NOFA-NY Field Notes

NOFA-NY Field Notes Blog

Our blog “Field Notes” is a great way to stay current on organic farming, gardening, certification, policy, and community information and issues that we regularly share here. We help you stay on top of everything that relates to technical and practical organic farming and gardening, timely and important legislative policies, field days, conferences, consumer issues, and more.

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How We Help Connect People Without Access to Fresh, Local and Sustainably Grown Food...

Have you ever wondered how it’s possible to connect more people who typically do not have access to fresh, local, sustainably grown food with this opportunity? Well, our NOFA-NY Neighborhood Farm Share program is now in its 6th year of assisting income qualified individuals/families to do just that. Our program provides a subsidy of up to $100 to purchase a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share from a participating farm/organization. This not only helps connect more people to healthy, sustainably grown fruits and vegetables, but it also provides an opportunity for more people to forge relationships with their local farmers and find out where there food comes from. They also get the opportunity to interact with other CSA members, attend farm events or farmer’s markets, and participate in their community in a more direct, hands-on way than if they just go to the grocery store. And in many "food deserts," there is no local grocery store that sells fresh fruits and vegetables.

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View from the NOFA Interstate Council: We are Part of Something Bigger!

NOFA-NY is one of seven Northeastern state organizations that work together under the umbrella of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA). Other states include CT, MA, NH, NJ, RI, and VT. Known as the Interstate Council (IC), members of the IC come together annually to discuss cross-cutting issues that range from policy initiatives to organizational affiliations.

Last week, April 4-6, the IC met in Bourne, MA, a quaint seaside town on the base of Cape Cod. Executive Directors, staff, and Board members came together at Overbrook House. It was my first IC retreat and it was so fulfilling—and fun!— to spend time with such dedicated individuals focused on the organic food and farming movement of the Northeast United States. We learned how each chapter was attending to their membership; providing stellar educational programs; and addressing state policy work. We also had an opportunity to discuss how the new political stage may – or may not – impact the work we do. 

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Why the Organic Checkoff is Bad for Organic Farmers, the Environment, and Independent Family Farm Agriculture

In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed an organic research and promotion checkoff program (an assessment on organic sales) which could unfairly promote large organic processors’ needs over those of smaller, family farmers. USDA promotion/research/information programs focus on the marketplace. They are not about farmers or farming.

According to USDA, “These programs are designed to maintain and expand markets and uses for agricultural commodities.” Without a stated goal to increase U.S. organic farmers and farms, we believe this checkoff program will increase demand and encourage supply at the fastest rate and lowest cost through consolidation and global supply, never good for smaller, independent organic farmers or farms.

Organic is about more than sales—it’s the extra benefits to the environment and to animal and human health. Unless we preserve the viability and profitability of our farmers, and increase organic farmers and farms, we will not see these health and environmental benefits.

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Snow, Milk and Grains

Two days after the entire state of New York was declared a state of emergency due to a severe snow storm, NOFA-NY held our annual Dairy & Field Crop Conference in Liverpool/Syracuse. Despite up to three feet of snow, hearty dairy farmers, crop farmers, supporters and staff weathered the aftermath of the storm to attend the conference. Once again, I am inspired by the dedication of New York State's farming community.

Jack Lazor, our keynote speaker, provided a stellar speech, weaving personal stories into 40 years of farming. He started Butterworks Farm in 1976, and over the years constantly perfected the journey from small scale production to grass-fed management. Through hard work and commitment, he illustrated that being respectful and taking care of the earth and animals has benefits beyond the pocketbook. As he said so beautifully, "Generosity to Mother Earth doesn't cost, it pays." There is a true personal enlightenment from working with the land and providing food for your community.

Every year, the number of organic dairies in New York state increases. The Dairy and Field Crop Conference is a valuable opportunity to provide support and resources to the growing profession. Our trade show provided an array of business support for dairy and field crop farmers. From Maple Hill Creamery to the USDA to Country Folks, so many people are committed to providing the resources and tools necessary to collaborate and build successful farming businesses...

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The Next Green Revolution for Farmers?

Is industrial hemp the next Green Revolution for New York farmers, or just another pipe dream about crop diversification? Find out the real dirt at our NOFA-NY Dairy and Field Crop Conference, at our Friday morning, March 17th workshop. 

Join Chris Logue from NYS Department of Ag & Mkts and Susie Cody from NY Hemp Industries Association to hear the real story about the first field trials in New York State developed by SUNY Morrisville Agronomist and Assistant Professor of Agricultural Science, Jennifer Gilbert-Jenkins.

