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MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center



 
 

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The winter of 2013-14 is now a memory. Some might say it was an unpleasant one. For the fruit trees, it was mostly good. While many birch and other native woodland trees were damaged by the December ice storm, fruit trees fared well. Fruit trees are designed to handle a lot of weight: Think fruit. Apple branches often drape right to the ground with no ill effects. Most of them took the ice storm in stride.

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The first year of the Maine Heritage Orchard (MeHO) was a big success. In August 2013 we did major earth work in MOFGA’s 10-acre gravel pit site. We reduced the slope of the steepest parts of the pit and created rock-lined spillways to divert excess water and reduce erosion. We reconfigured about 2 acres into terraces that will be home to the first 100 apple and pear trees. Each terrace features a 2-foot-deep trench (or “swale”) filled with wood chips, designed to catch, absorb and disperse water into the huge growing beds that curve with the contour of the hillside. It’s a little like the mountainsides of Peru or Viet Nam right here in Maine.

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Unity students build bog bridge at MOFGALast fall, 20 students from Unity College created 2 miles of hiking trails at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center. They also created educational materials related to the trails. Now MOFGA is one of six organizations in The Waldo County Trails Coalition.

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MOFGA’s red barn.ReVision Energy’s John Luft and MOFGA’s Vernon LeCount talk about the 11.7kw solar photovoltaic array installed on MOFGA’s 200-year-old red barn, in a 7-minute video posted on the internet.

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On May 20, 2011, a small group of dedicated chestnut enthusiasts met at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center to plant two blight resistant American chestnut trees on the grounds. Eric Evans, the breeding coordinator and vice president of the Maine Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation, grew the trees from seed obtained from Virginia – the sixth generation product of backcrossing American chestnut to blight resistant Chinese chestnut. After spending a year in Evans’ Camden, Maine, nursery, the 2- to 3-foot-tall specimens were ready for transplanting.

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MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity won a $41,098 grant from Efficiency Maine to install 44 230-watt photovoltaic solar panels on MOFGA’s red barn in Thorndike.

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Toki Oshima drawingIf you have attended educational programs at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity, Maine, you probably listened to a presentation given in the MOFGA library. Until this winter, the library may have seemed more of a storage space for materials, lacking thorough organization and a user-friendly way to access those materials.

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This winter, MOFGA turned on its solar water heating system to help heat the main building at the Common Ground Education Center in Unity.

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MOFGA windmillSolar heating: Work continues on 16 solar panels mounted on a wood framework behind the Common Kitchen. This ground-mounted solar hot-water collector will help heat the MOFGA offices and meeting hall.

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The Bergey 10 kilowatt wind generator continues to operate wonderfully for MOFGA, making power that will be credited against the electricity used by MOFGA year round.

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Building new livestock barnThe Kennebec Valley Woodworkers Association has volunteered to construct another livestock barn at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity.

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In our continuing efforts to become more sustainable, MOFGA erected a 10-kilowatt Bergey Excel wind generator on an 80-foot tilt-up tower next to our south entrance on Rte. 220. When Kelmscott Farm in Lincolnville donated this non-functioning wind generator to us, MOFGA’s Buildings and Grounds staff was determined to make it work again.

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Solar collector at MOFGAMOFGA has completed installation of a hot-air solar collector on the south side of the sprinkler building to keep the three large water tanks in the building from freezing. We had been using propane to heat the building. (See photograph.)

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Come to MOFGA's Common Ground Education Center in Unity on June 24 and/or June 25, 2006, and help us raise a pole-style barn that uses trusses for the roof structure. The barn, which will be a permanent structure on MOFGA’s grounds, will eventually house rabbits and rabbit demonstrations during the Common Ground Fair.

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Thirty-eight people can accomplish so much in one day, as the very successful Earth Day Spring Cleanup at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center on April 22 testified.

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MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center is incredibly beautiful. I learned this first hand throughout the past growing season, as I was hired as MOFGA’s Landscape Coordinator.

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MOFGA will host a volunteer work party at the Common Ground Education Center in Unity on Saturday, May 14, [2005], from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Echinacea intercropped at MOFGAImagine working with a blank slate of ground and feeling that the outcome might look like some small, twiggy trees surrounded by an undetermined amount of green vegetation of questionable quality. Now imagine this plot of land on MOFGA’s home base, a veritable garden in a fishbowl.

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The Modern Homestead is going up at MOFGA’s home in Unity! This dwelling for the new millenium builds on the traditions of the past and shows some possible solutions for the future.

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A new and exciting demonstration will begin at the Second Annual Spring Thing: An Orchard Alleycropping Demonstration will be planned and planted in the south orchard block.

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Mark FulfordThe most exciting thing about the Common Ground Fair this year was not the smooth flow of traffic into and out of the site. That was the second most exciting thing; the most exciting thing for me was the program of speakers and demonstrators in the Agricultural Demonstrations Area, thanks in large part to Area Coordinators CR Lawn, Jack Kertesz and Joan Sheldon.

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A lot has happened to Common Ground since last year’s Fair, and we hope that you enjoy the additions and improvements. The most visible improvement is the addition of the large shade trees that have been planted around the fairgrounds. Other new garden spots include: the first stage of a large perennial garden along the boulevard; a medicinal herb demonstration garden on the south side of the bathroom building; vegetable and herb gardens located on the south side of the Exhibition Hall – these grew flavorful food for the Common Kitchen.

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We’ve been at MOFGA’s Common Ground in Unity for one year. What’s been happening during that time? Lots! Although the requirements for the Common Ground Country Fair were a predominant consideration in the site selection and development, MOFGA has been clear from the start that the site must also cultivate the expansion of existing programs and the development of new ones.

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MOFGA's Common Ground Education CenterIf you have visited the new home of The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in Unity, you may have seen a large building in the northeast corner of the site. Clad in shingles and clapboards, painted yellow, white and barn red, the Common Ground Center fits in with traditional farm buildings in the area – but the building looks forward, not backward, pointing the way to a sustainable future.

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