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Soil Health in September: Statewide Events Educate Farmers on Assessment & Practices

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2019 September Issue Newsletter

By Caro Roszell, NOFA/Mass Education Director

This September we are focusing on Soil Health, with statewide events focusing on healthy soils practices and indicators taking place on the first and last days of the month and many days in between.

Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge will kick off the month on September 1st with a detailed farm tour emphasizing their methods for increasing the productivity and resilience of their farm through stacked enterprises and farming practices centered on enhancing soil health and building soil carbon.

For the middle of the month, we will offer a free series across the state entitled “What’s Going on Down There? Soil Health & Fertility Assessment for Growers.” The focus of these short, on-site workshops is to help gardeners and farmers understand how to utilize different tests to determine the health and fertility of their soil environment, how to inform their input and management decisions, and how to start understanding the ways that management practices, inputs, and soil biology intersect. Participants will go home with a Soil Health Field Test Manual (instructions and data sheets) and a handout of resources for labs where you can send samples of your soil.

This series focuses on six growers who are receiving free technical support and soil testing services from NOFA/Mass. I interviewed Wenona Racicot of Chockalog Farm about her interest in soil health and her experience of the program so far. Click the link to read our conversation.

While this series is free, we do ask that you register on our website. Workshops with low registration may be postponed to encourage more participation. Registering helps ensure that the workshop is not rescheduled.

The dates for this series in September are:
• September 5 5-7pm at Flats Mentor Farm (Bolton)
• September 7 4-6pm at Black Dog Gardens (Monteray)
• September 16 4-6pm at Chockalog Farm (Uxbridge)
• September 23 4-6pm at Urban Farming Institute (Mattapan)

Can’t make it to one of the September dates? Check back at nofamass.org/events soon for October dates.

Finally, we will close out the month in Lanesboro on September 30th with our Soil Health Field Day at Red Shirt Farm: High and Low Tech Approaches to Small Scale No-Till Farming. Farmer Jim Shultz will be joined by guest presenter Bryan O’Hara of Tobacco Road Farm. Both farmers run well-organized, profitable and small-scale vegetable production systems, but diverge on the level of mechanization they employ. Together they will discuss appropriate technology for the compact no-till farm and will present a range of options for equipment and mechanization. The day will include an interactive field walk (including Red Shirt Farm’s climate battery greenhouse, Johnson-Su Bioreactor and permanent bed systems) and the discussion will focus on protecting and enhancing soil health through cover cropping, bed prep, input decisions and tool choices. Jim will give a demonstration of his BCS transferred mulch system, including mower, rake and mini baler. This system is used to convert cover crops to mulch that can be used elsewhere on the farm.

We hope you can take some time out of this busy home stretch of the growing season to see what’s happening on these farms and homesteads, and to start thinking ahead to your healthy soils practices next season!

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