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What is "Agricultural Mediation?” Straight Talk; Fair Solutions"

What is "Agricultural Mediation?” Straight Talk; Fair Solutions"

More and more producers and agri-business owners are using mediation services to resolve disagreements or disputes that might escalate into more serious problems. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential way for people to handle conflict themselves without involving outside authorities.  Mediators help people communicate and develop workable options. The folks directly involved make the decisions.  Most importantly mediation offers the opportunity to improve communication and trust—which is crucial when conflict arises in business or family relationships.

The NYS Agricultural Mediation Program (NYSAMP) offers mediation services across the state for all kinds of personal and business situations. For example:

  • Unpaid bills or other debts
  • Neighbor complaints
  • Separation or divorce
  • Business planning
  • Succession planning
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Feb. 25 CSA Fair at NY Wine & Culinary Center

Feb. 25 CSA Fair at NY Wine & Culinary Center

Thanks to Meg Lindsay from the NY Wine & Culinary Center for this blog:

Are you seeking ways to incorporate fresh, local foods into your daily meals? Investing in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) allows you to receive fresh produce weekly - all season long. By becoming a CSA member, you’re investing in a “share” of locally grown fruit, veggies, meat, and more! There are different levels you can take part in that vary in the amount of food you receive to best fit your life style.

Not sure if investing in a CSA share is right for you? Stop by the CSA Fair at the New York Wine & Culinary Center (NYWCC) at 800 South Main St, Canandaigua, NY, Saturday, February 25 from 10am – 2pm. NOFA-NY will be there as well to help answer questions about organic farming and food.

 

 

Throughout the morning, the NYWCC Chefs will host cooking demonstrations in their Educational Theatre to show you how to best utilize some of the more unique items you may see in your share.

Don't miss Chef samplings at 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, and 1:30.

 

There will be 16 different farms showcasing what they do best! Participating farms include:

This special event is made possible through partnerships with MVP Health Care and Cornell University Cooperative Extension – Ontario County.

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Jack Lazor Guest Blog: A Farmer’s Thoughts on 100% Grass Fed Dairying

Jack Lazor Guest Blog: A Farmer’s Thoughts on 100% Grass Fed Dairying

Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm, keynote speaker at next month's Organic Dairy & Field Crop Conference generously shared his thoughts for this fascinating guest blog. Thanks, Jack!

One hundred per cent grass fed dairy products (aka “grass milk”) has been a relatively recent arrival to the dairy section of most natural foods outlets. The health benefits of 100% grass fed dairy have long been espoused by The Weston A. Price Foundation and others. When cows live on a diet from which grain has been eliminated, the omega 3 fatty acid profile increases in their milk. Grass fed beef has become quite popular because of the presence of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA’s) in the meat. Higher CLA’s reduce one’s risk of cancer and other diseases. These same nutritional advantages hold true for 100% grass fed milk products. 

We here at Butterworks Farm have long been interested in no grain dairy farming. For the past 40 years we have been grain growers as well as hay producers. Cereals (oats, wheat and barley) and row crops like corn and soy have fit neatly into our crop rotation with grasses and legumes. The straw byproduct of the grain is just as important to us for bedding our animals as the grain is for feeding them. We ground the grain into a dairy ration and fed our cows grains from our own farm as opposed to buying it from the “mill.” Over the years, as our soil health and fertility has increased, we have improved the quality of our forages (grass and legumes) to the point where we have been able to reduce the amount of grain fed to our cows to 4 ½ pounds at each milking. Standard fare on most high production dairy farms is one pound of grain for every three pounds of milk produced. Our ratio was closer to 1:5. 

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Reflections on the 2017 NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Reflections on the 2017 NOFA-NY Winter Conference

The NOFA-NY 35th Winter Conference is complete and we are in the processing stage. It was a whirlwind three days! As my first time at the conference as Executive Director, I was amazed at the enthusiasm of participants, the knowledge of the presenters, and the commitment by the NOFA-NY staff to make the conference successful! I was heartened by the true spirit of cooperation by the Saratoga Springs Hilton and City Center to work with us and ensure it ran as smoothly as possible. The food was outstanding, thanks to all our food donors and chefs. It all left me greatly inspired.

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The Josh Levine Memorial Scholarship

We are honored to share this blog by Scott Chaskey, farmer, poet, educator, and director of the Peconic Land Trust’s farm at Quail Hill. 

The wood waits, as if its most precious sap were stillness... (John Fowles)

Our first meeting is etched in my memory—that autumn when Josh Levine arrived at our farmshop in the beech woods, he was full of curiosity and passion for our community farm. Josh had an inherent tendency to dive into things: “How can I help…Can I volunteer today?”

