Deep in the winter of 1971, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Agent Charlie Gould of Lewiston called together a group of farmers who had been questioning conventional gardening practices.
Now 88, Gould recalled this week what that first gathering was like.
"There were about 50 to 60 people," he said. "We called them hippies in those days. Many were excited because they believed they were at the beginning of something very important."
That first meeting in Brunswick resulted in the creation of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
"MOFGA evolved because people were figuring out how to grow food," Executive Director Russ Libby said this week. "We are now pretty broad based - farmers, restaurants, others - all the pieces that make up a food system."
Today, MOFGA is the oldest and largest state organic association in the country. MOFGA has more than 6,500 members, a staff of 18 employees, an organic certification subsidiary that certifies 4 percent of Maine's farms and 15 percent of the state's dairies, a year-round education program, a Journeyperson Program that provides training for future organic farmers, and a cadre of more than 2,000 active volunteers. MOFGA also operates a 400-acre education center and farm at Unity. Organic farming leverages $91.6 million annually for the state of Maine.