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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Health and Nutrition

The world has dramatically shifted in the past month. A tiny virus has changed everything. COVID-19 went from being the butt of social media jokes about the CDC overreacting, to causing multiple states to call for “shelter in place” or, as in our state, “stay at home” orders. This time of quarantine has left all of us reeling and feeling isolated in what feels like just moments. And the food system has taken a particularly hard hit. 

Like the way an avalanche begins with a tiny rumble, then overtakes the landscape to leave only what can hunker down and hang on for dear life, this virus has leveled our country's way of selling and buying food down to barren grocery store shelves and a supply chain stretched to its limit.

 

During the health pandemic that we are all currently facing, the need to procure healthy, nutritious food has become more apparent than ever.  An even more immediate need that communities and families have uncovered is the ability to determine and control the quality of food that our families consume.  For many of us in the Mason Square area of Springfield, this can be difficult due to the shortages of food in stores nearby.

With the challenge faced by the unavailability of fresh food and the difficulties of traveling, especially when the household does not have access to a car, more and more people are looking to bring the “store” to their homes.

I hope you are reading this in your cozy, physically distanced home where you are able to make the most of the unexpected quiet time and even possibly make progress on your seedlings and farm planning for this season. If there is a silver lining to this moment, may one of them be our ability to put extra focus on the plants this spring, undistracted by other busy-ness.

If you are in need of some inspiration or information for starting those seeds, check out our first impromptu webinar from our free “Resiliency Skills Online Gatherings” series entitled “Seed Starting Systems at Home”.

 

Lately there has been a lively discussion about what diet best combats climate change across a range of mainstream and social media platforms.  

Every major food movement—from vegetarianism to fortified grains to the organic movement—is motivated by the conjoined aspirations of better health and a more ethical diet. Yet movements are fueled by proclamations short enough to fly on banners, and—as with every endeavor involving the intersection of human infrastructure and the broader ecosystems in which we live—reality refuses to be condensed to a slogan.   

With climate change rapidly becoming the irrefutable issue of our time, the food movements are seeking to hang the banner of “climate change solutions” on their castles. But who has the right to claim this flag?  

New Webinar

Inspiring Ideas from Experts in The Field is entering its 4th season.  This year, the education menu for our viewers continues to grow and bring new presenters and exciting topics.  This year NOFA/Mass will focus on pollinators, the connection between healthy food and healthy bodies, and the repair of damaged soils in urban settings.  Here are some of our spring webinar offerings:

Winter’s chill is just around the corner which naturally means our community of farmers and gardeners are about to go into hibernation to review the season’s notes and process the past year’s successes and failures in order to greet Springtime with renewed energy and enthusiasm. Maybe that means lots and lots of reading, or many group conversations or maybe it means a whole season’s worth of contemplation and reflection.

Whatever your style of winter study is, we hope the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference is part of your curriculum. This year’s conference will be held on Saturday January 11, 2020 on the campus of Worcester State University. It is our 33rd annual Winter Conference.  Save the date, mark your calendar to register early and make plans to bring your inquisitive nature, wisdom and joyfulness to celebrate your community of earthy, progressive, soil loving, like-minded friends and neighbors. Everyone is welcome and we hope the program suits your needs.

Soil Science

In the previous installment, we delved into what nitrogen is, why plants need it and how plants, bacteria and humans get it. Today we will delve into how it moves through our farms and interacts with global systems. The concept of a biogeochemical cycle is useful in thinking about how elements behave on a micro and global scale. As can be seen in the roots of the word, a biogeochemical cycle involves biological, from organism to ecosystem, and abiotic systems such as the atmosphere. It makes sense, on a planet whose continents appear green from photosynthetic organisms from space, that life is a driving force inextricable from chemical and geological processes. Humans, of course, need to come to terms with this reality. We cannot live on the planet without changing the planet, and the kind of planet we will have to live on will be the direct result of our actions. Other examples of biogeochemical cycles are those for water, carbon and sulfur.

An Interview with Ana Maria Moise

Come to Ana Maria’s workshop on Thursday, June 13, 2019 in Springfield, MA.  I read this book and found it very thorough. It helped me really understand for the first time the role of all of the parts of our digestive system, from mouth to anus, and how what food we eat has a direct impact on our gut flora and its function.

JR: What sparked your interest in the human gut microbiome in the first place?

AMM: My background in medical anthropology led me to investigate the role of diet and lifestyle in preventing chronic disease. As I studied indigenous groups and learned about their relatively low rates of chronic illnesses like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, I learned that traditional diets offer protective benefits against these conditions. From there, I soon discovered that there are key differences between our Western gut microbiomes compared to traditional populations. Knowing that diet is the most influential factor on the gut microbiome, I started to explore the connection between nutrition, microbes, and our health. 

HIP

On March 21, 2019 NOFA/Mass will be supporting the coalition efforts of the MA Food System Collaborative by participating in a “Lobby Day” at the Mass State House, “as we come together as farmers, SNAP recipients, and advocates to talk to legislators and staffers about the HIP program, and urge them to include $8.5 million for the program in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.”

 

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.”

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