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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NOFA/Mass Enews

Farming

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.

2018 Summer Conference

As winter begins to thaw, the fields call us back to tend and cultivate another season of healthful bounty. And as the USDA organic standards degrade even further in the face of the National Organic Standards Board allowing Hydroponics into organic certification and animal welfare regulations taking a huge step backward, the need for conscientious local food producers becomes more necessary than ever. What a time for organic farmers and gardeners to get better at doing their part to infiltrate the food system with the healthiest, most conscientious food possible!

Mark your calendar for August 10-12, 2018 when we will gather on the campus of Hampshire College for the 44th NOFA Summer Conference as a community set on maintaining transparent and upstanding food production methods consumers can rely on in good faith. Each summer the NOFA community looks toward its regional summer gathering to help keep the fabric of healthful organic practices in tact and to learn from the successes of many amazing people doing their part.

Guy Steucek

Back in the era of the Salem witch trials most of the residents were farmers and farming was a primary use of the landscape. Today, the only farm in Salem feels almost as if it’s on trial, struggling to gain acceptance as a commercial agricultural operation. Maitland Mountain Farm has been producing agricultural products for about a decade without issue. Now they are in a pickle, navigating the future of small farm viability in Salem as they encounter roadblocks in their need to build a packing house on the property to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act and grow their business.

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.

MDAR

NOFA/Mass is thrilled to announce that a USDA grant will enable us to offer soil technical assistance to growers in Massachusetts in order to improve soil fertility, crop quality, and yield. This project will also result in resources and workshops that will help other farmers implement similar soil health practices.

Jasmin Callahan

Jasmin Callahan

For this month’s edition of the newsletter I interviewed Jasmin Callahan, the Farm Manager at Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset, MA. Holly Hill is owned by Jean White, a long-time NOFA/Mass member. Jasmin shared with me some of her story.

“This will be my 4th season as head farmer at Holly Hill Farm,” according to Jasmin. “I started volunteering in 2001 and then worked as a seasonal farmer for two years. I took a long time off and did various other things. Then in the Fall of 2014, I was asked to undertake growing for our organic Plant Sale in spring of 2015 and I am still here now.

Brix Bounty tomato harvest (Credit: Brix Bounty)

NOFA/Mass is beginning 2018 with a series of webinars that focus on skill building for rural and urban beginning farmers, organic farming as a means to creating a just food system and the power of cover crops to increase soil fertility. 

Chuck and Marie

For this issue of the newsletter I called up Chuck Currie, a farmer who has been at it for over 10 years now, and is the proprietor, with his partner Marie, of Freedom Food Farm in Raynham, MA. I left this interview with a great sense of appreciation for Chuck and all that he works toward as an organic farmer trying to make a positive impact in his little corner of the world.

Freedom Food Farm was started in Rhode Island in 2012 but was moved to Raynham in 2014 when the land they were leasing was about to be turned into condominiums. In Raynham they are still leasing, in this case it is APR land. They have reached out to various land trusts to ask for help in buying the land, but because it is APR the land trusts have not seen it as a priority investment to support his land tenure. Chuck and Marie have been looking to go with the OPAV program – Option to Purchase at Agricultural Value.

pesticide free zone

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “the government closest to the people serves the people best.” Had he lived into the 21st century, he would assuredly have been appalled by the distance between the American citizen and the policies that directly affect their life and well-being. A few weeks ago, the citizens of Warwick, Massachusetts took one small, but significant step toward collapsing that dangerous distance.

In an effort to protect the townspeople from the increasingly well-known health impacts of glyphosate, a popular herbicide, the citizens of Warwick passed an ordinance that bans glyphosate use on public and private land. The effort was led by Selectman Lawrence “Doc” Pruyne, a retired reporter who’s resided in Warwick for six years.

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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