 His enthusiasm, combined with an attention to detail, was  welcome, like a strong, fresh breeze off the Atlantic (a mile away  from Quail Hill Farm). He joined our team the following Spring, and those who met Josh on the farm and at the farmers’ market were  full of praise: he was energetic, committed, and he loved to  communicate about seedlings, plants, preparing food, caring for  the soil, and community agriculture.

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Support Biodiversity at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference

Support Biodiversity at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference

The NOFA-NY 35th Winter Conference is right around the corner! What a positive way to usher in the New Year! January is a busy month with several NOFA conferences and the Presidential inauguration. You may be deciding whether or not to join the hustle and bustle in Washington, DC or enjoy the activities and festivities of the Winter Conference. For me, that is a very easy decision. The NOFA-NY Winter Conference will offer a range of discussions, workshops and entertainment that not only recognize the changing of the administration, but also arm you with a trove of information and connections to last far beyond the next 4 or 8 or even 12 years! 

CR Lawn Photo Credit Jo JosephsonSpeakers include the eminent CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds, NYS Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets Richard A. Ball, and hundreds of experts in their fields. We will have workshops that improve skills to reduce tillage and increase the biodiversity of our soil. The Hands-on Horse-Powered Demonstration will expand the possibilities of decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. A Friday Roundtable Discussion will prepare you for the upcoming Farm Bill and address issues important to the integrity of organics and the vitality of our farmers.

And, of course, the first ever NE Organic Seed Conference within the larger Winter Conference is small_NE_Organic_Seed_Conference_Logo_V.jpgpart of the movement to ensure that the biodiversity of our seeds is saved and protected for generations to come.

Our workshops and discussion groups will delve into what diversity of our farmers looks like. We have “Dismantling Racism” workshop led by Keith McHenry on Saturday morning, as well as discussion groups for women, veterans and LGBTQ farmers and advocates. We aim to recognize our divisions, bridge them, and honor our diversity. Stephen Gabriel of Wellspring Forest Farm will organize a teach-in (or two) for Farmers in Action to prepare for civil leadership in the coming months and years. We will be live streaming the events in Washington, DC so you can stay informed of what is happening in the nation’s capital.

NACL_Theatre.jpgAs far as entertainment, we are thrilled to have a special performance by the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL), a professional, non-profit company that has created more than 20 original ensemble theatre productions and countless public spectacles since 1997. During the breaks on Saturday at 10:15am and 2:45pm, the NACL Theatre will perform a stilt skit to honor crop and human diversity for a healthy world. Our thanks to NACL Artistic Director Tannis Kowalchuk for stepping in and up to make this happen. We also will have a lively Jam session for people to pick up their instrument of choice and find their voice to honor our rich assortment of musical backgrounds and interests.

To follow our theme, all of us at NOFA-NY hope that the halls of the Saratoga Hilton and City Center will be filled with a Diverse group of people committed to nurturing the Biodiversity found on our farms. You won’t want to miss this!

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New York: The Next Beverage Empire?

Conference Workshops: Field to Flask: Farmers, Maltsters, Brewers, and You...

beerRegional drinking here to stay? A local revolution going on? Or a NOFA-NY Conference in Saratoga, NY? Well, as it’s not likely we’ll be seeing prohibition returning to NYS, so it's time to get out later this month and meet some of the folks who have led the way in making NYS the next Beverage Empire.

"The craft beverage industry has taken this state by storm, and more and more New Yorkers want to try their hand at making the next great Empire State beer, wine, or cider," Governor Cuomo has said. "The new law to help New York's craft beverage industry thrive “builds upon this increased interest, supports local agriculture, and breaks down artificial barriers to allow innovation and creativity to flow."

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The National Young Farmers Coalition at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference: Guest Blog by Sophie Ackoff

According to the last USDA Census of Agriculture, farmers over the age of 65 outnumber farmers under the age of 35 by a ratio of 6-to-1. But at the annual NOFA-NY conference, the future certainly looks brighter, and we see many enthusiastic young farmers who are anxious to learn more.

The local and organic food movements are inspiring a new generation to farm in New York, as well as across the country, but there are a host of barriers standing in the way of our success. Barriers like skyrocketing land prices and student loan debt keep young people from starting their own farm businesses or taking over the family farm. 

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Hope is Action: Seed Swap guest blog from Lisa Bloodnick

I let Purple Stardust bean seeds slip through my fingers into the pail. Pods split open revealing dusky purple beans with a speckled overlay. These seeds are symbolic of friendship to me. They have a story to be told of gardens and trades, one hand to another's... seed memories of sustenance and relationships. People have shared varieties of seeds with each other since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years.

