Why the Common Ground Fair is the coolest thing I hate going to

Everybody in Maine loves the Common Ground Fair.

There are baby goats, big draft horses, delicious food, and more homesteading workshops than you can shake a stick at. It’s kid-friendly, low-key, old fashioned, wholesome, farm-y fun.

Just the thing for an outdoorsy family like mine, right?


I really, really dislike going to the Common Ground Fair.

This is a pile of apples not at the Common Ground Fair. I am one of the bad ones.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love the idea of the Common Ground Fair. I love that the fair exists. I love everything that the fair stands for: self-reliance, back-to-basics, old time skills and simple pleasures. I love that many, many people excitedly count down the days to the fair every year.

I’m just not one of them.

The last time I went to the fair was probably five years ago. My memory of that day is of freezing my buns off for hours on a raw, cloudy September day while hauling around a baby and a bored toddler and standing in endless food lines. The angora bunnies were cute, and it was fun to see how to make bean hole beans, but were those two things worth it?

No. They were not worth it. After years of attendance, my husband and I finally decided to accept we were Common Ground failures and to give it up.

Here are the problems as I see them.

I hate festivals

I hate festivals of all kinds. Music festivals, food festivals, art festivals…if it requires me to spend a bundle of cash to walk through a gate and then stand around aimlessly for hours–except when I’m trying to eat $15 lunch while sitting on the ground with 2,000 other people–then I’m not interested.

I’m a doer, not a stander-arounder. If you want me to help you dig the bean hole, I’m all in. If you want me to stand there while you lecture me about digging the bean hole, you are going to need to find someone else.

I especially dislike attending festivals with my children. Like me, they hate crowds and standing around. So even if I find a workshop that I enjoy, I will invariably be forced to leave early by someone who is bored, hungry, or needs to use the port-a-potty.

No good.

It makes me feel like an inadequate homesteader

I work full-time, volunteer in my community and take college classes. I kill every plant I touch. I live in a tree-heavy neighborhood that is very good for playing in, but very poor for farming in. I am extremely limited in how much I can contribute to the feeding and shelter of my family.

We grow a few cherry tomatoes, raise a few egg chickens, forage a few berries, and…that’s about it. That’s all we can do.

cranberry picking

Cranberry foraging from a few years back. We forgot to go last year at all.

I feel like we should do more. I feel like that’s not enough. I feel like we aren’t even coming close to living up to our self-reliance potential. Being reminded that there are people in the world who successfully grow all their food, or who raise their own bacon from birth on, or who hand forge all of the drawer pulls in their kitchen is a brutal reminder of how inadequate I am.

There are enough things making me feel terrible about myself on a daily basis. I don’t need to actively seek them out.

I especially don’t need my kids getting excited about things that I am incapable of growing, raising, and making. Ignorance is, if not bliss, at least peace in this case.

I don’t need to go to the fair for what I need

We get a farm share from a local farm that provides all our fresh vegetables. We get local honey, maple syrup, and meat from our farmers’ market. A local yarn shop sells lots of Maine yarn. Blacksmiths, leather workers, and yurt builders are just a phone call away. The internet answers any question I have about foraging, chicken health, or dehydrating herbs from the comfort of my couch.

I don’t need the fair.

That said, I am fully, absolutely, 100% aware of the fact that all of this is available to me because of the Common Ground Fair, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and all of the folks who have learned, shared and distributed all of these skills over the years.

I am fully aware that I can skip the fair because the fair exists.

I am aware of this irony.

I am so happy this fair fills the need of so many homesteaders and homesteader wanna-bes to connect and learn and grow in their skills. I am delighted it makes so many people feel so confident, skilled, and excited about rural life.

I just don’t want to go.

Except. I don’t know. Now that I’ve written this all out…

I kind of do want to go.

I bet the kids would really like the angora bunnies.

If you do want to attend the Common Ground Fair–which is wonderful as long as you aren’t me–I strongly recommend Pajamas, Books, and Chickens’ post Common Ground Fair for the beginning homesteader. It’s a very useful guide that hopefully will keep you from collapsing in guilt-laden overload.

Cherie Galyean

About Cherie Galyean

In a perfect world, Cherie Galyean would spend hours every day chasing her kids up hiking trails, pretending to garden, and baking things. Instead, she works full-time in the non-profit sector and fits those other things in-between loads of laundry in her free time. A Maine native with multiple hometowns, she currently lives on Mount Desert Island with her husband, seven-year-old daughter, five-year-old son, and the best shelter mutt in the world.