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

Julie Rawson

The roots of NOFA/Mass are sunk deep in the collective realization of a generation: that the institutionalized drive for domination and power is inimical to a peaceful and happy society. Formed in the 70s in the wake of the Vietnam war, the civil rights movement and the invention of dangerous chemicals used variously in warfare and in industrialized farming, NOFA was a envisioned as a space of mutual support, education and collaboration for those who sought to create farms and communities rooted in a more humble relation to natural systems.

From this fertile ground came many organizations, NOFA/Mass and her sister chapters being among them—that advanced a vision of a better world in which humanity takes natural systems for their guides and seeks a place within those systems; not as masters over them.

Tucked into a home on Stockton Street in Codman Square, Dorchester, Julie sat on the bed with three-month old Dan and leveled with Jack: she wanted to move back to the land.

Jack had, by this time, founded a cooperative game design company called Future Pastimes, later and Eon Products (which would go on to publish the games Cosmic Encounter and Dune, a board game based in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi universe) and was working as an organizer in Boston on policy issues like the bottle bill and progressive approaches to energy rates that would protect low-income residents.

“Jack was always the policy organizer, and I was always the street organizer, the grassroots door-to-door kind of organizer,” explained Julie, who had continued to work one day a week for Somerville United Neighborhoods (SUN) with her organizing friend Lew Finfer after starting to have children. Lew was the former roommate of Jack Kittredge who was responsible for Julie’s first encounter with Jack over the breakfast orange (to read that story, please see our first installment in this series). Julie’s job with SUN was to walk the neighborhood with SUN organizers as a “low paid consultant” who were organizing door-to-door for neighborhood issues impacting working class people, and occasionally for state and national campaigns according to coalition priorities.

The gifts of nature are all around us, and in the springtime they are constantly reappearing. Right now I am spending a lot of time with dandelions. Probably you knew already that dandelions are good for you. But did you know all the names it has accumulated over the millennia? Witch Gowan, Devil's Milk Plant, Lion's Teeth, Golden Suns, Clocks and Watches, Piss a Bed, Stink Davie, Heart Fever Grass, Dog Posy, Blowball, Peasant's Clock, Cankerwort, Crow-parsnip, Irish Daisy, Doon-Head-Clock, Fortune Teller, One O'clocks, Swinesnout, Wet-a-bed, Shit-a-bed, Bum-pie, Burning Fire, Clocks, Combs & Hairpins, Conquer More, Devil's Milk Pail, Fairy Clocks, Farmer's Clocks, Horse Gowan, Lay-a-bed, Male, Mess-a-bed, Pishamoolag, Pissimire, Pittle Bed, Priest's Crown, Schoolboy's Clocks, Shepherd's Clock, Stink Davine, Tell-time, Time Flower, Time Teller, Twelve O'clock, Wishes, Wet-weed, White Endive, Wild Endive (to name but a few!) The wide variety of charming and not so charming names for Dandelion portray many of the folkloric beliefs associated with it as well as reflecting its properties as a strong diuretic.

 

 

Julie Rawson’s memories of her Milledgeville, Illinois, childhood include pulling weeds in the garden with her mother, canning and preserving vegetables for the winter, and slipping in a pile of pig manure and getting covered in the mess from head to toe; “but it never really grossed me out,” Julie elaborates.  “My brother and sister and I spent hours in the summer down in the creek in the mud. I’ve always loved the tactility of the earth.”

Undaunted by a tumble into pig manure— that is unsurprising to those of us who know Julie, a woman who has built a non-profit organization and a diversified farm that includes fruiting trees and shrubs, several acres of vegetables, forest-raised pigs, pastured cows, laying hens, broilers and turkeys—a place where the movement of nutrients from gut to soil to plants to mouth are managed and directed and mediated by fencing, time, season, plant growth, and community of creatures – but the system is seen as living and whole and in concert, and not segmented.

We at NOFA/Mass are so fortunate to have had the strong leadership of Julie Rawson for 36 years.  How does one run an amazing farm, produce nutritious organic food, train new farmers, and also run a 1200-member non-profit organization that continues to thrive and innovate after all these years?  She continues to amaze all of us who know and love her.

With a goal of $100,000 the NOFA/Mass Healthy Future Fund is the biggest fundraiser that our organization has ever taken on. It is coming at a time when the world is in turmoil, but planning and seeing the future enables all of us to think about the bright future that we can have.

 

cannabis plant

Cannabis (Photo courtesy via Kirill Ignatyev Creative Commons License)

With all the publicity about the new law making the growing and distribution of adult-use cannabis possible in our state, who isn’t thinking about cannabis (formerly known by its Prohibition term, marijuana)? In December, NOFA/Mass held a very popular workshop at Hampshire College for folks who were interested in learning the legalities around growing this crop. It sold out and we promised to hold more of these events, bolstered by the Board’s spring 2017 decision that this was a topic we wanted to educate about.

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.

Organic Chickens

My husband Jack and I decided to get our farm certified in 1987. That was the second year that NOFA/Mass was performing certifications for folks in our state. And NOFA/Mass kept that up until 2002 when the Feds took over the word organic and NOFA/Mass spun off what is now called Baystate Organic Certifiers. Baystate and NOFA/Mass now have a convivial and arms length relationship. Our farm is still certified.

If you have been in touch with the organic news these days, the topic of certification is a very hot one. In October 2017 the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) decided to allow the certification of hydroponic operations, after a lot of pressure from the big hydroponic operators and despite a mighty effort by Dave Chapman, Davey Miskell and the “Keep the Soil in Organic” people. Around the same time, a very progressive animal welfare and outdoor access proposal that had been in the works for the National Organic Program (NOP) was close to passing, but was dropped by the new administration, listening to the corporate organic processors who didn’t want the higher egg and other input prices that would result. We are now living with a National Organic Program that allows animals to be raised with no significant outdoor access, among other things.

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.

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.

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