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

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Equity in the Food System At This Year’s Winter Conference

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2017 December Issue Newsletter

Caro Roszell, Winter Conference Workshop Coordinator

This year at the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference on January 13, the opportunities for exploring and furthering your education, connections and resources are deep and overflowing. Our keynote speaker, Gabe Brown is an internationally recognized regenerative farmer with knowledge we all need to build our soils and to collectively contribute to global carbon sequestration. The timing is perfect, as you and I collectively represent thousands of acres with the potential to make a tremendous impact on global warming. See our October Newsletter article for more on Gabe.

This year we have three all-day intensive options for those of you seeking to get ultra-specific in learning about one of these three topics: Refining Fertility Systems, Edible Forest Gardening or viewing The Farm as an Ecosystem. If a comprehensive full-day workshop is your interest this winter you can check out the All-Day Intensive options.

This year’s general workshop program is stacked with a powerful collection of curated presenters and topics for gardeners, foodies, farmers and activists. From mushroom cultivation, healthy cooking, no-till cover crops, to homesteading, soil health, and questioning if we can trust the USDA with organic standards, we hope you find programming that suits your winter studies. View the general workshop program.

One of our most robust tracks will spotlight the efforts of grassroots organizations working towards a just Northeast food system. In our Equity in the Food System track, presenters from a broad array of food justice organizations will tell stories and teach strategies addressing access to food and farmland for all.

If your interest is in bringing food production into the city, Tristram Keefe and Bobby Walker of the Urban Farming Institute (UFI) will talk about Food Justice in Diverse Communities, exploring how the Food Justice movement informs and intersects with their work at UFI and with farmers markets in Mattapan and Dorchester. Lindsay Allen will talk about Urban Farming and Healthcare, discussing the possibilities of leveraging institutional partnerships for food-based health interventions through the lens of the farm she manages – located on the roof of the Boston Medical Center. For mitigating potential contaminants to prep soil for urban food production, Alex Dorr will present a practical approach in Mycoremediation for Urban Soils.

Farmers and community farm land trusts can improve access to fresh organic foods for low-income customers. Jessica Van Steensburg and Rochelle Belin of Just Roots in Greenfield will speak about this community farm that boasts the largest SNAP enrollment in MA. They will provide guidance for farmers and market gardeners who want to make their customer base more inclusive, and will discuss the specific ways in which the Just Roots team is Reinventing the CSA as a Health Intervention Model. Ellena Baum from Grow Food Northampton will talk about Innovating the Farmer Lease for Ecological & Social Justice, working with stakeholders to stipulate social justice outcomes as a part of lease agreements.

Farm labor justice will be addressed by Elizabeth Henderson and Louis Battalan from the Domestic Fair Trade Association. They will convene a discussion about the seemingly impossible task of Balancing Fair Wages, Farm Viability and Affordable Prices. Sara Dewey from the Conservation Law Foundation’s Legal Food Hub will present on case studies that illustrate how state laws apply to farmers as employers in her workshop: So You Think Your Apprenticeship is Legal?

Another too-often overlooked group who face very real barriers to land and healthy food access are incarcerated people. There are a number of groups organizing to offer such opportunities to inmates – at this year’s conference we will have representatives of The New Garden Society and the Jail-to-Farm-to-College and Employment Program at Franklin County House of Corrections to present their models for bringing food production inside prisons. The former will focus on Strategies for Therapy and Job Training and the latter on Developing Local Food Production / Education Programs at Jails.

We will also offer the opportunity to hear about the impact of migration on farmers, and learn about the experience of immigrants and refugees working in the Massachusetts food system. Hassan Aden and Saw Than, both of whom farm in Northampton, will look back on Farming in Somalia and Burma (Myanmar) and share the crops and techniques they used to feed their families in their home countries and in a refugee camp that Hassan Aden lived in after fleeing the war in Somalia. We will also be Hearing from Beginning and Successful Immigrant and Refugee Farmers with Jessy Gill and Txong Yang whowill share the story of Flats Mentor Farm, a place where resettled farmers can access land, markets, and techical support to launch their agricultural enterprises in their new country.

Other workshop track include beekeeping, fruit, regenerative farming, gardening, land care, permaculture, policy, activism and farm regulation, livestock, homesteading, wellness. Check out the Workshop Tracks page for a comprehensive list.

Early Bird discounts are available through December 15th. You can Register online now to save up to 20% on admission. Scholarships are available, and we have a carpool rideboard for you to join.

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