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Danny Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm

Danny Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm holds up a beautiful blossum

Danny: I will be talking about a series of unconventional tactics – “guerrilla gardening” you could say – which involve breaking some of the cardinal rules, like planting dates, one seed per cell, long, straight rows, homogenous crops. By challenging conventional wisdom on season, propagation, spacing, etc, we can embrace a more opportunistic and improvisational mode of growing which can be surprisingly rewarding, if not altogether linear or planful.

A lifetime of gleaning and dumpster diving taught me to salvage everything and improvise endlessly on my five acre, micro-farm.  Hence, I garden around the calendar by keeping “libraries” of plants alive  – garlic, remnant brassicas, hardy seedlings, etc, to push the seasonal envelope as far as possible. Then I shamelessly transplant into passive, high and low tunnels to harness the margins of the thermometer and calendar. Sometimes it turns out really well...

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.

This is the first in a series of interviews with organic heroes from across the Northeast. Since 1984, Dave Chapman has been growing organic tomatoes at his Vermont-based Long Wind Farm. Until recently, he was content to keep his nose to the grind stone. But then, a few years ago, he started to notice something different about the organic tomatoes at all the grocery stores he visited: they were almost all hydroponically grown, and almost all were coming from just a few large companies. Surely, he thought, this must be an oversight, since hydroponics had been banned since 2010. He started petitioning, digging, and talking to figure out what this was all about. The hornet’s nest that he’s since dug up has become one of the most controversial issues in the organic industry. With deep integrity, Dave has been leading the charge to “keep the soil in organic” through rallies, presentations, and public education.

Forget tomatoes and microgreens. Cannabis is about to enter the Massachusetts marketplace, and according to some estimates it’s poised to become a $1.1 billion industry within just a few years. That would mean cannabis alone would exceed the entire total market value of all Massachusetts agricultural products (which comes in at just shy of $500 million).

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.

Greg Disterhoft

Greg will be running a NOFA/Mass education event Growing and Processing Medicinal Herbs on June 25 in Sunderland, MA. In preparation for his workshop, I interviewed Greg back in April to find out a little more about him and his operation. 

The demand for local, organic herbs is rapidly growing with the revival of herbalism and integrated medicine. This workshop will provide an overview of what it takes to grow and manage a successful herbal market garden. Full Kettle Farm’s Greg Disterhoft will walk us through soil, light & water requirements, cool and warm season herbs, annuals vs. perennials, transplanting, harvesting, fertility, and the maintenance of a variety of herbs. Greg will demonstrate how he propagates and cultivates a wide array of herbs (including high value herbs like ashwagandha, astragalus, tulsi, and clary sage).

On Earth Day 11 homes throughout the state hosted more than 170 folks – gathered at homesteads, farms, and gardens to share food and conversation. The purpose of the NOFA/Mass sponsored event was to promote connection around a vision of organic food, community, soil and land health, ecosystem vitality, and building a restorative future.

At 91, Mrs. Anderson still sells her garlic at the Farmers' Market behind Thornes in Northampton. She is also a part of a group of gleaners who clean up farm fields in the Amherst area, ensuring that good food does not go to waste. She cooked up fine Tennessee ribs to bring to the NOFA/Mass Earth Day potluck in Hatfield, held on April 22. When at the table, she struck up a conversation about soil, about the difficulty of assessing one's farm as a whole when there are so many variations from spot to spot and, of course, variations in what each crop needs.

Jen Salinetti farms with her husband Pete in Tyringham, MA in the Berkshires. They have been farming for 16 years together, the four years spent on their almost 5-acre farm. In recent years they have not been using tillage to grow their vegetables. Jen feels that by not disturbing the soil they have a considerable positive impact on carbon sequestration on their land. They have experienced a significant increase in quality and yields which has enabled them to create a viable business on a small amount of land.

“Pete and I started experimenting with no-till 13 years ago, and we are now going into year 11. Our initial experimenting began when we were looking to increase greenhouse production. We started looking into ways to do prep without the tiller. We saw some really great results after the first season. And then we expanded it out to our market garden. Through the process, we were able to set up permanent beds and maximize our earnings and outputs through proper spacing of plants. It was right around when our son Diego was born. We wanted to commit to farming, to be available for family life and to be home.”

(C) Matt Kaminsky 2016

On April 8 in Amherst, Matt Kaminsky, the author of The Wild Apple Forager’s Guide, will be teaching the workshop Fruit Tree Propagation Practicum: Grafting and Top Working along with Bob Fitz, lead orchardist of Small Ones Farm.

Malus domestica, the Latin nomenclature for the common apple, truly is an aptly-named species. From its early colonial days as the primary ingredient in hard cider, the drink of choice for most early New Englanders, to its current place as a centerpiece in autumn’s culinary delights, Malus domestica tells the story of our endless quest for sugar, intoxication, and control. No other fruit has been as shaped by the needs of the people it cohabited with.

OFA 2: Elizabeth Kucinich

Almost every industry and cause has an interest group in Washington D.C. working on its behalf. It would seem that organic farmers are no exception. With groups like National Organic Coalition (NOC), Organic Trade Association (OTA) and National Sustainable Action Coalition (NSAC) actively lobbying in D.C, one would think that the interests of organic farmers would be more than adequately represented. But just recently, a new organization called the Organic Farmers Association (OFA) has been gaining momentum as it gears up to be a uniquely farmer-driven policy player.

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