NOFA/Mass Technical Assistance:

Health SoilNOFA/Mass is a majority farmer-run organization and our staff and board have a wide range of experience and skills in soil health and fertility, organic production and certification, and best practices around potentially contaminated soils. We offer affordable technical assistance including soil lab analysis and inputs recommendations, soil health assessment, organic certification, and custom technical support. 

See the menu below for our various technical support programs, or contact Caro Roszell, Education Director, if you have a specific technical support need that you think our team might be able to help you with.

NOFA/Mass offers soil fertility recommendations for farmers, homesteaders, gardeners, and land managers across the state and beyond. We provide recommendations based in Albrechtian principles for soil cation balancing and addressing trace element deficiencies.

Contact Laura Davis to set up your soil test recommendation (lauradavis@nofamass.org) or email her your Logan Labs soil test results with a request for recommendations. For more information on How to use the NOFA/Mass Soil Fertility Technical Assistance Service, please read these instructions.

How to use the NOFA/Mass Soil Technical Assistance Service:

1) Get a soil test
To get our amendment recommendations, you will need to send us a soil test from Logan Labs.

Each soil testing facility uses different tests and methods, and although there are many excellent testing labs available, we have chosen to focus on one lab as we develop the program to ensure the consistency of our results. Logan Labs’ regular soil test is $25 per test (form here). Saturated paste test is a test of what is available to plants in the short term and sometimes can be useful to understand mobility of phosphorous and calcium. The saturated paste test can be especially valuable if you are testing in the spring when cool temperatures can effect mineral availability. The Saturated Paste test i $30, so both tests together on the same soil sample is $55. Be sure to follow Logan Labs’ guidelines for how to properly take a representative sample of your soil for testing. Avoid taking a soil test during a drought, after direct application of fertilizer, or using rusty tools for sampling – all of which can alter the accuracy of your soil test results. It is important to take the test at a consistent time every year; September is an ideal time for testing.

2) Contact our Soil Technical Assistance Program Staff 
Choose the Soil Technical Assistance Staff who might be most appropriate for your needs and specific requirements to get a NOFA soil test analysis:

Laura Davis can answer specific questions for farmers and small-scale growers, including information on organic certification requirements as you remineralize, amendment application recommendations and timing for small farms. Reach her at lauradavis@nofamass.org.

Allison Houghton can answer specific questions for gardeners, small-scale growers, and urban farmers interested in remineralizing. She can also address recommendations for soil toxicity concerns. Reach her at ahoughton@nofamass.org.

Anna Gilbert-Muhammad is knowledgeable on the topic of urban soils and heavy metals and may be able to help you address issues with potential contamination in your soil. If you think you might have lead or other heavy metals in your soil, and if you are growing in an urban or industrial area, please note that you have to specially request lead testing (extra fee required) if you get a soil test from Logan Labs. Alternatively, UMass Amherst does an inexpensive heavy metal test as a part of their regular soil analysis ($15/test). If you go this route, it would be very helpful for us to see both the UMass and Logan Labs test reports as having these two very different tests give a unique perspective to nutrient availability in your soil. Reach Anna: anna@nofamass.org

If you think you might have lead or other heavy metals in your soil, and if you are growing in an urban or industrial area, you may need some testing and

Anna teaching

Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Equity Director and Food Access Program Coordinator

support.

Anna Gilbert-Muhammad is knowledgeable on the topic of urban soils and heavy metals and may be able to help you address issues with potential contamination in your soil. If you think you might have lead or other heavy metals in your soil, and if you are growing in an urban or industrial area, please note that you have to specially request lead testing (extra fee required) if you get a soil test from Logan Labs. Alternatively, UMass Amherst does an inexpensive heavy metal test as a part of their regular soil analysis ($15/test). If you go this route, it would be very helpful for us to see both the UMass and Logan Labs test reports as having these two very different tests give a unique perspective to nutrient availability in your soil. Reach Anna: anna@nofamass.org

If your soil is having functional issues such as erosion, hydrophobia (difficulty absorbing and retaining moisture) or other issues with the physical properties of the soil you may need a soil health assessment. Check out our Soil Health Assessment / Soil Carbon Proxy Testing page for more info.

