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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Soil

Learn About & Give Input to Statewide Climate Resilience

This year, NOFA Summer Conference attendees and any interested members of the public will have an opportunity to give input during the Fair to a Massachusetts statewide plan for enhancing soil health, soil carbon, and soil resilience across multiple land uses. We will be gathering from 4:30-5:30pm on the lawn near the conference registration tent to share information and ideas about planning for soil health across the state.

ABOUT THE HEALTHY SOILS ACTION PLAN

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) and the Massachusetts Commission for Conservation of Soil, Water, & Related Resources have embarked on a broad public planning process to research and write a plan for how Massachusetts can best support land uses including farming, forestry and urban development for climate change resilience and mitigation. 

Radishes Push out

We get this question a lot, or some version of it, such as the comment “My radish roots hit the hardpan and instead of going through it they pushed up and out of the ground.” Why does this happen?

The explanation lies in understanding how compaction limits root growth and understanding why radish so often works so well to alleviate compaction. The limiting factor to root penetration is not so much the hardness of soil, but the oxygen content of soil. Roots must have at least 10% oxygen in order to grow. Since oxygen comes from the soil surface and diffuses down through the pore spaces in the soil, the oxygen content is highest near the surface and decreases with increasing distance from the surface. Any layer of soil with limited pore space will act as a barrier to movement of soil oxygen, and thus as a barrier to root growth.

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.

no glyphosate

There’s been so much good/bad news about glyphosate recently (good for Life, bad for biocide backers), it’s been hard to keep up. (This news stream updated almost daily.) We have some recent major developments to share with you, the Mass. organic movement, in hopes that you will share these updates with your state elected officials and call for action on glyphosate!

Short on time? Use this form to send a message about glyphosate to legislators within seconds.

  HEADLINES:

ifoam logo

NOFA is honored to be hosting this year’s Organic Farming Innovation Award (OFIA) Summit on Saturday August 10  at the 2019 Summer Conference!  Founded in 1972 and with around 800 members in over 127 countries, IFOAM - Organics International represents the global organic movement. Its main activities include facilitating capacity development for sustainable production; raising awareness and acting as a resource center for organic communications; advocating for and supporting the creation of a policy environment conducive to positive change.

We are looking forward to hosting IFOAM - Organics International community members and are excited to learn from their organizers. IFOAM - Organics International will be leading activities during several workshop slots at the Conference on Saturday, which all conference attendees are welcome to attend (no special registration pass is needed).

Nitrogen is one of the most important elements in agriculture, a kind of chemical Jekyll and Hyde, an element of twists and turns and contradictions. It is usually the most limiting nutrient for plant growth in soils, and yet is one of the most abundant elements in the atmosphere. Nothing is more responsible for the problems and successes of industrial agriculture than Nitrogen. How to responsibly manage Nitrogen is a topic that causes many organic farmers to become philosophical, opinionated and at times self-righteous. Friendly arguments on the subject have been known to become as heated as an unturned pile of manure and straw. And with good reason!

What other substance has such a profound impact on the health of our soil, the nutrition of our food, our financial bottom line, purity of our groundwater, the formation of dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, use of fossil fuels, climate change, global inequality and corporate colonialism? In short, the way we understand and use Nitrogen is important not just to the success of this year’s crop but also to our farms’ relationship to the broader environment. Regenerative agriculture hinges on the responsible management of Nitrogen.

There is still time to show your support

There is still time to show your support

Thanks to an outpouring of calls from organic advocates across the state, several of our priority proposed state laws have started the session with great momentum. The results of the January cosponsor drive surprised even the most optimistic advocates and bode well for the possibility of real change toward a regenerative and pollinator-friendly Commonwealth!

We’re seeing the most impressive numbers on our top 3 priority areas (not a coincidence):

soil Science

This is the third edition of this Soil Science Mini Series with Noah Courser-Kellerman of Alprilla Farm in Essex, MA.

A Conversation with Noah Courser-Kellerman: What is Cation Exchange and why it is Relevant?

Interviewer: Julie Rawson, Executive Director, NOFA/Mass

Julie: What are cations/anions? 

soil formation

New England is a weird place to farm. We live in a mostly tree covered landscape of rolling hills, weathered mountains, deep ponds, swamps, rivers, outcroppings of bedrock, and once in a while, some really nice soil. In many areas, soil can change from heavy, wet clay to rocky, sandy soil in a matter of a hundred feet or so. This patchwork effect is increased by the crosshatching of millions of miles of stone walls built by the first European farmers in this area as they tried to eke a living from the rocky ground. It has even been posited that the orneriness of New England’s soil is at least partly responsible for the same trait found in its farmers.

But where did this landscape come from? Why are we blessed with perched water tables, endless crops of “New England Potatoes”- field stones- and house sized boulders seemingly dropped from space in the middle of our woods and fields?

Regional Soil Carbon Community

As many in our NOFA/Mass community know, we have been working hard as an organization to understand, educate about, and assess soil carbon. Part of that effort is an on-farm testing program that uses a set of nine protocols to assess soil carbon sequestration capacity. Tests include aggregate size, prevalence and stability (resistance to weather erosion), reactive carbon (oxidizable carbon), relative compaction, bulk density, respiration and surface biology. The tests are drawn from NRCS field testing protocols, Cornell field testing protocols, private labs and other sources like the Soil Carbon Coalition.

This month I was honored to be invited by Future Harvest CASA (Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture) to present to a group of eastern-regional leaders on soil health assessment / soil carbon measuring. About ten representatives of regional organizations presented their approach to soil health assessment and technical support.

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