"[Organic farming] ... for anyone who likes to feed others and play in the dirt."
- Julie Rawson Executive Director, NOFA/Mass
NOFA/Mass offers a tremendous number of resources for farmers and growers of all stripes: the Organic Food Guide, the NOFA Summer Conference, the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference, Advanced Growers' Seminars, a variety of Education Events, the annual Spring Bulk Order, a Beginning Farmer/Journeyperson Program, the Raw Milk Network, and our ongoing Policy work to improve conditions for farming in Massachusetts by supporting appropriate regulations to assure safe access to markets as well as freshness and maximum nutritional value.
The most recognized "father" of organic farming is Sir Albert Howard. Howard was trained in the Justus von Liebig "school" of conventional agriculture in the late 1800's. Von Liebig's paper titled "Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture" in 1843 was the signature event that moved the world into the N-P-K fertility mindset. While working with indigenous farmers in India in the early 1900's, Sir Albert Howard came to realize that traditional methods of farming were necessary to keep crops and people healthy. These passages from The Soil and Health (published in 1947) sum up the organic system quite beautifully.
"Mother earth never attempts to farm without livestock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and to prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; ample provision is made to maintain large reserves of fertility; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease."
He argued that all farming must not fall pray to the temptation to turn the reserves of humus into a short term profit at the expense of later generations. He saw the variety of life above and below ground as emblematic of the great "Wheel of Life" that through "the successive and repeated processes of birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay" feeds and sustains the life on the planet. In a departure from the conventional thinking of the day, he thought of diseases and insects not as a scourge to be wiped out with poisons, but as teachers and friends that show him where the processes of growth and decay are out of balance.
Northeast farmers who want to maximize production in the shoulder season and serve their markets year round are increasingly relying on high tunnels to extend the growing season. The techniques for successful long term high tunnel production differ greatly from field crops. In this day-long workshop we will discuss common high tunnel production challenges and how to address them.
Reducing tillage on your farm can preserve and enhance the microbial ecosystem, improving soil tilth, moisture retention and nutrient availability for your crops. Learn tips for managing a no-till, one acre garden from Liz, who has been managing her market garden with no-till and hand-tillage systems for five years.