFor a week each year before, during and after the Common Ground Fair, Debbie Kipp volunteers in the Fair office and does “anything that the office needs done.” That usually includes answering the phone, handing out passes, and running errands. “I just do anything … talk to vendors, take complaints, take compliments,” and, because of an omission in planning for the new building, “cleaned toilets last year – that was a good one!”

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Eric Rector“Every job I’m in, I end up doing the computers,” says Eric Rector, creator of MOFGA’s website (www.mofga.org). That’s what I’m good at.” Eric designed MOFGA’s site last year when the proposed USDA rules for organic labeling were up for public comment, and he wanted the talks MOFGA sponsored on the subject to be widely available.

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“I love the Information Booth,” says Sue Buck. “We mostly see very happy people who are just trying to find something.” Even with the traffic problems at the new site last fall, “people were mostly accepting and patient.” Sue has co-coordinated the information booth at the Common Ground Fair for the past two years.

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Tom OpperTom Opper came to Maine in 1970 intending to be self-sufficient, but he was so drawn to the small town of Liberty in Waldo County that he changed his plans. “Instead of living off on a dirt road as so many other people did,” he says, “I found myself immersed in the organically-established community of the place. I became integrated into the community, and I found myself working away from home.”

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