Carbon TestingHealthy soils are living soils, and soil life is carbon and stores carbon. Diverse soil organisms use carbon to form their bodies and to form complex carbon molecules that create pores in and support diverse habitats in the soil.  As soil organisms build their own habitats and participate in communities with plants, they manage nutrients, water, and carbon in the soil, buffer against drought and flooding rains, and keep plants healthy and all life more resilient. The greater the health and diversity of life in the soil, the more carbon it will hold and the more resilient our land systems will be in weather extremes. 

The Soil Carbon Proxy Tests use quantitative and qualitative metrics to give an overall assessment of the level of biodiversity and biological activity in the soil, which can be used as a proxy to assess soil carbon levels. These tests will help you get an idea of how well your soils are supporting life and storing carbon.

Of course, soils are complex and not easy to compare to each other, but variations in the same plot of soil over time can provide meaningful information about the impact of management practices. One day of tests will provide some indicators of soil health and provide the land manager with a snapshot of the tested area and recommendations for addressing resource concerns. Repeated annual tests (or even every other year) will provide information about change over time and allow the land manager to see the impact of their growing practices on soil health outcomes. 

We’ll come to your site to run a comprehensive series of field tests for you.  After the visit, we will send you the results of the tests and our analysis of what the data means in terms of your soil health and relative carbon levels. We will also provide you with recommendations tailored to your site, results, and goals. For more info or to bring us to your site, please email Caro (caro@nofamass.org) for Western Mass. or Jane Hammer jane@nofamass.org for Eastern Mass.

Soil Carbon / Soil Health Testing

NOFA/Mass Members: $40 per site tested

Non-Members: $65 per site tested 

Want to get your farm certified organic and don’t know where to start?  Stuck on portions of the organic application for certification?  New to your farm and want to start your farming career as certified organic? Don’t let the myths of organic certification prevent you from giving your customers the confidence they have come to expect in the certified organic label.  

NOFA/Mass has been around for more than 30 years educating organic farming techniques and once upon a time prior to 2002 they use to certify farms as well.  We leave the certifying and inspecting up to Baystate Organic Certifiers.  Because they are a regulatory body, they cannot consult, educate, advise you on certification as much as they would like to.   So they trained NOFA/Mass on the ins and outs of the organic system plans and enabled us to help you.  Continued education with Baystate will also address any gaps in knowledge we may experience along the way.  So if we don’t have the answer, rest assured we will find one. 

In 2014-15 NOFA/Mass and Baystate Organic Certifiers completed some project work that was funded by the USDA Sound & Sensible program. Please check out some of our local farms and certified operations on this video.

There are many more Sound & Sensible tools that have been developed by other farming and certifying organizations throughout the country. Check out our resources page. 

Who is answering my emails?

Laura Davis is a NOFA/Mass Board Member and the Certification Assistance Coordinator and is owner and farmer at Long Life Farm in Hopkinton, MA a diversified vegetable farm that was certified organic in April 2013 by Baystate Organic Certifiers. Please see an article that appeared in the NOFA/Mass newsletter about why I chose to certify. Please email lauradavis@nofamass.org  or call 508-596-1651. with your inquiries. I look forward to hearing from you! 

ORGANIC CERTIFICATION RESOURCES

Presentations and Workshops at your location  

What’s Going on Down There? Soil Health,  Fertility Assessment, and Climate Change Resilience for Growers, Gardeners, and Land Managers

We can come to your farm, event, business site, organization, neighborhood group, gardening club, school, etc. to do an informative presentation and demo of soil health principles and how soil relates to climate and more.  

We offer a mini  “field day” model, walking participants through the DIY Soil Health/Carbon Proxy Tests and more: after a tour of the host farm or garden, we’ll present a range of lab-based soil test results and demonstrate field protocols for monitoring soil health that you can do in your own garden or fields.  We’ll also discuss how these tests inform each other and help you the grower to better work with your soil biology for better soil function and climate resilience. This option dovetails with the Soil Fertility Technical Assistance and Soil Health Assessment/Soil Carbon Proxy Testing Services.

Presentations range from 1 to 2 hours, depending on content.  For more info or to bring us to your site, contact Caro Roszell,  508-360-0874 or caro@nofamass.org

Do you have a special technical support need? NOFA/Mass is a majority farmer-run organization and we have a range of expertise within our network. Contact Caro (Caro@nofamass.org) to describe your technical assistance need. We will let you know if we can help you with your specific request, and if we can, we will with you to create a custom plan and budget for your needs.

Resources