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

gardening

In my monthly search for interesting stories amongst our NOFA network, I came upon Elizabeth Daniels. Elizabeth is an urban gardener in Springfield who signed on with NOFA/Mass staff member Anna Gilbert-Muhammad as one of six gardeners who will build their gardening skills with an eye to sharing what they learn with others in their community. I asked Elizabeth how she got into gardening.

Elizabeth Daniels: I grew up with my grandparents. They always had the idea that you can grow it yourself. They grew the collard greens. When I moved to Springfield and I saw people gardening outside, I said: “I need to be a part of that.” I want to go to the yard and get some greens and tomatoes and it tastes so much better.

One of Jeuji’s nutritious wild salads

Julie Rawson has worked with lots of beginning farmers over the years. But this year is her first time being partnered with a permaculture mentee. Jeuji Diamondstone of Worcester, with her urban backyard of Jerusalem artichokes, hazelnut bushes, and dandelions, is developing something quite unique. In the third season of the developing of her permaculture oasis, Jeuji, a NOFA/Mass member and avid learner, sought out some help from the NOFA/Mass beginning farmer mentorship program. Over the winter, we looked far and wide for the right fit for Jeuji, not an easy task. Yet, with 40 years of growing experience and experimenting with "a lot of things on her farm," Julie offered. Jeuji says, "I wasn't sure about it at first because Julie admitted that permaculture wasn't her strong suite, but it has been awesome getting to know Julie and her farm, and any time that I am in a place that is growing things, it is beneficial. I am learning."

Today is the first really warm sunny day we’ve had in weeks. Walking through the garden and orchard I am grateful to hear the buzz of many flying creatures, and no I do NOT mean the black flies, though they too have their role in nature. However, I’m thinking of the many tiny native pollinators who are going about their business of living. And in doing so, they are also helping to make my life more abundant. There are over 4,000 native pollinators in North America and approximately 4,00 here in the Northeast. They are amazing creatures ranging in size from very tiny insects up to butterflies. Of course, hummingbirds, bats, birds and even mammals can also act as pollinators, but I’m focusing on our smaller, winged friends: bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, beetles, and flies.

Green Team staking the tomatoes in test plot #1

Though the word “farming” is in its name, NOFA does more than just work with rural farmers. Much attention is paid to ways more traditional, production farmers can use techniques like cover cropping and mineral amendments to enhance their yields, but there are few resources and little knowledge for using these tools on smaller scale and urban sites.

NOFA/Mass is partnering with The Trustees Boston Community Gardens and Groundwork Somerville on a three-year project to improve the fertility and production of compost-based soils, funded by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR). Compost is often free and used-widely by many city growers. Though considered non-toxic and safe for growing in, compost does not provide all that soil needs to produce healthy and sustained crop growth.

Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastapol, CA have been called “drought fighters,” and “leading innovators,” in the field of regenerative agriculture. Their agro-ecological growing practices (and the results thereof) have commended as “sustainability on steroids,”’ and “transformative.”

Rapidly growing in renown to near Elliot Coleman levels, the Kaisers have recently attracted national attention from soil scientists, government agencies, agricultural organizations, journalists and the farming community for their unconventional farming practices. Their methods allow them to grow up to seven crops per year per bed, gross $100,000 per acre, raise soil organic matter 400% in six years, achieve Bee Friendly Certification, offer year-round positions to several employees at $15/hour, and use absolutely no sprays, even organic ones.

Maggie Payne, Anna Gilbert-Muhammed and Bettye Frederick

On July 25, community gardeners from Springfield’s Mason Square Library Community Garden and Ibrahim Ali from Gardening the Community attended NOFA/Mass’s cocktail cover cropping workshop at Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre, MA.

We will examine tools, ergonomics and cultural practices of manually prepared gardens. The emphasis will be on deep beds, compost, and intensive planting. A discussion of time consumption will compare productivity to a machine-based small-scale garden. I will draw upon ideas from a variety of sources.

Christie Higginbottom’s work as a gardener and teacher spans decades. Growing up with a thriving victory garden and parents who enthusiastically tended garden space in every home in which they lived, it is a given for Christie that every home’s landscape should include a plot for food. As an adult she studied education, initially teaching high school literature. When she decided to stay home and raise her children, they spent a lot of time in the family garden.

Tomatoes can be a profitable crop on a very small scale. From seed to stand, learn all you need to know about growing and selling tomatoes. We’ll cover variety selection, cultivation, fertility, homegrown pesticides from tobacco and mint, and setting up your stand.

A small garden is no impediment to fruit growing. Lowbush blueberries, currants, gooseberries, and super dwarf apples are among fruits that fit well into small gardens. I’ll present the fruits and techniques needed to reap delectable rewards from spaces as small as a balcony to as “large” as a small, suburban yard.

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