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The Country's Largest Celebration of Organic Agriculture Grows More Relevant With Each Passing Year

Russ Libby has been attending the Common Ground Fair far longer than the 14 years he's been executive director of the event's parent organization, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).

"I was in college and my advisor said "There's this thing happening up the road and you should go to it,'" Libby recalls of the fateful pronouncement that cast him into his current calling. "So I got on my little Lambretta motor scooter and puttered up the road about 25 miles and I started meeting all these people, and here a few years later I'm still meeting with a lot of the same people-plus about 50,000 more." Thirty-two years later, to be precise.

"It's been kind of fun."

Libby was one of several fair attendees the Rodale Institute-one of only a handful of organizations outside the state of Maine to be invited to the homegrown festival- asked to characterize just how the event has changed over the years.

"I think maybe there have been three major changes," Libby said from the fairgrounds/MOFGA office in Unity, Maine. He reflected on the most recent extravaganza celebrating a blend of traditional folkways and progressive ideas about how to live sustainably in place, and in challenging times.

"For one, it started out as a harvest celebration that was really a celebration for the back-to-the-landers. Now I see it as really a harvest celebration for the entire state and beyond; we've got people coming from all over the country and the world." Despite the international appeal, Libby said, the Common Ground Fair remains at its heart a celebration of all things Maine. Libby added that the children of those original back-to-the-land founders and fairgoers now make up a critical component of the event's 1,000-plus-strong volunteer crew. "And now some of their kids are starting to come."

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