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

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.

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.

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