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Welcome Asher Lyon, New Winter Conference Workshops Coordinator

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2020 March Issue Newsletter

By Caro Roszell, NOFA/Mass Education Director

Asher Lyon joined us in February as the Winter Conference Workshop Coordinator. Asher brings many gifts to his position with NOFA/Mass, including his connections to Jewish farming traditions and the new Jewish Farmers Network, his experience in both perennial and annual crop production across a range of scales of production, and a strong interest in soil health.

Asher starts this coming spring as the Harvest Coordinator at Old Friends Farm in Amherst, and most recently worked as the Assistant Farm Manager at a Farm to Table startup in the Hudson Valley where he grew food for a retreat center on a three-acre market garden. Prior to that, Asher taught young people about farming and gardening at Eden Village Camp, while also overseeing their three-acre food forest orchard and acre of mixed herbs.

He first attended the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference after hearing about it from me, actually, when we worked together in the fields at Simple Gifts Farm (Amherst MA). Not long before that, Asher had completed the farmer training program at The Farm School in Athol, MA.

Asher has been attending farming conferences since he first started farming 6 years ago. In addition to the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference, Asher has attended the NOFA-NY Winter Conference, the Jewish Farmers Network Conference and a number of NOFA/Mass Soil Health Field Days and on-farm workshops. He has found great value in attending farming conferences, especially as a young farmer whose parents were not farmers.

 “I am a first-generation farmer, but historically I come from a tradition of Jewish farmers,” Asher shared, adding that he is actively involved in “developing the community of evolving Jewish farmers,” or Jewish farmers who are exploring and modernizing components of traditional ways of farming.

Asher explained that Jewish farming tradition involves farming with the Jewish calendar, integrating and tending to perennial crops, and following a set of biblical farming laws. One such law is pe’ah, in which each of the four corners of the field are planted and left for people who are in need to come and harvest. Another tradition is leket, the concept that if you have surplus, dropped food, or seconds, you would save those for people in need—an idea akin to the concept of gleanings. Other laws include shmita, a rule that every seventh year you actually take down your fences, not work your fields, relinquish ownership of your farm and certain debts are erased. Farmers would instead take a season of reflection and subsist on perennial crops and stored food.

  “It’s essentially an ancient crop rotation—it’s a fallow year. Of course, in modern times, it’s hard to give up ownership of your farm or take a year off production, so a lot of farms will do an ecological project such as installing a perennial pollinator habitat border as a way of honoring shmita,” he explained.  

Asked why he was interested in joining the staff of NOFA/Mass, he shared that his career interest straddles both production farming and farming education, and he feels that NOFA/Mass has a tangible impact on the farming community.

You can reach Asher by emailing wcworkshops@nofamass.org, and in addition to seeing him at the next NOFA/Mass Winter Conference (and probably lots of our other events, too) you can catch him at the Tuesday Market in Northampton (check out the Old Friends Farm booth).

Want to submit a workshop proposal for the 2021 NOFA/Mass Winter Conference? You can use the online submission form, but you can always reach out to Asher to run your idea by him and get some feedback first!

 

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