With a handful of seeds in the palm of my hand, I reflect I am holding the history of a people. They tell a story of how at some point in time, someone identified this plant as having an intrinsic value that set it apart. Perhaps the flavor was more appealing, maybe it was a workhorse of a producer or the color patterns were pleasing to the eye. Maybe the plant was more resistant to fungus or insects. Whatever the reason, someone deemed it special and worthy of being saved. 
 
It appears that climate change is accelerating faster than scientists have predicted. Homogenized, chemical based, synthetic fertilizer-dependent industrial agriculture assaults biodiversity: soil health, overall ecosystem health and the number of plant varieties used in agriculture.
 
So, yes, the situation is bleak, even soul-trying. But as my favorite journalist once wrote, hope is action. If there is a way it is through strategic organizing and community building around these issues. We at the Experimental Farm Network are addressing these topics with a network of talented growers. 
 
A tangible way to be involved is to take part in the Seed Swap at the NOFA Winter Conference on Saturday night, January 21 from 6-9 pm. There are still some reserved tables available to present the seeds you have. If you have a special tomato or bean you have been saving, please bring them. The more the merrier! Contact Lisa at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

Bring your open pollinated seeds and your stories. Let's carry on a 10,000 year tradition. We will "seed" you there!
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Q&A with Tradd Cotter from Mushroom Mountain

We're so excited that Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain will be presenting three workshops at our NOFA-NY Winter Conference, Jan. 20-22. He was generous enough to do a Q&A with us, so read on...

NOFA-NY: What first drew you to mushrooms and what kept you on the mushroom path?

TC: Mushrooms are mysterious mythical entities that have a long history of cultural and ritual use, it's interesting to me how civilization has evolved to embrace the fungal kingdom and the amazing benefits of understanding how yeasts, molds and mushrooms can provide us with bread, beer and wine, and medicines. I was hired on a tour of a mushroom farm at 20 and have been hooked ever since. Everyday I wake up excited about what we are working on, anxious to see what new things I can learn from our research so I can find ways to develop beneficial uses or products that people really need.

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Three-Part Guest Blog by Sarah Flack

Consultant/author Sarah Flack, who specializes in grass-based and organic livestock production, has generously supplied this three-part blog in advance of her Jan. 20 and 21 workshops at our Winter Conference:

1. Pasture Systems Guidelines:

All successful pasture systems are based on some basic and essential guidelines. These guidelines aren’t new, they’ve been known for at least 200 years, and during that time farmers and researchers have used them to develop different types of grazing methods, and given those grazing systems and methods a bunch of different names.        

Regardless of the name of the grazing system, the successful ones use relatively short periods of occupation so the dairy cows aren’t left in the same paddock for too many days. They also provide enough time to let the plants fully regrow after each grazing (variable recovery periods). By studying grazing systems currently in use, which are working well on a variety of farms, we can learn more about these grazing principals and how to apply them so that we are caring for the pasture plants, livestock, soils, farmers and our ecosystem. Along the way, we can be better informed and inspired by the many creative ways that these basic grazing guidelines are in use different farms.

Grazing adapted plants and our livestock, each have requirements, which complement each other synergistically. Plants respond best to short periods of grazing followed by long regrowth periods. Livestock do best in pastures that are managed so each paddock is grazed quickly and which are full of high-quality forage, given sufficient time to regrow. Good grazing management is a win–win system for plants and livestock.  It is also good for our soils and the larger ecosystem we all live in and share. Good management supports the development of healthier soils, sequesters carbon, and prevents erosion.

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What is biodiversity?

What is biodiversity?

Wikipedia begins its definition of biodiversity by identifying it as a contraction of “biological diversity.” It refers to the variety and variability of life, the amount of variability within a species as well as between species and ecosystems. On the farm, biodiversity can be a measure of the number of organisms present in the soil, or the number of different species present or genetic variation – the hundreds of varieties of lettuce or tomatoes or cabbage that the farmer can choose from.  

A teaspoon of healthy soil may contain 20-50,000 different species and several billion creatures. This biodiversity is the heart, soul, and strength of organic agriculture. It underlies everything that makes organic agriculture work. Biodiversity in agriculture is both a blessing and a curse, sometimes both in the same breath. A blessing, because it leads to resilience, to redundancy, to the ability to recover and persevere. A curse, because at times it seems that disease and insects are relentless and unstoppable.

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Announcing our Contest Winners!

We're excited to announce all the winners of our Eye on Ag Photo Contest and T-Shirt Design Contest!

