The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

Growing Organically Since 1982

Food Access

NOFA/Mass supports organic agriculture in all areas of the state - suburban and urban as well as rural. We promote the personal, political and economic changes needed to make organic farming opportunities and healthy food universally accessible in our state. NOFA/Mass is committed to a socially just food system. For us, this means a food system in which access to healthy, local, organically grown food is available to all, access to land for food production is broadly available, and the knowledge to prepare whole, fresh foods is likewise shared by all.

NOFA/Mass invites input, commitment, talent and ideas from the members and non-members alike toward furthering these goals.

Special Initiatives Directed Toward Underrepresented Communities

NOFA/Mass seeks partnerships with organizations involved in farming and food security that are also working to promote an equitable food system. What NOFA/Mass can most effectively bring to the table is our ever growing and changing expertise regarding organic farming and gardening systems, with a special focus on soil fertility and the inherent improved food quality that it brings. 

Gardening the Community and NOFA/Mass

Gardening the Community (GTC) is Springfield’s youth urban agriculture project, and is clearly not a “baby” anymore.  In 2002, “GTC” was born when, with NOFA/Mass support, beloved member Betsy Corner teamed up with Springfield resident, Ruby Maddox, to begin a youth garden outside of the Elias Brookings School. Now, 13 years later, Gardening the Community youth and staff manage 5 significant gardening sites and consult on additional ones, grow thousands of pounds of vegetables each year for youth and residents and market, run one of only two CSA programs in the city, and provide a strong voice for expanded urban agriculture in Springfield, MA.

In the past 30+ years, NOFA/Mass has initiated many programs to increase availability and production of healthful, organic food among disadvantaged populations including prison garden projects, youth gardening initiatives, and discounted farm share programs for low-income families.  The reason is simple: NOFA/Mass sees the availability of local, nutrient rich organic food as central to the health of the general population and the equitability of access to this food as central to its organizational mission. Recently, we’ve moved into a niche for expanding food access which fits perfectly with our skill set and mission.

In the spring of 2014, supported by The Harry Chapin Foundation, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, and Project Bread, NOFA/Mass began a soil improvement and agricultural training project with our old friend, GTC.  Like many urban gardening projects, Gardening the Community is located in a designated food desert and strongly focuses on food justice, youth empowerment, and neighborhood revitalization.  Despite success in so many realms, GTC – with a staff of solidly connected community residents, not trained farmers - recognized the need for building agricultural capacity in order to more effectively provide youth and the neighborhood residents with healthy organic food.  To reach this goal, GTC and NOFA/Mass collaborated with Project Bread to work toward two main goals: 1) building the health and nutrient content of GTC’s soil; 2) improving GTC’s basic agricultural skills, systems and efficiencies.  After a full year of mentorship, training, soil testing and amending, production on the garden sites has increased by 44% and the sales of that produce has gone up 60%.  Inspired by these results and a desire to ensure full integration of all lessons and systems into their operation, NOFA/Mass and GTC entered into a second season of collaborative work.

NOFA/Mass began this intensive educational relationship with GTC to provide more organic food to the residents of Springfield. But, the program is also intended to provide a longstanding model for increased production and impact in towns and cities in Massachusetts.  Toussaint Paskins Youth Director of Gardening the Community says, “With the establishing of backyard farms, community gardens plots and CSA’s, farmers are being born and are seeking to make a profit for the vegetables grown,” and he pauses, “the great question is how do we, the urban farmers, produce veggies in the small places we exist in.”  NOFA/Mass is poised to provide some basic assistance in soil health and farming skills to enable healthful food production to become a reality.   

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