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

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worms in soil

Soil testing is an important tool for anyone growing food, especially if the goal is to produce a nutrient-dense crop. But there is more to soil than its mineral content. NOFA/Mass is currently offering a series of workshops on soil testing and interpretation, which includes a lesson on both lab test interpretation and how to take your own carbon proxy tests. The series begins with Earthworms, Calcium, and Aggregates, Oh My: Soil Testing & Interpretation for Growers on June 16th at the Urban Farming Institute’s Glenway Farm in Dorchester.

fog in the trees

As members of NOFA/Mass and the Bionutrient Food Association know, soil ecosystems (and their plant communities) are key to healthier crops – and also have a role to play in climate change mitigation. But what is the relationship of the water cycle to soil ecosystems?

According to Walter Jehne – renowned Australian soil microbiologist and UN climate scientist – soil carbon drawdown and the cycling of water through a landscape are interconnected phenomena. In fact, the increased water cycling of healthy, carbon-rich ecosystems may be the key to cooling the planet.

Constructing caterpillar tunnel

Constructing caterpillar tunnel

On Monday, February 26, NOFA/Mass and Berkshire Ag Ventures are partnering to offer an afternoon workshop, Advancing Season Extension in the Berkshires, with Jim Schultz of Red Shirt Farm in Lanesborough, MA and Jeremy Barker-Plotkin of Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst, MA.

Register for the workshop and find out more here: Advancing Season Extension in the Berkshires.

The workshop will focus on forward-thinking approaches to season extension. Jim Schultz will present his planning and construction process for an innovative, low-input, subterranean heating and cooling system called the climate battery. Installed prior to greenhouse construction, this system uses fans to store daytime heat and humidity underground where it can be released more slowly at night. This system helps to stabilize greenhouse temperatures, improving crop quality and reducing energy inputs.

As policy-makers busy themselves writing the regulations that will control the new cannabis market, many farmers and growers are busy figuring out how they can integrate the plant into their farm operations. To help farmers understand how this new market is likely to play out, NOFA/Mass and the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council (MRCC) organized a day of learning about craft organic cannabis cultivation.

Over 100 farmers and growers gathered at Hampshire College on December 12th to hear from veteran cultivators, advocates, and entrepreneurs on the future of weed in Massachusetts. Paul Brennan, a long-time cultivator and cannabis educator, spoke about the niche that craft organic growers are likely to inhabit. Like with beer, Paul said, the majority of drinkers are going to choose the cheap, mass-produced stuff - the Budweisers and Coors, in other words. But, just as we’ve seen an explosion in craft beer, there will likely be a market for consumers who crave soil and sun-grown cannabis that has been raised without pesticides and with care. As consumers begin to have more choices, they will become more discerning. And that’s where local, organic farmers can make their mark.

Derek Christianson

Refining fertility programs; and adjusting mineral based fertility through the seasons. This intensive is seen heavily through the lens of vegetable production. 

Derek Christianson is the owner of and head farmer at Brix Bounty Farm in Dartmouth, MA and is appreciated by many to be one of our farmer leaders in the organic and sustainable farming community. He is one of the few of us who makes the entire family income through farming, supported by his wife Katie and their three young children. We are lucky to have Derek present an all day seminar at the winter conference where farmers and gardeners can do some deep thinking and sharing around fertility management. This event is geared for the intermediate to advanced grower, regardless of size.

The Organic to Heal the Planet Fundraiser Run/Walk is fast approaching!  We are still looking for folks - runners, walkers, and individuals to donate to the participants' campaigns - who care about local, organic food and healthy soil to join us.  There are so many ways to do so: joining the team, sponsoring a member of the team, volunteering to be part of the event on the day.  Choose the one that works the best for you and visit nofamass.org/teamnofamass to get all the information you need! Want to know about one of the amazing people you could be running with? Read on to meet Paul our spokes-Chicken!

Gabe Brown and his son

2018 Keynote Speaker Gabe Brown and his son on their ranch (Photo credit Gabe)

Implementing practices that protect and improve soil health is a commitment NOFA/Mass has held for over 30 years. Healthy soil, healthy food, and healthy people are indivisible goals. This basic premise has been the foundation of NOFA’s work for decades and many farmers and gardeners have achieved increased fertility from their land and nutrition from their food for decades by coming together each year -- sometimes, many times each year-- to skill-share at NOFA/Mass events.

On October 22, NOFA/Mass will be hosting a seed breeding and sovereignty workshop at Round the Bend Farm in Dartmouth. Bill Braun, seed grower and farmer, is a main organizer of this, and there will be a number of seed breeders at the workshop. Read more about this workshop and learn how to register here

Bill and his partner Dee Levanti, and now their new son Bernard, grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit on about five acres at Ivory Silo Farm in Westport, MA, using sustainable practices and with great respect to biological diversity. When I interviewed him for this issue we were both in the throes of July and all that means – lots of heat (though less this year), lots of weeds, lots of pie in the sky dreams of the spring dashed as the reality of all of the challenges of the farm year have set in, but also looking forward to August where a lot of the early work starts to pay off in heavy vegetables, cooler nights and the calm that impending fall brings. We ran into one another again at the Summer Conference and shared a brief moment being chauffeured in the golf cart to Bill’s seed intensive. August was here and all was right with the world.

"You guys walk the walk," one NOFA/Mass member told us this spring when she sent her annual donation. "I am in love with NOFA. The whole organic world would be different without you."

On November 5, 2017, we will be walking (and running) the walk of the organic movement in Lexington, MA. The Organic To Heal the Planet Run is NOFA/Mass's yearly fundraiser and it makes our work possible! We need team members to run or to walk – please join us! Find out how to join the team here. Read more about it on our website: www.nofamass.org/teamnofamass.

NOFA/Mass has started another year of our “Inspiring Ideas from the Field” monthly webinar series. The series started in April and will feature presenters on soil carbon sequestration, biochar, no-till farming, urban gardening techniques such as bio-intensive growing, and other topics from our in-the-field experts. This year we’ve added Food Access topics to bring attention to urban farming and gardening work that is bringing healthy food to communities that struggle with food security issues.

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