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Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Take Center Stage at the 2020 NOFA/Mass Winter Conference Program

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

By Caro Roszell, NOFA/Mass Winter Conference Workshop Coordinator

With mornings now increasingly rimed with frost, we are looking ahead to the 33d NOFA/Mass Winter Conference! All through the hot months we have been reaching out and organizing this program for our January winter gathering, and we are proud to tell you about all the knowledge that lies in store!

As always we will have a wide array of farming, gardening, animal husbandry, self-reliance, herbalism and permaculture workshops (over 60 classes!)—and, as always, we have organized some special tracks for those who want to dig into a specific topic.

In particular, our program will focus in detail on farming and food production practices that offer climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions.

We will be offering a track on Cover Cropping & Carbon Sequestering Farming Practices (with support from Johnny’s Selected Seeds!) that will include rich content on innovations in cover cropping and tillage reduction that can help you reduce soil disturbance and increase your days in living cover to build soil health.

Cover Crops growing at Freedom Food Farm
Cover Crops growing at Freedom Food Farm

In this track, you can learn about Reducing Tillage at Freedom Food Farm, where farmer Chuck Currie has been transitioning from 14 acres of tilled vegetables to 5 acres of reduced and no-till production without reducing sales. He’ll share what has worked and what hasn’t, what programs he has used and production techniques he has adopted. Another amazing no-till farmer offering her knowledge is Jen Salinetti, who will explain how she uses cover crops and mulches as critical tools for building soil health at Woven Roots Farm with her workshop, Soil Health on the Hand-Scale Farm: Cover Crops Mulching & More. And, you can learn about integrated practices for Building Soil Carbon for Better Crops and Climate with Jack Kittredge and Julie Rawson of Many Hands Organic Farm.

Do you grow garlic? Ever planted it right into a fall cover crop? Alexa Smychkovich, a graduate student in the UMass department of Plant and Soil Sciences, will present on research happening at UMass Amherst on intercropping garlic with live cover crops in her workshop, Planting Garlic into Green Mulch. UMass graduate Julie Fine (now with Johnny’s Selected Seeds) will also be at the conference offering a workshop on Cover Crop Strategies for No-Till Systems. And if you need an overview of soil microbiology, you can learn all about the advancing body of knowledge in soil ecology and how pesticides and climate change interact with soil life in The Unseen World in the Soil: Microbes and Soil Health with retired Ph.D. Research Microbiologist, Jack Nelson. And if you’re interested in learning about biochar, Hugh McLaughlin and Doug Clayton will be teaming up to discuss Biochar and Compost: A perfect Union, Right Here on Earth, covering options for making backyard biochar, innoculating it with compost, and integrating it into organic farming systems. methods will be discussed.

For folks at the homestead scale, homesteader and soil carbon educator Sharon Gensler will discuss the how’s and why’s of maintaining living plant cover using cover crops in a small-scale, non-mechanized, no-till context in her workshop. Healthy Soil, Healthy Gardens: Cover Crops for the Small-Scale Grower.

And that’s just a small selection of the carbon farming content at the Winter Conference!

Of course, carbon drawdown into agricultural systems is about more than vegetable and crops farms; we will also have tracks on Agroforestry and Regenerative Livestock Management.

Emmet Van Drieshe, from the cover of his book Carving Out a
Living on the Land, published by Chelsea Green

Our Agroforestry track will include workshops like Coppice Agroforestry Enterprises for the Northeast by author of Carving Out a Living on the Land and operator of Pieropan Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts, Emmet Van Driesche, which will explore how the use of coppicing for Christmas tree farming generates multiple streams of income from the land.

Matt Kaminsky of Gnarly Pippins will discuss Revitalizing Old Apple Trees & Planning Orchards for the Future, offering care instructions for both old and young trees, alternative approaches to understory management, and critical considerations for new orchard plantings that will survive in a world facing climate change. And we will explore Chestnuts: A Staple Tree Crop for the Northeast with Jono Neiger (Big River Chestnuts) and Russel Wallack (Breadtree Farms)

For those of you who raise animals, our livestock and pasture workshops include How to Make Money with a 100% Grass-Fed Beef Cow-Calf Operation (with Ridge Shinn of Big Picture Beef), Hay, Pastures, and Bobolinks (Brian Donahue of Brandeis University) and Silvopasture and Tree Fodders: Key Climate Adaptation Strategy for the Northeast with Connor Stedman, and Producing Very Low Risk Raw Milk for Human Consumption from Mark Mcafee, founder of the Raw Milk Institute and CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy.

We will also have a special two-part workshop series on Raising Healthy Pigs with Alice Percy, author of Happy Pigs Taste Better: A Complete Guide to Organic and Humane Pasture-Based Pork Production, with Part 1 focusing on Breeding and Farrowing and Part 2: honing in on Feed and Pasture.

Brian Donohue’s workshop, mentioned above, is also part of a special track that attendees may appreciate this year: our Learning from History track, with three sessions designed for those who are interested in how modern practices can be informed by practices of the past:

Tap Into History to Understand & Tell Your Farm’s StoryWhat historical contexts have defined farming in New England? History gives insight into the past decisions that have shaped our landscapes. We will discuss how to see beyond the rosy bucolic stories of the farms we own, manage, or love, to craft an engaging story that also educates eaters, neighbors, legislators, and others about the realities of small-scale farming.

Cathy Stanton: Senior Lecturer, Anthropology Dept, Tufts University, public historian focusing on food and farm history in New England.

Hay, Pastures, and Bobolinks We cut our largest hayfield late so bobolinks and grasshopper sparrows can nest, then fall graze the aftermath. This was the practice on most New England farms through the 19th century. This session will review the historical development of haying and grazing on MA farms, to open a discussion among participants about their grassland management and nesting birds.

Brian Donahue: Associate Professor of American Environmental Studies, Brandeis University; farmer.

19th Century Pears, A Ruling Passion William Lewis was a farmer and pear orchardist in Barre, MA from 1861 to 1895.  Using his daily journals and account books, with primary source research from the orchard advice literature he consulted, we will explore the orchard wisdom of the era: design, nursery sources, planting, grafting, fruit sales and over 90 varieties documented in his pear journals.

Christie Higginbottom: Garden historian and educator, coordinated the historic horticulture program at Old Sturbridge Village for 20 years.

Of course, there will also be lots of content on land care, wild edibles, food preparation, herbalism and more! Explore the program schedule at:

Check out last month’s Winter Conference article here for even more program info.

Register now for the conference and take advantage of our Early Bird rates!



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