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

Summer Conference

The NOFA Summer Conference is the gathering place for those that make up the collective fabric of the organic movement in the Northeast. The seven NOFA state chapters (NY, NJ, VT, NH, RI, CT and MA) all play a role in this coming together to celebrate and further the work we’re doing individually and as a movement. The collection of over 70 exhibitors, 130 workshop presenters and over 900 enthusiastic growers and activists creates a powerful atmosphere to share innovation, community and knowledge. And this year we’re especially proud to host a handful of collaborative organizations doing great work.

On the precipice of summer getting into full swing, things are warming up quickly, plants have doubled in size since mid-May and we are about to set sail across the hotter months. As we know, this means something different altogether these days: summer is becoming a wild card alike for the humans, animals, and bacteria and fungi that support our ecosystem. So many growers are making headway with fruitful systems that support life on all levels; microscopic, local and global. If we take a step back, we see ourselves building upon the work of the original organic movement, taking that momentum and moving far beyond the now tired and banal discussions of climate change and chemical usage. NOFA and its allies charge forward in the race to reduce and reverse the effects of carbon emissions on earth.

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.

2016 Summer Conference farm tour at Fungi Ally

The coming of spring brings the NOFA Summer Conference one step closer to its return to Hampshire College after 10 years at the University of Massachusetts. Fond memories of the exciting summers of the early organic movement, when organic labeling was not standardized and organic certification had not been legislated by the federal government, are still fresh in the minds of some long time NOFA members. The community was growing and establishing its roots, and the conferences were an annual celebration of the collective energy of the small and large actions of many passionate growers.

At this year’s conference we will celebrate our interconnectedness: from the biological interactions of fungi and roots to the effect those relationships have on human health. We will be sharing ideas and honoring natural methods that are gentle on the earth, cultivate sustainably and responsibly, and consider the equity of all people involved.

All across the northeast each NOFA state chapter hosts its own winter conference. There may or may not be snow on the ground depending on where you’re from, but you can bet that farmers and gardeners across the region are welcoming 2017 with the educational opportunities these conferences offer. Some are one, others two days, some are even three days; all provide the learning that is so critical for those with more or less growing/advocating/consuming experience. And after each conference, attendees trek home to nestle back into their winter routine, brains buzzing with newfound knowledge and inspiration.

Conferences are kind of like caffeine: you arrive sleepy but full of anticipation, and you walk away truly jazzed. Relationships are made, ideas are hatched, and on the drive home you can’t stop thinking about all the places you could grow mushrooms. And it’s not just the attendees that leave feeling this way. Internally, our conference staff surf that conference energy wave all the way to August. Because most NOFA staff work remotely, those high-fives and intense ideation conversations carry us through the next seven months, at which point we caffeinate ourselves with the real stuff and do it all over again. So, with our own NOFA/Mass 2017 Winter Conference now in the books, we take a second to catch our breath, get a good night’s sleep, and refocus on planning the next must-attend weekend: the 43rd annual NOFA Summer Conference, August 11-13.

The long, sweaty, stressful days of summer feel miles behind us, our hours now being spent in front of the fire with crop plans and financial spreadsheets rather than under the blazing hot sun with harvest knives and weeding maps. The 2017 growing season couldn’t be farther away; with any luck, mountains of snow stand between those very first seedlings and us. Now is the time to sleep in a little longer, do a little more yoga, and catch up on the New York Times bestseller list.

We at NOFA, however, are spending our days looking ahead to next summer with vigor; August is at the forefront of our minds, and with it the 43rd annual Summer Conference on August 11-13. Fall and winter provide us with the opportunity to build the best conference program possible. Our Summer Conference Committee has already been putting their heads together, brainstorming new ways to add depth to this annual event. Exciting changes have already taken place! A long awaited move back to Hampshire College has made the books, which we know will bring great joy to attendees, presenters, vendors and staff. Hampshire’s compact, quiet and earthy site (not to mention their onsite farm! Oh, the opportunities!) will provide a relaxing and enjoyable conference experience.

Social & Racial Justice Panel Discussion, August 2016

We are opening up our options in seeking another location to host you at the Annual NOFA Summer Conference. Based on our wish to host a more convenient and close community event we are considering moving the conference location to better suit our needs and to align with the spirit of NOFA.

We seek a host that loves the organic movement and has suitable space for us in the second weekend of August every year. We’d love your help with ideas and even advocacy in helping us get acquainted with prospective sites.

We’ve secured the location, gathered the experts all in one place, and for one weekend in August, you will be at the epicenter of the organic movement in the Northeast.

In under 45 days, over 1200 organic farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, dieticians, herbalists and activists will come together to recharge and further the organic movement, deepening our knowledge, connections and impact at this important moment. Prepare to learn and teach and join others to discuss solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing us. Solutions to pests. Solutions to weeds. Solutions to inequity. Solutions to profitability. Solutions to wellness.

Jade Alicandro Mace leads herb walk at 2014 Summer Conference

August seems so far off in the middle of May. Maybe because the temps are still low, or the kids are still in school, or because of how busy spring is. But this year’s NOFA Summer Conference is now less than 90 days away and will be here before we know it!

Now is the time to take advantage of the 20% discount and register as an “Early Bird” before prices rise on July 15! Applications for our work exchange scholarship programs are available as well, with limited space. Please apply, or pass this on to someone you know would like to get involved through one of these programs.

Leah Penniman

The Summer Conference took an unexpected turn last month, as keynote speaker Dr. Christine Jones had to cancel her visit due to health concerns. She has been in touch regularly, helping us in our search for a replacement that can further our work on carbon sequestration for healthier soils and climate. We are happy to say her updates are positive and encouraging regarding her health, and we hope for a NOFA visit in the near future.

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