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

Health and Nutrition

Jen Salinetti farms with her husband Pete in Tyringham, MA in the Berkshires. They have been farming for 16 years together, the four years spent on their almost 5-acre farm. In recent years they have not been using tillage to grow their vegetables. Jen feels that by not disturbing the soil they have a considerable positive impact on carbon sequestration on their land. They have experienced a significant increase in quality and yields which has enabled them to create a viable business on a small amount of land.

“Pete and I started experimenting with no-till 13 years ago, and we are now going into year 11. Our initial experimenting began when we were looking to increase greenhouse production. We started looking into ways to do prep without the tiller. We saw some really great results after the first season. And then we expanded it out to our market garden. Through the process, we were able to set up permanent beds and maximize our earnings and outputs through proper spacing of plants. It was right around when our son Diego was born. We wanted to commit to farming, to be available for family life and to be home.”

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.

Doug Wolcik studied farming in the Sustainable Ag program at UMass with John Gerber. After that he went to Northern California for two seasons and to gain practical experience with the scientific practices that he learned in college. He learned a basic knowledge about farm layout, planting techniques, greenhouse management, cover cropping – but nothing extremely cutting edge. He came back East pretty poor, and with college loans. He had farmed full time for $100/week in CA along with room and board. He then worked for the Department of Conservation and Recreation on the invasive species team searching out the Asian Longhorned Beetle. He saved enough money to be able to take a huge pay cut and get back into farming. He started working with Gaining Ground and is now in his fifth year there.

The Arctic Apple, which has been genetically engineered not to brown. (Courtesy Okanagan Specialty Fruits)

We’ve compiled this list of stories to help keep you up to date on issues impacting food and farming.

This week, after months of delay, a team of expert scientists is meeting to review whether glyphosate, the active ingredient in common weedkillers like Roundup, can be categorized as a carcinogen. This is a tall task for this scientific advisory panel, as they’re being asked to decide whether the most economically successful pesticide in human history will continue its overwhelming dominance in our agricultural systems.

Glyphosate’s rise to dominance began in the 1990’s with the introduction of the first transgenic crops. The Roundup-Ready gene is what initially gave glyphosate a leg up in the market, and its popularity has continued to grow for the past 20 years. We now use approximately 280 million pounds of glyphosate every year in the U.S., about seven times more than we were using just twenty years ago.

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