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Overcoming Chronic Illness, Living Pesticide-Free and Value-Based Farming Take a Front Seat at this Year’s Winter Conference. Registration opens October 15

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

By Jason Valcourt, NOFA/Mass Winter Conference Coordinator

Winter’s chill is just around the corner which naturally means our community of farmers and gardeners are about to go into hibernation to review the season’s notes and process the past year’s successes and failures in order to greet Springtime with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Maybe that means lots and lots of reading, or many group conversations or maybe it means a whole season’s worth of contemplation and reflection.

Whatever your style of winter study is, we hope the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference is part of your curriculum. This year’s conference will be held on Saturday January 11, 2020 on the campus of Worcester State University. It is our 33rd annual Winter Conference.  Save the date, mark your calendar to register early and make plans to bring your inquisitive nature, wisdom and joyfulness to celebrate your community of earthy, progressive, soil loving, like-minded friends and neighbors. Everyone is welcome and we hope the program suits your needs.

Keynote Speaker

Carey Gillam will deliver the 2020 NOFA/Mass Winter Conferenc keynote speech entitled "Decades of Deceit"
Carey Gillam will deliver the 2020
NOFA/Mass Winter Conference keynote
speech entitled "Decades of Deceit"

With the din of public empowerment to affect social change rising we have enlisted as this year’s 2020 Keynote Speaker the award winning journalist and author of the book Whitewash Carey Gillam. Carey works continuously to shine a glaring light into the dark inner workings of the dangerous business practices and continual deception of companies like Bayer/Monsanto. She is relentless in her tracking and exposing of the Bayer/Monsanto lies and works tirelessly to play a part in keeping them accountable for their actions. We are excited for Carey’s keynote address entitled, Decades of Deceit, to guide us in a closer look behind the powerful spin machine and bring us into the heart of her work as a watchdog for public health and safety.

Activist Training – Make Your Town A Pesticide Free Zone

On Friday January 10th, the day before the winter conference, you can attend a day-long activist training to become educated and empowered to work with your own town to ensure they are keeping public health in mind regarding pesticide use. Playing fields, town properties and general management along roadways are widely creating public health hazards by using commonly adopted products such as Roundup (Glyphosate) and other materials you may not want saturating your community.

This full day program overseen by NOFA/Mass Policy Director, Martin Dagoberto, and in collaboration with Toxics Action Center, includes passionate speakers. The program will even include a session with this year’s conference Keynote Speaker, Carey Gillam. Registration will be live with general conference registration on October 15th.

Intensive Seminars

Two full day intensive seminars are in store for those looking for an immersive experience.

Ricky Baruc and Deb Habib will lead an intensive workshop entitled "Farming in the Balance"
Ricky Baruc and Deb Habib will lead an intensive
workshop entitled "Farming in the Balance"

Intensive 1: Farming in the Balance with Ricky Baruc and Deb Habib        

Farming is a dynamic endeavor. It requires a creative and critical mind. The problem solving nature of farming can be as enlivening as it can be exhausting. In the beginning we are hungry for knowledge and hacks that empower us to run our plan. Over the course of a few years we make millions of adjustments and gradually get our systems down. The promise of functioning systems is that we can work more lightly and only have to grease the squeaky wheels when we hear them squeaking. Yet, the reality is that there is always a need for the critical mind to be engaged- innovating and trying new things. Or we are required to change by external factors. Gradually, over time, we may find what was once an endeavor of pure joy has become a runaway series of endless tasks held together by the thin thread of our waning energy and enthusiasm. Does this story sound familiar?

Farming in the Balance will be an opportunity for you to step away from the constant tactical nature of farming and join Ricky Baruch and Deb Habib of Seeds of Solidarity for a day of holistic planning to keep your farming endeavors aligned with your values and quality of life. Ricky Baruch and Deb Habib are three decade plus farmers and educators. They run Seeds of Solidarity in Orange MA. Their solar-powered family farm uses all no-till, regenerative methods. The non-profit wing innovates programs that awaken the power among people of all ages--from toddlers to teens to people who are incarcerated-- to Grow Food Everywhere to transform hunger to health and create resilient lives and communities. They are co-founders of the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival that they organize with their neighbors. Ricky and Deb are authors of the new book, Making Love While Farming: A Field Guide to a Life of Passion and Purpose.

Kathleen DiChiara will lead an intensive workshop entitled "Beliefs, Behavior and Bacteria"
Kathleen DiChiara will lead an intensive workshop
entitled "Beliefs, Behavior and Bacteria"

Intensive 2: Beliefs, Behavior and Bacteria with Kathleen DiChiara

The words “chronic illness” have almost become common parlance in our society today. We are scrambling for answers for our children and for ourselves with hard-to-diagnose ailments and unabating symptoms that steal vitality and cause physical and cognitive symptoms that affect the body and mind. This scenario is becoming more common. In the face of this trend many afflicted wellness seekers, having exhausted themselves hunting for clinical solutions have turned to their innate intuition of using their food as medicine. Out of this movement back toward the ancient understanding and practices of utilizing our food as medicine there have been few practitioners that have the depth of understanding and balanced approach of Kathleen DiChiara.

Kathleen is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, Nutrition Educator and Author of the bestselling book, The Hidden Connection. Kathleen and her family are the subject of the recent documentary Secret Ingredients which highlights her family’s difficult journey through this process themselves. Kathleen has a firm understanding of the current research of modern science related to the gut microbiome and is a wealth of knowledge for understanding what foods in our present marketplace help or harm our well-being. From her own experience she can help you build a comprehensive approach to our food systems beginning with the recognition and reformation of our beliefs about food to the methods we can employ to help support healing for our ailments.

Workshop Program

This year’s workshop program addresses a wide array of farming and gardening techniques with deep focus on agroforestry and the promise it holds to mitigate climate change. As always, we have a healthy dose of workshops ranging from soil health, composting, social equity in farming, pollinator support, farming business, gut health and beekeeping. And it doesn’t stop there! There will also be workshops on grain production in the Northeast, bread making, building soil carbon, making herbal antibiotics, raw milk production, hemp production, farming for biodiversity, regenerative pasture management and more.

Some of the region’s best farmers and educators will be on hand as part of the program: Connor Stedman - ecological designer, Jono Neiger – agroforestry and permaculturist, Jennifer Hashley - Executive Director of New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, Noah Courser-Kellerman – owner of Alprilla Farm, Julie Fine – Rep. for Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Hannah Jacobson-Hardy – Community Herbalist & Ghee Queen, Angela Roell – operator of They Keep Bees, Laura Davis – NOFA/Mass Soil Consultant, Ridge Shinn – Founder of Big Picture Beef, and over 50 more talented practitioners.

We hope there is something in the workshop program for you, whatever stage you are at in your farming and gardening endeavors.

Youth Conference – A Family Affair

Your kids can get their own fun-filled learning in, while you attend the conference, with a full day program of their own. Workshops, crafts and activities keep the kids engaged with a farm friendly program led by the amazing and talented Valerie Walton. Valerie’s background in music education and her commitment to conscientious living guides the Youth Conference program at both the NOFA Summer Conference and the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference. Also, the Youth Conference is an amazing bargain for all parents to get excited about. With an adult registration you can register your kids for $10. Snacks and an organic lunch are included.

Save The Date

Registration opens October 15th. NOFA members from any NOFA chapter receive a 20% discount off registration and scholarships will be available for NOFA members to take advantage of.

We hope you are planning to join us in January.

Jason Valcourt

Conference Coordinator


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