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Summer Conference intensives offer deep dive into fascinating topics

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2017 May Issue Newsletter

By Hannah Blackmer and Sarah Gupton

As growers, we designate winter as the time of learning. As the pace slows, we find more time to breathe, and with that we can open ourselves up to reflection upon the past season... and anticipation of the next. However, despite notoriously being labeled as “the season of the workload,” summer also provides ample opportunity to soak up knowledge. Our brains are in the present, constantly surrounded by stimuli, evaluating decisions made just a few months earlier. The current season’s experiences are fresh, (hopefully) rewardingly – but more likely painfully, let’s be honest, being categorized as successes or failures. So, with all this material rolling around at the front of our brain, wouldn’t it make sense to maybe give our bodies a break, hand off the reins for just a few days, sit down and participate in some gratifying and invigorating discussions and education?

This year’s Summer Conference intensive workshops bring an amazing lineup of presenters. Friday’s intensives start in the morning, before the main conference begins, bringing both of our keynote speakers, Dr. Huber and Michael Phillips, as well as Connor Stedman, Hannah Traggis, Bill Braun, and Dorn Cox to Hampshire College.

Michael Phillips is the well-known master organic orchardist, and he has holistic orchard health in his sights. During his intensive workshop Michael will delve into practices that embrace deep ecological principles to build a healthy and productive orchard system. He is deeply passionate about fungi’s role in this system and will cover the practicalities of orchard management – from ensuring excellent nutrient density and flavor to handling disease management and the timing of operations.

Dr. Don Huber, plant pathologist, has spent the last 55 years targeting the relationship between pesticides and disease. After 41 years as a soil scientist for the U.S. military service (retiring as Colonel) while also holding concurrent roles at the University of Idaho and Purdue University, he has amassed a lifetime of experience and understanding of pesticide-disease interactions. His course will take you on a deep dive into the effects GMOs and glyphosate have on soil, crop, animal and human health.

Connor Stedman, an ecological designer, farm planner, and educator based out of New York’s Hudson River Valley, will lead an intensive on how to establish a profitable agroforestry system. Agroforestry, defined as the intentional integration of trees into agriculture, plays a critical role in diversification and climate adaptation strategies for farms across the globe. From diversified orchards to multifunctional buffers, learn how Northeast farms can profitably apply agroforestry systems and principles to their own practices.

Hannah Traggis and Bill Braun, passionate seed breeders, take very seriously the stewardship of seeds. Not unlike industrial agriculture, seed production faces massive centralization, with only a few major companies supplying demand. To prevent varietal loss, resilience, and the ability to adapt, the protection of a future with cooperatively owned and decentralized seed production is urgent. Hannah and Bill, along with some special guests, will help you establish your own on-farm seed saving plan as well as teach you about skillful variety selection suitable for Northeastern production in organic farming systems.

This year, we are adding another intensive to the conference slate. On Sunday, running concurrent with our general session times, Dorn Cox from Tuckaway Farm in Lee, NH – but more notoriously known in conjunction with the organization Farm Hack – will bring attendees up to pace on the world of open source resource sharing, specifically as it relates to soil health. Dorn will discuss soil health fundamentals and local, regional, and global tools to use on your farm as well as adaptive tools for monitoring, improving, and sharing agricultural knowledge.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their laptops, as there will also be time to get your farms set up on the Farm Hack and farmOS platforms as a start to discovering how to improve your own farm operations.

The Fair and more...

Back by popular demand, there will be pre-breakfast yoga on the Friday and Saturday of the conference. Bring your mats, limber up, and start your day off right!

The Saturday afternoon Country Fair keeps shaping up to be an exciting experience with animals, music, games and demonstrations! More shade from the trees at Hampshire means happier animals (and humans), so come prepared to pet alpacas, horses, and goats. Don’t forget the maker demos, too – we’ll have many makers coming to the Fair to demonstrate their skills, reveal their “hacks” and discuss ideas and innovations with you. Stick around for one, or wander around as makers whip together projects on site. If you get hungry from all the excitement, there’ll be a pizza oven courtesy of NOFA-VT. Hot-from-the-oven pizza will be for sale to fuel your participation in the Fair games (unless you’re full from the pie-eating contest…). Everyone has to pitch in on the egg toss, though - that will be the grand finale!

Registration for the August 11-13 Summer Conference is now open!

Learn more and register at www.nofasummerconference.org.

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