By Caro Roszell, NOFA/Mass Education Director
January 2020

Communities across Massachusetts are standing up and taking action against toxic biocides and the dangers they pose to all living things– from the smallest insect to those of us at the top of the food chain. Local leaders and concerned citizens are mounting a defense of the vulnerable members of our ecosystems, from the Statehouse to the schoolyard.

With a raft of bills on pesticide reduction and pollinator protection before the state legislature (Pollinator Protection Act (Neonic Restrictions)Neonic BanLocal Option on PesticidesProtect Schoolchildren from PesticidesRestrict Glyphosate use on Public LandsGlyphosate BanProtect Groundwater from Pesticidesand with 29 Massachusetts communities that have already established some level of municipal action on pesticide reduction/pollinator protection, there is no better time to join the movement to protect our ecosystems and our health!

Related: “Have you talked to your state legislators about glyphosate? (Please do this month.)” -Read this month’s policy update.  

Start out your 2020 with a solid grounding in both the activist tools and the hands-in-the-earth practices that you need to move your home, your school, your campus, your town– and maybe even your whole Commonwealth to a toxin-free future!

Here are all the ways you can join NOFA/Mass in this first month of the new year to learn how to achieve your goals for a toxics-free environment:

January 6th-9thNOFA Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care. This 30-hour, 4-day course for land care professionals, horticulturalists, master gardeners, and municipal land managers provides a complete grounding in the principles and practices of creating and maintaining landscapes without the use of toxic chemicals. Attendees leave with the confidence to transition the land they manage to organic practices. This is a perfect course to encourage your local municipal land manager, committee officials and school grounds manager to attend! Past attendees include landscape staff of high profile pubic greenways like the Arnold ArboretumLook Park and the Rose Kennedy Greenway, as well as successful businesses like Pumpkin Brook Organic GardeningHyannis Country Garden (where my family has bought our Christmas tree for over two decades!) and the leadership of some amazing non-profit groups like Full Circle Earth and Protect our Cape Cod Aquifer. If you would like to attend just one day of the course, you can view the Course Schedule and email to register.

Yellow butterflies on pink native flowers

Butterflies enjoying native flowers
Photo credit: Caro Roszell

January 10thA Regional Gathering for Glyphosate Reduction & Organic SolutionsJoin NOFA/MassToxics Action Center and Regeneration Massachusetts for a day-long activist training and movement- building gathering on glyphosate use reduction. Through knowledge downloads, breakout sessions, and case studies we will learn the most impactful facts about this dangerous chemical, practice employing our knowledge in persuasive conversations, explore the tools we have available in our movement, and hear a case example of two activists who were successful in banning glyphosate on a town level. Come, meet others who are working for change, and learn how to be a part of the solution!

January 11th: 2020 NOFA/Mass Winter Conference: A Toxin Free Future. Our 2020 Conference focuses on moving past toxics for a healthier future. Our Keynote speaker is the award-winning journalist Carey Gillam, author of the book Whitewash: The Story of a Weedkiller, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science. Our workshop program features over 65 workshops focused on the stewardship of healthy agricultural ecosystems and landscapes, policy and organizing, and a track on native plants and pollinators.

Here are a few examples of our Winter Conference workshops that feature information on native plants & pollinators:

  • Small-scale Propagation of Native Plants from Seed: Learn the basics and get introduced to some of the complexities of growing native plants from seed, including seed collection, stratification, and propagation. This workshop is ideal for the home-owner or small farmer looking for inexpensive and gratifying ways to support native insect populations by adding native plants to the landscape. With Adam Kohl: Owner of Kohl Gardens; ecological design, native plant nursery, & fine gardening.
  • Regenerative Apiary Management for the Northeast: Chemical free methods & strategies for effective apiary management in the Northeast.  Strategies include brood breaks, backyard queen rearing, mycelium inoculants, and planting for pollinator support.  Strategies will be accessible for beginner and intermediate beekeepers.  With Angela Roell: Angela Roell runs They Keep Bees, a project of Yard Birds Farm in Great Falls, MA
  • Farming for Biodiversity: Designing Native Pollination Systems: Most efforts to create pollinator habitat have only increased common species, rather than the range of wild pollinators needed for ecosystem health and resiliency. We will explore the critical role of plant selection in designing and planning for pollinators. With Evan Abramson: Pollination Systems Designer + Planner at Landscape|nteractions.
  • Small Farms Start Beekeeping Program: We will use Drumlin Farm’s sustainable and chemical-free beekeeping program as a case study to explore how small farms can integrate bees into their system. With Mel Gadd: Beekeeper 14 years. 2017 Mass Beekeepers Beekeeper of the Year.
  • Responding to Rapid Insect Population Collapse: We can take action now to stabilize crucial populations of life at the base of the food web. This workshop will explore specific ecological design interventions for the design of pollinator support systems across scales – home, neighborhood/town, farm, and watershed. With Connor Stedman: Lead Designer & Ecologist, Appleseed Permaculture.
  •  How to Work with Poison Ivy Organically: Poison ivy is everywhere!  Is there a way to get rid of it without harmful chemicals?  Find out the who, what, and where of poison ivy.  We will cover the characteristics of poison ivy, how to prevent exposure to it, and how to control it organically. With Cathy Harragian: Orchardist & Professional Gardener, Bird in the Hand Farm.

Can’t be with us in person, or you still want more information after attending an in-person event? We have a webinar for you and a way to stay engaged year-round!

January 28th 2020: NOFA/Mass Webinar: Farming for Biodiversity: Designing Pollination Systems to Sustain Native Wildlife

In this webinar we will explore the critical role of plant selection in designing and planning for pollinators. We’ll break down the science behind crop as well as native plant pollination; explore the crucial role that native pollinators play in food security, ecosystem health and climate resiliency; and take a deep dive into farmscape design for native pollinators. With Evan Abramson: Pollination Systems Designer + Planner at Landscape Interactions. Designing biodiversity through pollination science.

January 2020 and onward: Want to activate your community to ban biocides and become an organic community? We want to help. NOFA/Mass and Toxics Action Center are hosting ongoing monthly “local leaders teleconferences” through the Community Pesticide Reduction Network to help connect local activists. Learn how to join the Network! 

As we begin the new year, we thank you for being a part of our regional organic community. We thank you for helping to protect our irreplaceable ecosystems, for dedicating your time and attention to the knowledge-craft of working with living systems, and for stewarding a future rich with biodiversity.