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Taking Presenter Recommendations for 2020 NOFA Summer Conference! Save The Date: August 7-9, 2020

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

By Jason Valcourt, Hannah Blackmer and Anna Gilbert-Muhammad

We Need Your Recommendations

The NOFA Summer Conference Request for Proposals is open until 12/31/19 and we hope you’ll recommend your favorite farmer to present at next summer’s conference. Send us your recommendations or forward the link to them so we can highlight their work next year. See below for specific needs we have and read on for more information.

The Current State of Affairs

As much as we would prefer not to admit it, here we are, staring down 2020. Perhaps some of us are facing it with trepidation? Nay, most of us? An unstable political climate is reflected in an unstable environmental climate, and every day it seems our world is at a greater risk than yesterday. How can we present a path for mitigating destabilization across the board? Fundamentally, every organism on this planet eats to live. And humans, well, we all live to eat. 

Yet while it is often said that food knows no boundaries, perhaps it would be worthwhile to impose some. In case you haven’t read it, or it’s been a while, you may be inspired to accept the challenge laid out by Food Solutions New England. Their aim is to get New England producing and consuming 50% of its own food by 2060. Did you know that 15% of New England’s population is still food insecure? As illustrated in the FSNE vision, 90% of New England’s food comes from outside New England. Only 10% is produced in our region: 90% (ninety!) is trucked in from elsewhere.

When we extend that New England vision into New York and New Jersey we have a NOFA sized challenge to pull towards. Put that together with our collective goals to increase regenerative agriculture’s impact on climate destabilization and, well, this community has a lot of work to do. 

What Will It Take?

Take one step further and imagine what it is going to take to actualize that vision. Local food systems need to grow and become more robust. More northeast farmland needs to be in healthful production, sequestering carbon while producing food. We have legions of young farmers not only seeking work on farms but seeking land to start their own operations. Major institutions like hospitals and colleges need to increase their conscientious sourcing. Overall, in order to increase the amount of food produced in our region that feeds our region, we need to propel more farmers into action. How can we get more farmers access to land and how are these farmers setting up for long term success? 

Likewise, wholesome food has to be accessible to all communities. Communities of color must have the ability to grow, procure and gain access to healthy produce locally and affordably.  Farmers of color should have the same access to sell and make a living with their farm goods and be able to gain access to land.

Crowdsourcing Your Favorite Farmers!

It is from this standpoint that we are building next summer’s conference program, and we are determined to make it a powerhouse. To that end, we are crowdsourcing presenter recommendations FROM YOU in the hopes that you can fill in some gaps we wish to highlight in 2020. 

Let us allow inspiration to cast its inviting glow, throwing that trepidation into shadow. Now is your time to help highlight a farmer or a person you admire who may not promote themselves to become a presenter of their amazing work. We want to know who inspires you? Who do you know locally that excels in their farming practices, breaks stereotypes, and has the potential to offer a rich dive into informative that will help other farmers thrive? The Summer Conference seeks to offer a program presented by humans and experiences that are as diverse as agriculture itself. 

We Need Your Input

Diversity in the soil has to reflect diversity in the food/farm community

Farmers of color and urban farmers are vital to the Northeast Farming scene and bring ancient knowledge of regenerative farming techniques.  They also shed light on the trials of accessing land and creating access points for urban communities to receive healthy produce.  Are there farmers in the seven NOFA states that you would like to see highlighted at the NOFA Summer Conference?  What farmers of color have inspired your farming practices or are doing amazing work in agriculture?  Who do you know that is blazing a trail in Food Justice?  What youth/urban agriculture organizations have inspired you through their work?

Teen Summit

Next summer NOFA will host the 2nd Teen Summit.  Last year, the teen summit brought over 70 students from across the region to participate in NOFA workshops, panel discussions that focused on youth advocacy in food justice and urban agriculture. Youth groups enjoyed an organic lunch from a local restaurant and networked with each other through icebreakers and games.

This year, NOFA will host another Teen Summit and we are looking for presenters that would love to present to youth on topics of soil fertility, facing the challenges of growing food in economic distressed areas, youth advocacy and other food access topics.  Let us know what groups/presenters are making a difference in their communities and are willing to share with youth farmers.

Women in Farming 

Who is the most badass female farmer you know? Who do you know that is farming on a large scale? She wrenches her tractor when it breaks down. She works through sunset and is up before dawn. She is running a farm primarily by herself or with the help she hired. She is producing massive amounts of food. We know you know someone that fits this description! 

From the American Farm Bureau statistics from 2018 they report:

  • Women make up 36% of the total number of U.S. farm operators; 56% of all farms have at least one female decision-maker.

From this Civil Eats article in 2016, the role of women in small scale organic agriculture is far greater.

Real Talk: Raising Children on Farm 

Who do you know that is presently or has recently managed to run a successful farm business and raise children simultaneously? We are seeking skilled parents that can speak to the realities they faced in juggling these two incredible feats: no small task individually, never mind together.

We hope you’ll recommend a farming All-Star in your world!

Please send general workshop ideas to: Hannah@nofamass.org

Please send Teen Summit workshop ideas to:

Anna@nofamass.org

And, feel free to submit a workshop or share this link with someone to propose a session.

Requests will be accepted until December 31, 2019.

We hope to hear from you!

Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Teen Coordinator

Hannah Blackmer, Workshop Coordinator

Jason Valcourt, Conference Coordinator

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