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

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!

Larry Najuch of Namac Farm

Larry Najuch of Namac Farm

Larry is one of six growers who will be participating in the Soil Technical Assistance grant that we received from the MA Department of Agricultural Resources. These six growers will work closely with Laura Davis and Caro Roszell on soil education through soil mineralization and carbon proxy testing and analysis. His path has taken him through both growing and supermarket produce management. He shares the insights and help he received from NOFA and his plans for his newly cleared farm for the long and short term.

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. 

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