The EYE ON AG OVERALL WINNER is Ruth Blackwell for her photo, "August" in the "At the Market" category. Ruth will receive a FREE conference registration and her photo will be featured in next year's promotional material.

EyeonAg photo winner 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hands-on Horse-Powered Demonstration Field Day

Hands-on Horse-Powered Demonstration Field Day

This year’s NOFA-NY Winter Conference is thrilled to offer a full day, hands-on Field Day at Tim Biello’s Featherbed Farm, just a short drive from our conference location in Saratoga Springs. The workshop takes place on Friday, January 20, from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm.

b2ap3 medium Biello Draft Horses

A defining feature of the farm is the use of draft horses. Experienced teamsters Biello, Donn Hewes, Chad Vogel, Nathan Henderson and Matt Volz will describe and demonstrate the basics of caring for and farming with draft horses. There will be plenty of opportunity for participants to work with and handle horses, harness and equipment, plus time for questions and lively discussions. Online pre-registration is required, as the workshop is limited to 25 participants. Cost is $20/person, including lunch. Registration for this is featured as an additional option on the registration page: https://www.cvent.com/events/2017-winter-conference/registration-56cd31842d14480a922c386dbf5f2b9d.aspx

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Conference Inside Scoop: Q&A with Chef Dan Barber & Plant Breeding Geneticist Michael Mazourek

Conference Inside Scoop: Q&A with Chef Dan Barber & Plant Breeding Geneticist Michael Mazourek

We are abolutely thrilled to present this Q&A with Dan Barberchef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Cornell Plant Breeding Geneticist Michael Mazourek. Read this inside scoop prior to their special joint presentation at the first NE Organic Seed Conference, part of our NOFA-NY Winter Conference, January 20-22, 2017:

1. Please give us a little history of your work together, and what was the inspiration?

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 MICHAEL: I was invited to Blue Hill at Stone Barns  for dinner. I had heard it described by others as life  changing, but had no idea it was literal. Of course  the meal was great, but it also inspired me and gave  me the courage to embrace creativity with the  vegetables I was developing and explore  characteristics I valued but were not part of the  mainstream.

 DAN: After their meal Michael came into the    kitchen. I held up a butternut squash–our    bestselling workaday squash— and, half jokingly,    asked him if he could create a new variety with a    more intense squash flavor. (I asked him to shrink    the thing.) I’ll never forget his response. “It’s a funny    thing, or maybe a tragic/funny thing,” he said, “but in  all my years breeding new varieties, no one has ever  asked me to breed for flavor.” For me, as a chef, it    was a revelation. If the chef’s role is to pursue truly    great flavor, then we need to engage with the      people writing the recipes for our seeds. 

 

 2. What will be the main “take-aways” from  your special presentation? 

 MICHAEL: This next wave of development of cultivars for the Northeast are really just underway. We have the opportunity to really create new cultivars and market classes all our  own. 

 DAN: Chefs and eaters tend to think of seeds as a black and white issue—heirlooms over here,  Monsanto frankenfood over there. But there’s a whole spectrum that exists between those two —one that we’ve unfortunately neglected. For the future, we need to think not only about how  to advance a dynamic tradition of breeding and selection, but also about how to communicate that story to eaters and home cooks. 

 3. How do you think culinary trends get started and then catch on?

 DAN: I think we can look to chefs. That sounds self-promoting, but we’ve already seen chefs' ability to catalyze food trends that trickle down to every level of the food chain. If you look at the recent kale craze—which started on restaurant tables in New York and now has its own holiday—you see evidence of that influence. 

MICHAEL: It is the chefs. So we need to ask ourselves what trends can we spark? Can we partner to create trends that will support growers and sustainability and nutrition in our food system once they catch on? 

4. What do you believe is the future for chef-breeder collaboration?

DAN: I think we need to continue to blur the lines between chef, breeder and farmer. That means breeders who are willing to immerse themselves in the kitchen in order to better understand ingredients' culinary applications and potential; and it means chefs who are willing to educate themselves about agronomic challenges. How can we influence one another’s decisions in the field and the kitchen to maximize ecology, economy, and flavor?

MICHAEL: It’s expanding beyond reacting. Rather than a chef just developing dishes around new ingredients and breeders developing cultivars, there is the potential to co-design new plants for organic production. 

 5. Is there anything else that conference attendees should know or consider in advance of your presentation?

MICHAEL: We're excited for the First Northeast Organic Seed Conference!

NOTE: Dan and Michael will be presenting on Friday, January 20, the first day of our three-day conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. For more information and to register, go to: https://www.nofany.org/events-news/events/winter-conference

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