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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Field of Hemp

Dr. Heather Darby, inspecting a hemp crop ready for harvest at the UVM research field. Image by Monica Donovan for Heady Vermont.

The knowledge of agricultural hemp production, once a common and lucrative crop in Massachusetts, has skipped over more than a generation of farmers. For the past 81 years it was illegal to grow, leading to the loss of local strains of crop genetics, regionalized cultural practices, and an interruption in the handing down of crop knowledge from parent to child and farmer to apprentice. With a new Massachusetts policy authorizing the commercial production of sun-grown agricultural hemp in the state, local farmers are interested in integrating agricultural hemp into their farm businesses.

This is why NOFA/Mass is presenting a full-day intensive workshop on growing agricultural hemp in the Northeast on November 19 in Amherst. The focus of this particular workshop is growing a hemp crop through flower into the seed phase for farmers wishing to produce an oil, seed or grain crop. We will cover genetics, soil preparation, fertility needs, pest and disease management, harvesting and extracting CBD oil on the farm with an eye to what the proper harvest windows and crop quality should be for a legal, marketable product.

crops in field

Rows of crops at Woven Roots Farm.

On November 4 NOFA/Mass folks of all sorts will be gathering to walk, run, cheer each other on, and share in a delicious farm food potluck to raise money for our high-quality organic food and farming educational programming and policy work. We are looking for team members and hope you will join us!

Your support will help us continue to bring in experts in agronomy, herbalism, nutrition, and food preservation and preparation, as we work to further our organizational literacy around soil carbon sequestration and its relationship to human and planetary health , all accomplished in our unique grass-roots, each one, teach one way.

feet with coffee cup

Summer is closing out for everyone and we hope that the growing season was a productive and fun time for everyone.  NOFA/Mass will be rounding out the year with lessons learned from seasoned farmers, highlights from Food Access programs in non -traditional settings, soil fertility with cover cropping and growing techniques that work with mother nature’s timing.  Listed below are the remaining webinars for 2018:

Farmer with Vegetables

Photo Credit: Suzy Konecky

Health in our population is at a crisis point. Most conventionally available food is taking its toll on our health. Not only are carbohydrates and sweet treats to blame, but other foods that were once health-giving are no longer because of gylphosate residues, genetic mutation, and poor nutritional value due to depleted soil fertility.

NOFA/Mass is seeking partners for a workshop series that will teach the best organic, no-till practices to grow healthful ingredients, and then share recipes and methods of incorporating those ingredients into traditional meals and favorite dishes. The workshops will be presented as a three part series:

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.

Summer Conference

Event, Summer Conference

April might have been a cold, slow month, but May came running in like a freight train! Here we are in June, summer upon us, trying to make heads or tails of what happened this spring. Unpredictable weather patterns – from record temperature lows to record temperature highs, from droughts to freak wind storms – raise the difficulty level of farming a notch every year. It’s easy to feel isolated in these challenges; it seems that every farm has its own individual micro-climate throwing us all into our own siloed chaos.

The good news is that there are folks out there, from every corner of the Northeast, willing to share their experiences in battling this chaos. New techniques are debuted, and old techniques are also demonstrated to be tried and true. Resilience comes from building soils through regenerative farming practice, dedicated cover cropping, and an improved knowledge of what happens beneath our feet. You can learn all of this, and much, much, much more, from our presenters at the NOFA Summer Conference!

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.

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