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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Winter Conference

Jason Valcourt

What an amazing day 1/12/19 was. The 32nd NOFA/Mass Winter Conference was a lively and engaging affair with an intimate and warm family vibe. We spent the day together with 850 enthused soil and plant lovers, had so much fun and felt many warm vibes on another cold January day. The theme of Food As Medicine was explored and discussed from many angles and the notion of Food As Medicine has taken root in our minds and vocabulary.

We would like to extend huge gratitude to all that attended, exhibited, presented, played music, promoted and made the day so powerful. We are looking forward to processing your evaluation feedback and beginning the journey to next year’s Winter Conference on Saturday January 11, 2020.

wc dinner

The 32nd Annual NOFA/Mass Winter Conference was enjoyed by more than 800 attendees from across the region. We spent the day learning together and networking, and after the Conference wrapped up, more than 100 people came together for the Post Winter Conference Dinner. The Dinner is a fundraiser for the NOFA/Mass Scholarship Fund, which supports farmers, homesteaders, gardeners and food lovers with limited income so that they can attend NOFA/Mass educational events at a discounted rate.

Winter Conference attendees with rapt attention

Winter Conference attendees with rapt attention

With the darkest days of winter behind us, we slowly march toward the exciting and exhilarating prospects of our farming and gardening missions. Like a moth to the flame, we collectively turn our attention to strategizing our approach to the upcoming growing season. And with a familiar delight, we relish the winter’s ruminations on those perennial questions that will determine our individual approach to this growing season. These questions that have been reverberating inside our minds, filling our notebooks and populating spreadsheets, now become slightly more urgent. We begin to work our calendars backward to the origins of the upcoming working of seed and soil. Some of those timelines seem imminent already.

For this reason, we curate 60+ workshop presenters and 60+ vendors to come together at the epicenter of our NOFA calendar of events, the annual Winter Conference.

whiteboard

I have been privileged to have seen John Kempf speak for the better part of a day several times over the eight years I’ve worked with NOFA/Mass. The first time was at the 2011 Soil & Nutrition Conference in Northampton Mass, when NOFA/Mass was still co-running that event with the Bionutrient Food Association. I remember sitting in pews in the church, hanging on every word. I remember most clearly from that lecture the idea that crops have the genetic capacity to yield so much more than contemporary farmers imagine or have seen (and have dramatically higher nutrient profiles) because almost all farming systems are essentially degraded ecosystems. The current standards for yield, crop quality, and growth rate are far from optimal and can be dramatically increased if the soil is remineralized, repopulated with diverse, beneficial microorganisms, and if crops have access to certain necessary minerals (in the right form) at critical stages like root development and fruit set.

Healthy Dinner

Mid-Summer CSA share from a Massachusetts Organic Farm. Enjoy a local, organic dinner with fellow organic activists

Join NOFA/Mass community members at the Post-Conference Dinner following a full day of workshops at the Winter Conference! All proceeds from this event go to support NOFA/Mass.

Starting at 6pm, the Annual Post-Conference Dinner will begin with a keynote address from Scott and Erica Muhammed, Co-Directors of SEED (Students for Education Development in Tuskegee, Alabama). This will be followed by a delicious, locally sourced, organic dinner created by the chefs at Worcester State University. Take this opportunity to continue conversations from the conference and network with like-minded individuals over food and drink.

No Till Track

Learn about tillage reduction from other farmers at the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference.

Here’s an interesting fact: there is approximately 15-20 times as much land under conventional (herbicide-dependent) no-till farming in the United States than there is total acreage under organic management, tillage-based or otherwise.

According to an article from The No-Till Farmer, “As of 2012, there were more than 389 million acres of total cropland in the U.S…. with 96 million acres falling under no-till practices for all crops — up from about 88 million acres… estimated in a November 2010 report.” But recent numbers ontotal acreage under organic management of any kind have ranged from 5 million acres (2017 USDA Agriculture Census Data) to 6.5 million acres (Mercaris Acreage Report).

field of crops

While the amount of acres in organic no-till acreage is a currently a decimal point on the number of acres in mainstream organic farming, many small-scale no-till farms can produce an enormous amount of food per acre. I’d like to touch on mini-farm crop density math. Many organic no-till farms are three acres or smaller, and use land that is near densely populated areas-- shortening food miles and giving peri-urban folks access to growing food and agricultural knowledge.

But the truly powerful thing about no-till small farms is their capacity to grow a lot more food on less acres than mechanized farms.

Winter Conference Dinner

Relax and network with like-minded people at the post conference dinner

NOFA/Mass is pleased to announce that Scott and Erica Muhammed, Co-Directors of SEED (Students for Education and Economic Development) from Tuskegee, Alabama, will provide the keynote address at the NOFA/Mass Dinner following the Winter Conference at 6pm on January 12, 2019.  

taking notes on a mushroom

If our soil could talk, what would it tell us this year? Have we taxed it for yield, or helped to build a thriving ecosystem that naturally supports a bountiful harvest? Have we become more skillful in fostering the plant-soil-microbe connection this year? Did our plants push through the yo-yo temperatures and the soggy August and the fungal pressure and the days without sun-- or did they succumb to rot and disease? These are the natural reflections of us garden dwellers that are nourished by our love of plants, soil, animals. and the community it draws us near.

biochar workshop on farm

Biochar workshop. Photo credit: Alicia Luhrssen

The roots of our food system are embedded in soil. Hopefully, that soil is rich, fertile, full of nutrients and alive with microbial life that will be mirrored in the fruits of the harvests that reach our tables. As NOFA/Mass explores the theme Food As Medicine throughout 2019, we will kick off the year with the 32nd Annual Winter Conference on Saturday January 12, 2019, headlined by keynote speaker John Kempf.

Regenerative practices breathe life into our soils. These practices also bring nutrition, flavor and redemption to a landscape of food systems born from artificial methods – ones that fake nature’s majesty fairly well, but at great cost. Human health, environmental health and the health of our communities are all tied to our food system, and our soils. Nutrients in our food and carbon in our atmosphere meet in the realm of our soil. We as farmers, gardeners and land stewards can make a significant impact and contribution to the regeneration of depleted soils and systems. We hope you can join us for the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference where together we will learn methods of growing and preparing healthy and heathful foods at any scale – from fire escape containers to production-scale acreage.

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