Does the pope poop in the woods?

I feel like I should start off by explaining the title of this post. I know it’s not everyone’s taste, but I love the show Family Guy. Most people know the old joke “does a bear shit in the woods?” Well Family Guy renovated it a little.

While the Pope was out and about visiting America, I was sleeping on the ground and having my first adventure with composting toilets. Let me tell you about my weekend at the MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardner’s Association) Common Grounds Country Fair. Last weekend I (along with my two roommates and my sight coordinator) drove the farthest north I’ve ever been and let me tell you, Maine at the end of September is cold. My only complaint about the weekend would have to be the 30 degree nights, but we were loaned very warm sleeping bags so we survived.

On to all the awesome parts of the weekend. The fair opened at 9am each day but we got in a little early because we were volunteers. For each shift you volunteer you get all kinds of cool stuff. A tshirt, free admission into the fair, plus a meal (and sense we volunteered in the kitchen we basically got two meals a day). So each day I was free to roam and eat and buy all the fair stuff I wanted from 9am to noon and then from noon to 4pm we would work in the kitchen to feed the 1,500 volunteers. Just one of the reasons this place is so awesome is because it is almost entirely run by volunteers. On top of that almost all of the food we prepared was donated by farmers that were attending the fair.

Vegetable Contest
Vegetable Contest

And because of the season you can guess what we had the most of: SQUASH! I’ve never seen so many creative ways to use squash. Squash fritters, squash soup, squash bake, squash turnovers. I wish I could share some recipes with you but unfortunately I didn’t get any. Most of my kitchen time was spent chopping veggies for the talented cooks to come make delicious treats with, although my last shift I was put in charge of a grain salad for 1,000 people. That was a fun experiment.

So when I wasn’t working in the kitchen I was enjoying all that the fair has to offer. What kind of stuff does an agricultural fair have? Well, they have stuff farmers like.

I made friends with some twin cows
I made friends with some twin cows

There were cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and other critters for sale. There were tons of homemade good for sale (I got the warmest wool hat). There were delicious vendors selling things they made themselves, not things that were flash frozen and shipped for a week. There were seminars and discussion groups on every environmental topic you could think of. I attended a talk about a no-waste wedding. They had 100% composting plates and silverware and everything was in recyclable containers. A very cool presentation until she started asking me about my wedding plans. (Sorry, not ready for all that.) And my personal favorite part of the weekend, THE COMPOSTING TOILETS!

Have you ever seen/used a composting toilet? They’re very cool and not nearly as gross as you’re probably thinking.

Composting Toilet in the middle of the woods at the MOFGA Fair
Composting Toilet in the middle of the woods at the MOFGA Fair

If you ever get the change, I would definitely encourage you to give it a try. The toilets I experienced were permanent structures that are only in use during the MOFGA fair each year. Roughly 60,000 people attend this event and there are only 2 or 3 buildings on the fair grounds. AKA not enough toilets to go around. Also, 90% of all waste produced is composted or recycled. So what is the best way to take care of your bathroom business? Port-a-potties are fine, but think about how many gross chemicals are used to give them that bizarre smell. The alternative is a composting toilet. They are built up off the ground and then stocked with composting toilet paper and a big bag of sawdust. There are signs in the stalls that explain how to use it but basically, you do what you need to do and then throw some sawdust on top. 1 scoop for #1, 2 scoops for #2. I apologize if this section is too crass, but I thought this was so cool!

Overall it was an amazing weekend with some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I learned tons about the life and struggles of farmers and a new appreciation for the people that produce my goods.

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