Members of the NOFA/Mass Raw Milk Network met inFebruary to discuss the state of the raw milk industry inMassachusetts and set priorities for the Network’s work forthe coming year. Attendees were also treated to a tour of thenew milking parlor and yogurt making facilities at SidehillFarm in Hawley.
“Lightning. Lightning and thunderstorms. I asked them what to do in that situation.” Rae Jones, a mentee in the NOFA/ Mass Mentorship Program, asked her mentors what to do in the case of lightning. It’s so important to know what to do on the farm in all weather, and I’m glad that Rae had an experienced farmer to go to with all her questions. She has also talked with her mentors about more common farm questions such as pest disease issues and the business end of farming for profit.
If the term “food systems” has begun to crop up in common discourse, it is because the way we think about food is finally changing. In the face of the concurrent threats of climate change, peak oil, and human and environmental health crises, towns, regions, and states around the nation are being compelled to look back, a bit bewildered, in order to understand the systems that formerly sustained their communities and what has been lost over time.
The presenter of this workshop, Derek Christianson, runs Brix Bounty Farm in Dartmouth, Massachusetts and has twelve years of farming experience in the Northeast. He farms on six acres of leased land, and sells at one market, a successful farm stand, and through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Science sometimes has the reputation of being cold and distant from the society its creations affect. WPI’s Center for Sustainable Food Systems is working to change that stereotype. Engineering students in their junior year at WPI have the opportunity to participate in a year-long field-based project that asks them to create social change.
Presenter: Joe Maxwell
Smaller-scale producers are constantly in need of ways to compete with big industrial agriculture and agro-corporations in the market. Some producers have found ways to skirt the stereotypical supermarket by reaching out directly to consumers through CSAs or farmers' markets. Other producers have found great success in that stereotypical supermarket by creating value chains, a form of co-operative.
Labor law is an issue that many small farmers would prefer not to think about. The legal issues surrounding farm labor are often misunderstood. Many farmers believe that they lack the understanding, clarity, funds, or ability to operate in compliance with labor laws. It is one of the issues that many farmers don’t think about until an issue arises that brings attention to the situation. Understanding farm labor laws is important to protect both the employee and the empl
The increasing demand for local food is creating opportunities for commercial success through small-scale intensive crop production. Small-scale intensive crop production systems are making it possible to earn significant income on small land bases. This is particularly appealing to beginning farmers who are often challenged by barriers to production, such as lack of access to land and capital. They are allowing established farmers to either downsize or diversify their operations.
Amy LeBlanc, a contributing member of Seed Savers Exchange (ME LE A) and farmer at Whitehill Farm in Western Maine, began her presentation by remarking on the multitude of reasons for saving seeds. “We save seeds with a sense of honor and responsibility, to perpetuate our own history and our own food supply,” she declared. She added that saving seeds is a community duty and also an historical act.
The Regional Environmental Council (REC) was formed in 1971 as Worcester residents fought an effort to site a landfill in the city’s largest public green space, Green Hill Park. Originally focused on traditional environmental issues, REC later decided to concentrate on the environmental issues affecting low-income urban communities, families, immigrants/refugees, and at-risk teens.
(Powerpoint to accompany presentation: http://nfca.coop/co-opfoodsystem)
Dan Kittredge grew up on a farm in central MA and has continued on his own path, building a profitable business from the ground up. He farms Kittredge Farm in North Brookfield, MA and grows salad greens 40 weeks out of the year.
Dan presented a comprehensive plan for how to grow greens on 1/4 acre, 20-40 weeks out of the year, earning $1,000 a week. The important goals to keep sight of are crop vigor and vitality, which lead to less work and greater profit.
Greg Maslow, Newton Community Farm’s first farm manager, is now in his 7th season. “Seven years ago I was given the goal of growing 40 grand on an acre,” he said. Today he aims to grow $80,000 on a single acre.
As part of the Enhancing Food Security of the Northeast (EFSNE) project (a USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant-funded project involving universities and researchers from around the Northeast), co-investigators Dr. Tim Griffin and Dr. Christian Peters of Tufts University led a directed study course for graduate students in the Agriculture, Food and Environment program.
In this workshop on cider making, author and apple enthusiast David Buchanan presented a broad overview of the cider making process including tips and basic recipes, as well as an introduction to growing apples. He shared his experience planting whips and nursery trees, grafting (using large tree versus dwarf root stock), “tipping” (to encourage fruiting by winding the young tree around a stake), and pruning. David is particularly interested in reviving rare varieties of old-style American apples, once highly prized for the quality cider they produced.
Liz Sheehan Castro was the Project Manager of the Hunger-Free & Healthy project (which ran from 2007-2012), and is currently the single paid staff of the Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council. The council’s work is focused on urban agriculture policy. Ms Castro’s presentation focused on the Hunger-Free Healthy project as a case study of a project that used a food systems approach to address hunger as a public health issue.