The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

Growing Organically Since 1982

2019 Winter Conference Intensives


The Principles and Science of Developing Regenerative Agriculture Ecosystems

Presenter: John Kempf

Agricultural crops are often not performing optimally. As farmers and land managers, many of us are so accustomed to degraded ecosystems that we don’t immediately recognize the signs of malfunction. We don’t have a reference to know what healthy, optimal plant function looks like. In this full-day workshop, John will describe the principles and science of regenerative farming ecosystems that harness more of the energy coming into the system, and produce Olympic-athlete-level crop performance.

The knowledge needed to increase soil and crop performance by several levels of magnitude exists. By implementing what is already known, we can develop regenerative agriculture ecosystems in which soil health builds, crop yield and quality improves, pest pressure becomes less of a challenge, and crops are more resilient to climate extremes. When a truly regenerative eco-system is functioning well, the need for external inputs sharply declines.

In this discussion attendees will learn:

  • The science of soil-plant synergy.
  • How to manage specific aspects of plant development and yield components; for instance, how to increase fruit or seed size, or how to increase the number of seed or fruit.
  • How plants get energy from sources other than photosynthesis.
  • How to prioritize cultural management practices and product applications to produce the greatest ecosystem response.
  • How to develop disease suppressive soil by managing crop and cover crop rotations.
  • How to monitor the nutritional integrity of a crop throughout the growing season.
  • Why insects and diseases are attracted to crops with specific nutritional profiles, and how to prevent them.

This course assumes a foundational understanding of managing soil fertility and crop health. Participants should have a working knowledge of crop and soil management. This workshop will provide an explanation of the science needed to achieve 20-60% yield increases in many fruit and vegetable crops.

John Kempf is the founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture (a plant nutrition consulting company) and is the creator and host of the Regenerative Agriculture Podcast. As a farmer who grew up in and remains a part of the Amish community, John has a very special understanding of plants’ functional immunity. He sought out alternative approaches to prevent damage to his crops once they stopped responding to conventional pesticide treatments. With results proven on his own farm, John went on to found AEA to share his success and insight that healthy crops do not require chemical treatments or genetic modifications. John lectures internationally and is considered a leading expert in the field of regenerative farming.


Alex DorrMushrooms as Medicine: Growing Culinary and Medicinal Fungi

Presenter: Alex Dorr

Humans have been using fungi for thousands of years. In that time we have developed a lot of interesting ways to relate to them. From working them into our diets, to using them as medicine, to learning to cultivate them and even use them as building materials. During this intensive we will cover the ins and outs of mushrooms on the wider scale and then dive into how to cultivate and work with gourmet and medicinal mushrooms.

Session One: The Ecological and Agricultural Role of Fungi (9 am – 10:30 am)

What is a mushroom? Where do they come from? What are they doing here? And what can we do with them? We will cover the life cycle, ecological role and of mushrooms, and the basics of foraging. We will also get into the use of fungi in agriculture for mycoremediation, as well as natural disease and pest control on crops.

Session Two: Growing Gourmet Mushrooms (2pm – 3pm)

Let's get hands on and develop the skills to grow your own edible gourmet mushrooms at multiple scales, whether you are growing for your family or thinking about starting a commercial mushroom growing operation. We will cover the basics of growing Shiitake, Oyster, Lion's mane, Piopinno, Chesnut, Stropharia, and more. Methods discussed will include Log Cultivation, Bed/Garden companion Cultivation and Straw Bag Cultivation. We will then delve into how to start your own lab, commercial operation and small mushroom farm.

Session Three: Mushroom Medicine (4pm – 5:30 pm)

All Mushrooms Are Medicine. Ally with these powerful beings to create a life full of health and vitality. In this session we will discuss the medicinal properties of some of the culinary mushrooms already discussed, and then get into the benefits of different species including Reishi, Cordyceps militaris, Ophioglossiodes Tolypocladium, Maitake, Turkey tail and others. We will talk about how to foraging for choice medicinals, making mushroom medicine (tinctures, capsules, teas, and mushroom infused edibles and beverages). We will also touch on the current clinical research on psilocybin as a medicine, and then talk about large scale commercial Cordyceps militaris farming.

Alex Dorr is a mycophile residing from Amherst, MA. He is the owner and founder of Mushroom Revival, an organic Cordyceps militaris farm and organic medicinal mushroom supplement company based in Deerfield, MA. He is the author of the book Mycoremediation Handbook: a Grassroots Guide to Growing Mushrooms and Cleaning up Toxic Waste with Fungi and is currently working on his second book on growing culinary and medicinal mushrooms. Alex has worked in the commercial gourmet mushroom industry for the last five years, and frequently travels around the world teaching and doing research on fungi.


Christine planting garlicPlanning a Traditional, Four-Square Kitchen Garden

Presenter: Christie Higginbottom

Gardeners have praised the four-square garden design for centuries and with good reason. Christie will demonstrate how this design can create an attractive garden that incorporates vegetables, herbs and fruits. Integrating traditional advice from the past and modern gardening techniques, learn how to design and plant a productive and beautiful home kitchen garden.

Session One: The Plan (9 am – 10:30 am)

This session covers the four-square plan and its advantages combining vegetables, fruits and herbs, and enabling crop rotation. Topics will include choosing a site and laying out the garden, selecting crops, inter-planting and succession sowing, prepping garden beds, and techniques for crop spacing and support. We will also cover the role of perennial fruit crops in the four-square garden, including espaliered fruit trees, graes and bush fruits.

Session Two: The Crops (2pm – 3pm)

This session will focus on advice for success with popular home garden vegetables.  We will discuss each crop’s hardiness, planting/transplanting techniques, spacing, feeding, mulching, insect and disease prevention, and harvesting.  Vegetables covered will include onions and garlic, greens (lettuce, spinach and kale), root vegetables (carrots, beets and parsnips), peas, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes, cucumbers and squash.

Session 3: More Crop Details and Closing out the Season (4pm – 5:30 pm)

This session will complete the vegetable variety advice, and then we will move on to extending the season with a garden hot bed/cold frame. The session will conclude with advice for putting the garden to bed for the winter:  proper garden hygiene and planning for next spring’s fertility.

Christie Higginbottom is a garden historian and garden educator. She is a long-time NOFA/Mass garden educator as well as a presenter in a variety of garden-focused afterschool and adult education programs, including the Tower Hill Botanic Garden. For twenty years, Christie coordinated the historic horticulture program at Old Sturbridge Village, leading the research, planning, and planting of the museum’s historic household kitchen gardens

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