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

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.

jars of herbs

This year at the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference we will be focusing on the theme of Food as Medicine. We will have tracks on farming, homesteading and gardening, as well as cooking, no-till farming, and livestock, but we encourage our presenters and attendees to think about these topics in terms of the relationship between soil health, food quality, and health outcomes for people and communities.

With that in mind, our intensives this year will focus on the relationships between growing, eating, and well-being. This year we have options for gardeners, farmers and for those interested in growing mushrooms. Intensive workshops at the conference are designed for conference goers who would like to go deeper on a particular area of study, and spend the whole day with one presenter pursuing one subject.

winter conference class

The first snows have fallen, the ground is frozen, the hoop houses are buttoned up and the root veggies stored – and the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference is nearly here!

In less than two weeks (January 13) we will see each other at Worcester State University for the 31st Annual NOFA/Mass Winter Conference. The time has come again for growers of all sizes to gather together in the midst of winter to share the collective wisdom of our shared experiences and intentions as cultivators of the land.

harvest

This year at the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference on January 13, the opportunities for exploring and furthering your education, connections and resources are deep and overflowing. Our keynote speaker, Gabe Brown is an internationally recognized regenerative farmer with knowledge we all need to build our soils and to collectively contribute to global carbon sequestration. The timing is perfect, as you and I collectively represent thousands of acres with the potential to make a tremendous impact on global warming. See our October Newsletter article for more on Gabe.

This year we have three all-day intensive options for those of you seeking to get ultra-specific in learning about one of these three topics: Refining Fertility SystemsEdible Forest Gardening or viewing The Farm as an Ecosystem. If a comprehensive full-day workshop is your interest this winter you can check out the All-Day Intensive options.

Gabe Brown and his son

2018 Keynote Speaker Gabe Brown and his son on their ranch (Photo credit Gabe)

Implementing practices that protect and improve soil health is a commitment NOFA/Mass has held for over 30 years. Healthy soil, healthy food, and healthy people are indivisible goals. This basic premise has been the foundation of NOFA’s work for decades and many farmers and gardeners have achieved increased fertility from their land and nutrition from their food for decades by coming together each year -- sometimes, many times each year-- to skill-share at NOFA/Mass events.

The 2018 NOFA/Mass Winter Conference – to be held January 13, 2018 at Worcester State University – will explore the regenerative aspects of organic land management and food production. Gabe Brown, renowned farmer and rancher, will deliver our keynote address. Brown has shifted toward continual plant cover, zero-tillage, intercropping, multi-species grazing, and high-diversity cover crop cocktails. These changes have increased both soil health and farm profitability.

The NOFA/Mass Winter Conference will be held January 13, 2018 at Worcester State University. Regenerative farmer and rancher Gabe Brown will give our 2018 keynote address. We will have 60+ workshop options, including a track on innovative cover cropping strategies to complement the keynote.

We are currently seeking presenters so if you have knowledge to share, please submit your workshop soon. Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis, so submit early. We look forward to hearing from you!

Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser were keynoters at 2017 Winter Conference

Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastapol, California, were the keynote speakers for the 30th annual NOFA/Mass Winter Conference. On January 14 at Worcester State University they spoke to 800 farmers, gardeners, soil scientists, extension agents and others involved in New England food systems.

They came with a message – that agriculture has been one of the greatest contributors to climate change in human history, but it is also our best hope for mitigating climate change. The Kaiser’s assert that by adapting their practices to sequester more soil carbon, farmers can simultaneously improve the health of their crops, soil, and finances.

The NOFA/Mass Annual Winter Conference is less than two weeks away. With over 900 farmers, gardeners, activists and consumers, this day of intensive learning will get you fully inspired for the 2017 season! We have an amazing program planned with over 70 presenters, 60 exhibitors, a delicious and hearty organic lunch, a children’s conference, a raffle and more!

If you haven’t heard already, this year’s keynote speaker and co-presenters of our intensive seminar are Paul & Elizabeth Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, CA. Together they bring a wealth of techniques and experience with them from their successful no-till operation. Their small farm situated in northern California grosses over $100,000 per acre, pumps out up to seven crops per bed per year, and has achieved a 400% increase in soil organic matter over the six years since they stopped tilling. The Kaisers utilize no sprays (even organic ones) and are certified Bee Friendly. That means they spend more than “98% of their time transplanting and harvesting” says Paul Kaiser.

2016 Winter Conference Workshop

November was a time of fevered distraction for most of us, as we watched an administration change take place in our country that is expected to call into question all current national efforts toward climate mitigation.

We must now refocus. We must redouble our efforts on a personal and community level to reduce carbon emissions, sequester carbon, and support sequestration efforts.

There are many things we can and should all be doing, such as carpooling or taking transportation alternatives, eating lower on the food chain, avoiding industrial meat entirely, air-drying clothes, composting – the list goes on.

But a critically important part of addressing climate change is soil carbon sequestration, or “carbon farming”, which is increasingly attracting the attention and support of organizations in the US and across the world.

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